10 of the Top SEO Factors

November 14, 2017//3,864 words

Today we continue in our series that will include analysis and tips pertaining to over 200 Google ranking factors.

This article will highlight some key SEO influences which include Duplicate Content, # of Linking Root Domains, and Votes on Social Sharing sites in addition to a few less common factors such as Reading Level and Country TLD of Referring Domain. I hope that you fine these articles helpful and inspiring as you tackle the giant world of the internet.

Please continue to learn with me about how to optimize your website and consequently grow your sales!

 

KEYWORDS APPEAR IN TOP LEVEL DOMAIN

The first factor effecting SEO we are going to discuss today is having keywords in your top level domain. There are a few tips in regards to SEO best practices for domain names. Consider these:

.com, .org, .net, .int, .edu, .gov, .mil, .arpa, .biz, .cat, .aero, .info, .jobs, .name, .mobi, .travel

Specifically, in regards to keywords, Google still recognizes keywords in the top level domain but perhaps a little less than they used to. One of the easy ways to tell if something has an effect on your rankings is by seeing how Google reacts to and displays a search result. In this case, you can see how Google has bolded the word “marketing” in Marketing Land’s search result:

top seo factors serp

Because of having a keyword in their top level domain, they get to enjoy that extra bump.

Now, this may not be an easy thing for you to do – and it may be impossible perhaps if you already have an established domain name. Don’t worry, you can still rank highly. Those that do have a keyword in their TLD will receive a bump, however.

 

DUPLICATE CONTENT

Having duplicate content on your site is a major red flag to Google. So much so, in fact, that one of Google’s most popular algorithm updates, Google Panda, was created with duplicate content in mind. Duplicate content is what it sounds like, 2 or more web pages having the same or nearly the same content. If you think about it, this would easily signal a potential spam scenario – copying content from content rich sites just to draw an audience to a website filled with ads.

Duplicate content can be in the body of your page in regards to text or images, and it can also be in your meta titles and descriptions. All scenarios are negative. Google will create a “word-around” of sorts and decide which page to show. This means that the other pages will not be shown. So if you’re wondering why your entire site isn’t getting indexed, check to be sure those pages aren’t being passed over because of duplicate content.

Easy answer, produce your own content. Do your research on as many other sites and sources as you desire, but then turn back to your screen and write on your own.

Maybe you’re jumping aboard a website that has been around for a while and you don’t know what you’re getting into. If it is a large site, chances are that there are many duplicate pieces of content – especially regarding the title and description. Trust me, that’s the number 1 thing I find when crawling large sites.

So, if you find yourself in this scenario, don’t worry, there are plenty of ways that you can tackle this issue:

  1. 404 Errors: Not recommended, but you could remove the content/page and just create a 404 error. Not recommended because 404 errors are also a negative with SEO but hey, it’s an option.
  2. 301 Permanent Redirects: Remove the content and then set that specific URL to redirect to the correct location of the content.
  3. txt: I would recommend this way. You can leave your site as is to allow for the same user experience but “disallow” bots from crawling certain pages so you won’t get dinged. Look at this example about setting the Robots.txt file from Moz in their article about the internet in the post-Panda world.

top seo factors htaccess

READING LEVEL

The reading level of your website used to be more present when Google actually had a search filter that allowed for you to search based on the level. While it’s no longer an option for the user, it is still likely used by Google to determine the quality of a website.

Consider this chart and research by LinchpinSEO:

top seo factors content quality

I love these results because it helps to bring Google’s search factors full circle. Looking at the chart, you can see the websites on the bottom starting with ivy league schools and as you shift to the right you see sites that would be classified as “content farms.” You can see that the percentage of content on the ivy league school websites is very heavily considered “advanced” whereas the content on the content farms is much more “basic” content. This helps us to understand why many .edu type sites might have an easier time of ranking highly. The content on a website run by a college needs to meet a certain standard, however, content farms are more interested in generating content, gaining links, and selling ads.

Google can take this data and use it to bring the best content in front of the user as often as possible. Generally, you’re going to want to see rich and advanced content when you perform a search as opposed to basic content which may contain flaws and be written by self-professing experts on any given topic.

 

USEFUL CONTENT

Useful content is one of the metrics that ties directly to the user’s experience on your site. Google will determine this value by looking at metrics such as return rate, time on page, bookmarking, and inbound links.

