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The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors: 2013 [SMX Advanced 2013]

Jun 14, 2013   |   Speaking Our Minds
The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors

Here are the key take-aways from The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors session at SMX Advanced 2013.

Moderator: Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor, Search Engine Land (@dannysullivan)

Eric Enge, CEO, Stone Temple Consulting (@stonetemple)
Jenny Halasz, President, Archology (@jennyhalasz)
Matthew Peters, Data Scientist, Moz (@mattthemathman)
Marcus Tober, CTO, Searchmetrics Inc. (@marcustober)

Matthew Peters

Ranking and relevancy are two different things.  When you search for “Philadelphia Phillies,” search engines are going to decide on the most relevant search results. Ranking is how relevant results are served on the search screens.  The search engine computes similarity scores based on SEO elements such as H1, H2, Title, and Body Copy etc.

Key Take-Aways

  • Query – document similarity is based on decades of research. It is immune to algorithm change.
  • With sophisticated query and document models, there is no need to optimize for similar words e.g. movie reviews or movie review.
  • Optimize each page for a broad set of related keywords rather than single keywords.
  • Content creation strategies should marry keyword research strategies, i.e. blog posts should be relevant to a set of queries.

Jenny Halasz

Jenny focused on 4 main things impacting ranking:

  1. Crawl
  2. Speed
  3. Duplicate Content
  4. URLs


Look for any inconsistency or spikes or declines. Crawling increases when changes are made, and it decreases when the site is static. Big spikes can signal the problem.

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content can cause lot of problems such as:

  1. Distributed link value
  2. Wasted crawl budget
  3. Search engine confusion
  4. The wrong page to rank
  5. Poor user experience
  6. “Thin” content penalties

External links pointing to pages with similar content would be considered duplicate content. Create pages for users and keep them simple.

Page Speed

The speed at which your site downloads is very important. The golden rule is three seconds. It takes three seconds to capture attention – make your pages load fast.

Pages are getting slower and larger, and many site owners are not implementing potential performance improvements; browsers are not keeping up.

URL and architecture

  • Do not create pages for the sake of ranking high for keywords.
  • Clarify which page has value.
  • Keep it simple.

Three take-aways

  • Do not waste crawl budget. Arrange things in order.
  • Build architecture based on user.
  • Average user attention is three seconds.  Make your site download fast.

Marcus Tober

Search engines deploy several methods to fight spam. Two main methods are penalties and algo updates.

Method 1: Penalties

If you see a deep decline in traffic, there is a problem. Your site will get a notification for penalties.

Method: 2 Algorithm Changes

Several algo updates such as Panda, Penguin and Exact Match Domain result in a ranking drop. The number of algorithms is changing frequently. Google is doing almost 500 + algo updates every year. Algo updates hit every site following practices which are discouraged by Google.

Key Take-Aways

  • According to Marcus’ study on ranking correlations, back links are still very important.
  • Visibility correlates to traffic – links from more visible sites are much better.
  • Anchor text is very important. Make sure your site is not using exact match keywords in the anchor text.
  • Social Shares – the number of Google+ and Facebook shares have increased significantly; Google+ is highly important.

Eric Enge

In his session, Eric explains the relationship between social sharing and SEO.

Eric ran a study showing how social signals impact SEO. His studies include 14 pages for 5 different sites, where he tested the impact of Google+, Tweets, Facebook likes, Google Analytics, Chrome visits etc. Here are few key findings from his study:

  • The page was indexed right away by adding Google+
  • Even having a +1 button can cause pages to get indexed
  • Chrome and Google Analytics do not impact indexing
  • Facebook likes also help in indexing, but less than Google+

Key Take-Aways

  • Queries deserve freshness
  • Google+ drives Google indexing and ranking in 4 to 5 days
    • Facebook drives Google indexing in 7 to 8 days
    • Links take longer
    • Bing did not show indexing and ranking behavior
    • Keywords were 3 words or longer in length
  • Google+ is definitely a powerful way to create visibility for:
    • Content
    • Rankings
    • Enhanced results for long tail and chunky middle terms
    • As an isolated signal, not “powerful enough”
    • Is  a powerful supplement to a traditional SEO strategy

Contributed by:
Benu Aggarwal, President and Founder

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