The Future of Search

Social Signals Rising as a Ranking Factor?

I haven’t done many posts on SEO and Search Engine Ranking Algorithms, so I thought I’d begin touching on those topics. When we speak of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), we’re really talking about Google and it’s search engine indexing algorithm. Google owns 80% of the search market).

Their search engine algorithm “algo” is a mathematical equation that measures and weighs web pages and then determines which pages are the best ones to present to Google search users. Google claims there are at least 100 factors in the algorithm, however there could be many more and the most recent involve social media activity.

Google began back in 1998 with its rudimentary search algorithm which weighed a limited set of ranking factors, such as keyword density, exact keyword matching, link text, link popularity, and domain/keyword matching. It was actually better than Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, and other popular search engines of the time.  The Google guys worked on making the algorithm more complex so it could pick out better websites and web pages.  They wanted to thwart SEO specialists like me who were manipulating their search results pages. Admittedly, some of my client’s websites really weren’t the best for searches people were doing. In fact, some were awful. Good for my clients who were getting boatloads of traffic and business revenue, but Google’s customers weren’t getting to the really best sites.  Google tried to ensure they did find those good sites.

Along the way in the last decade, Google introduced new ranking criteria such as authority, trust, latent semantics, and pagerank to better filter out poor web pages and emphasize the good ones. Every time they introduce a new improvement to their ranking system, SEOs learn how to take advantage of it. That’s our job.

Today, achieving high rankings is not so much about putting keywords in text, links and headings, nor about getting hundreds of links pointing to your site. Google does assess consumer online behaviour which is why some are protesting about privacy invasion (recent allegations about them tracking iPhone users). The protest is more likely Google competitors trying to thwart Google’s search algorithm and reduce Google market dominance.

Google is actually one giant, powerful computer and they have many ways to see a website’s activity and how people are interacting with it. With that info, they can move beyond the obvious keywords stuffed into a page.  They know how much traffic sites receive and how long people stay on a site, so they’ll obviously use that data to optimize their search results. If you use the Chrome browser or have the Google toolbar installed or hop back and forth between Youtube, Google search, and Google +, they can track your activities.

In your Google webmaster account, Google indicates how many times your pages showed for which keyword phrases, where your traffic came from, who links to your site, and how long people stay on your site.

Original Content and Site Stickiness

It’s important now to make your site sticky. You need good quality, original content that gets people to stay a while and read, and content that gets people to click away to another site and come back. All that clicking activity means people are very engaged in your site. You want visitors from more locations on the web and from sites related to yours. These are good signals about how valuable your site is.

Increasingly,  your site’s rankings will be affected by your content quality. If people click away quickly, it can actually damage your rankings. SEO can only do so much to bolster a poor quality site — and Google’s eager to make it tough for us SEOs.

Social Media is thought to be increasing in importance. This chart below by SEOmoz’s Rand Fishkin shows how social media signals are being used to affect rankings.  The factors in dark orange show the factors that are increasing in importance.  Social media cues might be anything from referals from social media sites, likes, links from Twitter, Twitter follows, and time spent viewing Youtube videos.  Google will be struggling with social signals.  One thing for sure is that social site referals such as visits from your Google + or Facebook page can influence rankings.  All of this might be an extension of their ability to track searchers and assess their online behaviour.

Social Media Factors in Google Algorithm

Additional search engine rankings factors is content originality something they harp about a lot. That’s why blogs can rank very well, provided you still blog within in a focused search engine optimization strategy. Blogging aimlessly won’t achieve the results hoped for.  Google is still a database company and they must use an algorithm to determine which pages are most relevant for a particular search.  Your blogging, facebook, twitter posts, and youtube pages need to work together to give Google the signals it needs.

Is your 2012 sales season looking questionable? Rather than doing nothing and crossing your fingers, it might be time to get professional help. You can capture tremendous levels of traffic from Google and even improve the results you get from your local mls. Get your site found by using Professional Level SEO and you’ll get the leads and sales you want.

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