Every two years SEOmoz polls a bunch of SEOs on what we believe influences Google’s search rankings. They assembled new data today and have released their 2011 Search Ranking Factors report to the masses. We’re always very excited by this chance to see a community overview of what makes Google tick.
The ranking factors are fairly complicated, a lot of you aren’t SEO junkies like we are, so I wanted to break down a few of the really important details from the report.
Not at all shocking – Social Media
You may have noticed that I’ve been blogging a lot about Social Media lately, and there’s a reason for that. According to the report, Facebook Shares and Facebook Activity are the highest correlated social ranking influencers for Google. Things like Tweets, Google Buzz, and Topsy also play a roll, as well as Facebook’s “like” feature.
This comes as no surprise as the search engines are scrambling to become more social to compete with the social networks for mindshare. Facebook is taking time away from Google and a company’s Facebook page is often found before their web site, which means Google is cut out of the interaction, and they aren’t thrilled about that.
It’s very important to have a sound social media presence, but that doesn’t mean jumping on every bandwagon out there. Instead, find the content that is going to engage your audience. The better your content, the more shares you will get, adding value.
UPDATE – During SMX Advanced conference in Seattle Google’s Matt Cutts mentioned to Danny Sullivan that Google is unable to gather data on Facebook shares. This has created a considerable controversy, and SEOmoz’ Rand Fishkin has been running tests using only Facebook shares from a public fan page to test Mr. Cutt’s statements. As of 8AM Central time on June 8th, Rand’s original Facebook post shows up on Google, but not the link he shared in that post. (This limited data supports Matt Cutts’ statements)
This leaves me with two theories. Pages with a lot of shares are high quality, thus also attract links, thus rank better, OR, Google does use Facebook shares or if not shares themselves, then “likes” or other publicly accessible Facebook data to influence search rankings and gauge a pages value. Interesting stuff!
A Crappy Web Site Will Hurt You
When someone searches Google, if they click on your site and Google notices they search again on Google within a short time, that tells Google that they did not like what they found on your site. Google is giving points to sites who when clicked, hold the audience longest. Google wants to send users to what they want, and if you have a high bounce rate, if your site isn’t very good, Google is now holding that against you.
It has never been more important to have an effective landing page experience for your visitors. Do you have clear calls to action? Do you share all the pertinent information quickly? Is your site easy to navigate? Is your content well labeled?
Do you even have any worthwhile content?
It is very exciting on Google’s part, that ranking #1 isn’t guaranteed if once people click on your site they quickly go somewhere else. Spammy link tactics and tricks that push you higher on Google artificially are worth less than ever because even if your site ranks on the first page, you’ll quickly lose that position if your Bounce rate and Time On Site indicates to Google that you don’t deserve that first page ranking.
Backlinks & Domain Authority Are Still King
Looking at the above pie chart, only 14.94% of your position on Google comes from Keyword factors actually on your web site. Things like putting keywords in your Title Tag, at least 4 times in the content of your site, and in the alt text of your images only account for 14.94% of your ranking. Clearly keyword stuffing on-site isn’t the answer.
This hasn’t changed since 2009 where they had a similar finding that 15.04% of your ranking came from on-site Keyword Factors. Off site factors like how many backlinks you have and the anchor text used to link to you are important to your ranking.
It’s important to build an online reputation worth talking about. I’ve always said, if you’re worth talking about, you’re worth linking to. This is Seth Godin 101.
So what do I do with this information?
All web sites should follow our F.A.S. system: Find, Act, Share.
First, can anyone FIND your web site?
The best looking site in the world is useless if no one can find it. Ranking well on Google is the key to new visitors and increased traffic, so SEO best practices and domain authority are key to ensuring that your site can be found by potential customers.
Secondly, will visitors ACT on your web site?
Once they find your site, what action do you want them to take? If there are no clear actions to take to become your customer then that visitor is going to look elsewhere. We recommend obvious calls to action, not unlike the big red button on our homepage.
Lastly, will visitors SHARE your link?
Social Sharing and traditional link building are still vitally important to the success of your site. It’s important that we create sites and content that are worth sharing, worth having a laugh over, worth building links to. If your site and your content are shared, you’re then a lot more likely to be found, and the cycle continues.
The Circle of iLife
If customers can’t find your site, they obviously can’t act on it, and they certainly can’t share it. If they can’t act on it, they’re not going to share it, and future users won’t be able to find it. If they don’t share it, then no one is going to find it, thus no one can act on it.
You can’t pick out one piece and ignore the rest. Can they find it? Will they act on it? Will they share it? These are the right questions to ask for online success.