To tackle what you need to do to make your site A-Level in user experience, let’s consider these 6 steps from 352inc:

  1. Your homepageshould be fast, clutter free, tell what you do, and enticing. You need to encourage the user to want to explore further and spend more time on your website.
  2. Task oriented– each page on your site should be part of a sales funnel. Make sure your content encourages the user to continue down the funnel and not get distracted.
  3. The navigation and architecture of the site should make senseand be consistent. Everything your site has and does should point to your end goals.
  4. Forms can be your friend or your enemy. Place call to actions in prominent places but be sure the forms are easy to fill out – and short! If someone gets even a little frustrated they will leave!
  5. Polish and finish your siteto be sure it can be seen as credible. You can tell when a site hasn’t been “proofread” and it does take away from the professionalism and trust factor.
  6. Design should impressive yet relevant. It should draw the person in and help them to stay focused on your end goal.

Remember, your SEO efforts are pointless if you’re not thinking about the user experience. Who cares if people get to your site if you can’t get them to convert! And this useful content factor shows you how it can also ultimately hurt you!

 

# OF LINKING ROOT DOMAINS

Not all links are created equal. For search ranking effectiveness, a link is not a link is not a link. Having 10 backlinks from 1 domain is the same as having 1 backlink from another domain. Now, there are other factors that can effect the “level” of the backlink, however, here we will just discuss general links and domains.

Look at this research performed by Seo-Services in determining the backlinks generated by their site:

top seo factors referring domains

You can see they’ve highlighted how many domains are linking to their site as opposed to the total number of backlinks. While we are generally looking for the number of backlinks we have, what’s really important is how many individuals domains are linking. Visit Majestic and enter in your domain to see your results.

 

COUNTRY TLD OF REFERRING DOMAIN

This one is brief – your SEO ranking will be affected by the country top level domain of the referring site.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I create a new website here in the United States, most of my traffic at first comes from somewhere in the Middle East. In case you start a site and think this is legitimate traffic, it likely is not. In fact, most of it is automated. In regards to SEO, the traffic is fine, but say I generated a couple backlinks from these Middle East IP addresses. They would basically be irrelevant.

You see, if I have a local business here in the United States, how relevant is an IT company’s domain in the Middle East? It’s not, and Google knows that. So while you need not worry about this too much, it’s good to know what relevant links are so you can prepare for results or lack of them.

 

DMOZ LISTED

Your website needs to be listed in DMOZ. Not only will this provide you with a quality backlink, but it will also effect your rankings by simply being listed.

What is DMOZ? By definition, it’s a legitimate directory of websites maintained and monitored by real people. Google used to have its own directory but then gave way to DMOZ. It is a very basic and highly categorized directory of business listings gains importance from the number of other directories who refer to DMOZ themselves.

To submit your site:

  1. Search for the most relevant keyword belonging to your site
  2. Dial down to the most relevant category
  3. Click “submit URL” on the top of the page
  4. Fill out the short form including your website title and brief description

Because of the “real” reviewing process, you can expect this to take some time before you hear back from them about whether or not you’re listed. The approval is simply so long as they can see you’re a legitimate (non spammy) website.

 

USER SEARCH HISTORY

This is similar and was discussed under the topic of “user browsing history” in one of my recent SEO articles, but let’s talk about user search history specifically.

Neil Patel has a great article about how user behavior can affect your SEO. We talked about user experience earlier in this article, and now we need to talk about understanding your audience.

I made the analogy in my previous article about how I enjoy fantasy baseball, and how my searches for baseball may lean towards fantasy sports sites because of my browsing history. The same goes for user searches. Similar keywords that I searched for in the past will have some weight on new searches performed, say if I included a location keyword. While this is understandable, you, as the website owner, need to research who your customer is and what they are searching for. And in essence, what exactly they are looking for. It’s not just the keyword, it’s the intention.

 

2 categories of keywords that Google has been able to identify as “high intent” are:

  1. Buy Now: Buy, Discount, Deal, Coupon, Free Shipping
  2. Products: Affordable, Best, Cheapest, Comparison, Review, Top

Do your keywords fall into either one of these categories? If they do, be sure you are ready for an audience of people who are ready to make a purchasing decision or need persuasion to know that your product is the best.

