And the Winner of the SEO Sweepstakes Is…Relevant Terms (Again)

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For years, Google has been telling us that it’s the quality of our content that matters for SEO. Searchmetric’s recent search report examines the correlation between page attributes and page rank, letting us see for ourselves just what it is that defines “quality” in the eyes of the search giant.

In the company’s SEO Ranking Factors and Rank Correlations 2014 report, the big winners are relevant terms and – predictably but at the same time ridiculously – the number of Google+1s a page has received. Feel free to ignore the second most highly correlated element in ranking by the world’s largest search engine, because who uses Google+? Virtually no one, much to Google’s chagrin. Relevant terms, though, should and do lead the entire pack of concerns you must keep in mind when building SEO-optimized pages.

Number of backlinks comes in at third place, followed by a collection of social signals: Facebook shares, Facebook total, Facebook comments and Pinterest presence, with Facebook Likes and Tweets hot on their heels. The message is clear. Sharing your content through social media in addition to your own blogs/websites/professional sites is an important strategy for boosting search visibility.

Next in importance come a whole slew of technical considerations. Taken as a whole, the takeaway is that more complex pages are generally recognized as higher quality content. That includes measures such as word count, internal links, text character length, number of backlinks from the same country and HTML length, among others. Greater HTML length, for those who may be wondering, indicates that the page has been fully developed rather than slung up carelessly. Your company website, if well-built, is highly likely to utilize significant HTML.

A few features that proved to have only the slightest positive correlation with page rank may surprise you:

  • Video integration
  • Keywords in title
  • Keywords in description

These elements showed barely any effect on page rank. Longer titles were almost imperceptibly negatively correlated and having Flash on the page, which noticeably slows load time, was also a slight negative.

The biggest surprise may be something that has changed since 2012: Having the keywords appear in the page’s URL is no longer a contributor to page rank – it’s actually negative, of barely so. It’s also now outright destructive to cram the page full of keywords. That’s always been a turnoff to readers and Google’s algorithms have caught up with the practice, penalizing sites that seem to be overdoing it in an effort to discourage SEO-driven writing and encourage content intended to share actual information.

And that, my friends, is what we’ve tried to encourage all along. Page rank is important and you want to make every reasonable effort to earn a high one. But the impetus for that visibility is, or should be, mainly to facilitate more effective sharing of the valuable content you’re providing. It’s a wonderful thing that Google’s sophisticated algorithms are able to tell the difference between your carefully crafted contributions and some Romanian spambot trying to snag ad views. Keep your readers in mind and tell them what they need to know, writing as beautifully as you know how. Both the audience and the spiders that sort it all out will recognize the undeniable quality of your offering and esteem it highly.

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Sarah Warlick is responsible for making us and all of our clients sound professional and eloquent as the content director at bbr marketing. In this role, Sarah is in charge of ensuring that all copy is well-written, accurate and free of pesky typos before it heads out the door. Additionally, she is a prolific writer and a frequent contributor to bbr marketing’s blog sites. She spends a good deal of time writing copy for our clients and has a unique way of crawling into our clients’ heads to create ghostwritten copy that sounds as if it came directly from their pen.
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