Right now, i see a lot of stuff in the SERPs that does not make sense. It makes me scratch my head.
Like often i see pages with dominant links being beaten by pages with less dominant links.
One explanation is that Google is broken.
Another would be:
Google Is Split Testing SERPS
They are rewarding sites that “perform well” and punishing sites that don’t perform well. Metrics they are using are: Time on site, bounce rate, click through rate, return visitors, brand metrics etc. Basically, they are actively measuring how well a page performs vs the other pages on the first page of the SERPSs. It’s why you can get strong pages outranked by weaker pages, it’s also why a lot of stuff doesn’t “seem to make sense”. Suggestion: Build brands, build sites that people like, get people to spend longer on your pages, get high CTR (Authorship, rich snippets, copywriting titles).
Traffic Is A Ranking Signal
I am starting to believe from the stuff i have seen with my own site, that traffic is a ranking signal. I have found that various pages that i funnel traffic to on my site have started ranking higher, simply because there is more traffic going to these pages than other pages on my site.
It could be a coincidence, it could not be. I have certain pages on my sites ranking for somewhat competitive keywords simply because they have a lot of traffic that flows through my site landing on them (And consequently the visitors using them, are enjoying these pages).
This may sound a bit advanced. But this 100% makes sense to me and explains a lot of anomalies i see in the search results. Because a lot of the stuff i feel “doesn’t deserve to be ranked” based on links and other measurable signals, probably has a lot of traffic going to that page overall.
Anyway, this is a bit out there and just my opinion, albeit incredibly well informed opinion.
Google Is Devaluing SPAM Links
I am pretty sure they are using a lot of the data from the disavow tool to find new link networks and deinxeding them or mass nofollowing the links. What does this mean? It means blog networks work, they will always work, but it also means that Google will continue to deindex and devalue. It also means that if you can create your own sustainable networks (For example, your own PR sites, your own web 2.0 blog network etc), then you can seperate yourself from this. Consequently, this also increases the value of getting links from legit looking sites, or just plain legit sites.
The Rise Of Social Links
If you aren’t doing any social stuff you need to start. I’m currently testing a tool which gets me automatic twitter and Facebook signals. I am starting to see results from this (Been testing it without using links).
Are the signals as strong as links?
No. That being said, if you can get these signals in mass, why would you not? I also think they are less susceptible to devaluation compared to links. I have also found these signals to be more temporary than links. Although, depending on the links you get, links can be temporary signals and then lose value too.
If i was Google i would not be using Facebook and Twitter signals as a large ranking factor. Quite simply because they are external and Google doesnt have 100% control over them. Also sites ranking with a lot of social signals could largely be correlation and not causation.
Having said all of that though, i still want to get social signals and i want to future proof my website.
Authorship Is Becoming VERY Important
You need authorship. You need to building up these profiles and participating on G+. This is future proofing your site. Authorship increases CTR as well, so always good. I am convinced they are looking at authors using signals like: Content rating (Quality of content as the algorithm thinks?), post frequency, author rank (Followers on G+), engagement of pages from that author (Maybe bounce, social signals, time on site etc.. all these COULD be tracked).
The Big Picture
The important thing you need to take from this is that in 2013 and beyond you need a HOLISTIC approach. Meaning, you have to understand all the things that Google are looking for.
You have to hand it to Google though, because the way they are setting up things, they are actually starting to reward sites that perform well.
That being said, what performs well according to an algorithm might be different to the picture of what humans think performs well. Users might like 100 words + a video more than 1500 words. On top of this, pages with a low amount of content + links to other pages, might actually provide good signals (For example high page views, users click around a lot etc.. which is definitely a strong engagement signal). Anyway, that’s something to think about. But in short. 3000 word essays from at PHD level writing, may not be what the audience actually wants.
On top of this, you don’t have to think about everything in terms of ticking boxes. Its not like you get a certain amount of links and the links box is ticked, or certain amount of social signals and user metrics. SEO is ongoing and its always possible to perform better.
Spoon Feeding You
Basically though, what you need to do is make sure you perform well on all of the following:
- Links: High PR sites, contextual links, lots of root domains. Massive diversity: You need contextual links in posts, articles, wikis, forum sigs, forum posts etc, web 2.0’s. You need social bookmarks, forum profiles, blog comments, blogrolls, footer links, directory links, video links (Youtube). An all encompassing SEO strategy kicks ass in all of these categories. You need natural keyword variation too. You need consistent link velocity. You need links from niche relevant sites. You need links with image anchors.
- Social signals: Facebook shares, Facebook likes, Twitter signals, re-tweets, G+. Real traffic coming from social networks. Google + authorship, G+ brand activity, Plus ones.
- Brand signals: URL typins in chrome, repeat visitors, brand searches in Google. Referral traffic from other sites.
- User signals: High CTR from serps, high time on site, low bounce rate, low bounce back to serp, return visitors, real social shares.
How To Game All Of These
In short, you need to build awesome sites. Don’t get me wrong, i can make a web 2.0 or Youtube video and spam the fuck out of it. It will rank for up to a year. I have sites ranking right now that are just pure spam links pointing at a Youtube video or Blogspot site.
That being said, these will tank eventually. Some stick, some have gone over the last 12 months. I am finishing with this strategy.
Because i am in a very competitive vertical (Gambling), i cannot really go for high quality organic links. Like i can’t get a link from the huffington post or something like that. That being said i can buy expired sites that have these links
My strategy is this:
- Links: Buy high PR domains with good links, re-purpose and build my own network. Build my own web 2.0 network (I use rankwyz for this), then build spam links to this to act as a buffer between my money site and the spam. I use blog networks and 2.0’s. I use SENuke. I use tiers. I buy high PR blog posts on relevant sites. I use some secret sauce (An Xrumer mod that allows me to get contextual links no one else can get, or very few). Basically, i just get all the links, pretty much it
- Social Signals: Enable facebook comments. Run a competition giving away free stuff (They must Facebook like my site, retweet, +1), also susbcribe to a service that gives me automated Facebook and Twitter signals.
- Brand Signals: Pretty much making a good site that people want to return to. Building a big email list from lightbox pop (and bringing them back to my site by frequent emails out to my list).
- User signals: Make my site visually appealing. Good navigation. Enticing sidebar links. Lots of internal links to other pages on my site. Related posts. Videos increase time on site. Images help (Plain text = boring). Bounce rate on my Gambling site right now is a site wide 40%, and 4+ minutes on site. From search traffic my site wide bounce rate is 28%. Basically though, i have a passion for building nice things. I like building assets, or resources. I love tweaking my sites to make them perform better with visitors. This kind of passion allows me to create sites that are cultivated with love. My visitors can see that and they just flat out enjoy the experience.
That’s pretty much most of the stuff i am doing at the moment, i am sure i forgot a bit of stuff, so i might update it again when something comes to mind.
Comments + discussion always welcome. I don’t really make any money with this site, so feedback definitely entices me to share more
Have a great day folks!