Not all keywords are created equal (ya, I know, I used this quote for links earlier). What I mean, is that if your site is about “basketball” you wouldn’t want to just focus on the keyword of “basketball.” Where is the intent in that? Are you selling basketballs or sharing news about the NBA? In this case you may want to focus on a long-tail keyword with the word basketball incorporated.

The point of this exercise is to understand your audience. You want them to come to your site and then get hooked!

 

VOTES ON SOCIAL SHARING SITES

Yes, social media is a viable and legitimate marketing tool for your business no matter what industry you’re in. Yes, social media is here to stay (at least some formof it). If you have been trying to find ways around incorporating social media into your marketing plan, it’s time to embrace it.

If you don’t think it matters for your business, I’m here to tell you that your social media presence has a profound impact on your search engine rankings. I think everyone would agree that having your website seen by as many people as possible has a large impact on your business, right?

Social media, as stated by Convert with Content, is like crowd-sourcing your link building. If you can build a following and then generate engagement through intriguing content, other people will do all of the work for you. But, you have to do the work first by embracing social media.

Votes on social sharing sites is basically referring to shares, likes, comments, you name it. Some proofs that social media can help your search engine optimization strategy:

  1. Link Building was always about social proofing – A link has always, in essence, been a “vote” for your page.
  2. Succeeding in social is the fastest way to grow your online presence – Don’t use social media as an ad platform, but rather talk to your potential customers and start new relationships. One of the most successful marketing strategies has always been word of mouth. Social media allows you to generate that and light it on fire!
  3. Social signals are legitimate factors and the positive effects of social on search engine optimization have been proven, as you can see in this exercise from QuickSprout:

top seo factors social votes

Just like marketing, social media and search engine optimization are what you put into them. Don’t get swept up in any quick success story. I’m telling you it takes work, but it is definitely worth the investment! If you want to grow your business, you can’t avoid these major players!

 

REDIRECTS

If you have owned a website for a number of years but aren’t fully aware of redirects, you may be in for a bit of much needed work. Work that once performed will improve both your user experience and SEO.

It’s very common that your URLs will change over time. If you have a WordPress or Joomla site and you installed an SEO plugin that gave you the option to make your URL’s “SEO friendly,” you need to be sure to have redirects in place. If you have changed any of the structure or sitemap of your site, or removed pages, you need redirects.

The best way to know what you need to do is to run a scan with Screaming Frog SEO Spider and look under the response codes tab. This will show you all of the pages and links incorporated in your site including the ones that no longer have any content (404 error). This is what you’ll see:

top seo factors site audit

Once you review the results, you’ll know what needs to be corrected. Everything except for 301 response codes needs to be changed. Briefly, these are the 3 common response codes:

  1. 404 Error: Negative for SEO as it shows that you are not maintaining your site structure. A page is no longer associated with this URL.
  2. 302 Redirect: You are temporarily redirecting this URL. The receiving URL will not receive any of the page authority of the redirecting link.
  3. 301 Permanent: RECOMMENDED. Google will distribute the link authority to the new page.

See this guide on setting your 301 redirects in your .htaccess file.

 

GOOGLE SANDBOX

The “sandbox effect” or the “aging delay” is Google’s way of preventing newer (6-12 months or less) sites from ranking well. We’ve talked before about how domain age can improve your search rankings as it signifies relevance and legitimacy. On the other side, young domains haven’t established that trust yet and are therefore, in essence, put in a trial period for a while. As if starting a new site isn’t difficult enough on it’s own!

So what can you do in the meantime? Plenty. Here are a few tips from Webconfs:

top seo factors existing domains

Beware though, you don’t know the relevancy or spam level of these backlinks and some of these domains actually have negative page rank scores!

So while you can’t entirely avoid Google’s sandbox, there are still plenty of SEO related things you can do to drive traffic and build your site’s audience.

This concludes part 2 of our series to tackle over 200 of Google’s search engine optimization top factors. Some things to keep in mind from this post:

Clean Up your Site: No one will enjoy shopping in your store if it’s a mess. Users will leave your site and Google will not encourage people to visit.

Google isn’t everything: Sure, it’s very important. However, there are many additional ways to drive traffic today and those ways are growing more and more – primarily social media. You should never put all of your eggs in one basket, especially one that you can only control so much!

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