Moz’s 2013 Search Engine Ranking Factors Explained

You may, or may not, have noticed that a few days ago we shared Moz’s 2013 Search Engine Ranking Factors. Every two years Moz carries out a study into what could well be causing certain pages to rank better than others. But how do they do they figure this out? Well, this year they took 14, 000 + keywords that covered a wide range of search volumes and categories and collected the top 50 organic results from each.

Then for each individual result they painstakingly looked at all the factors they wanted to analyse before working out the correlations between their usage and appearances high up in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs.) They then collected the results. As they clearly state in their post “correlation does not prove causation” so do not jump onto your website straight after reading this and make a million changes. Nonetheless, the information is still very interesting.

What Did Moz’s 2013 Search Engine Ranking Factors study discover?

The main points that they uncovered were as follows:

  1. Page Authority was the highest correlating metric.
  2. Social signals, Google+1′s and Facebook shares more than any other, correlated highly.
  3. Despite the latest march of the Penguin anchor text still correlates very highly.
  4. Schema.org and structured data newly correlated.

So what does this all mean and how can it help you? Why don’t we start at the beginning.

Page Authority

Page authority, or page rank, is the value Google attaches to every web page it indexes. Each pages rank is worked out based on the authority, or rank, that the pages that link to it hold. In a way Google sees a link as an endorsement. If a webmaster is prepared to link from their site to another this must be because they feel it has some form of value, whether that be educational or comedic.

A link becomes more and more beneficial as the page rank of the page that it is coming from increases. This is based on the fact that the linking website must provide some value and therefore must be a better judge of what other sites provide value. A bit like the difference between you bringing your mate Al from down the pub to your job interview to endorse you rather than Lord Alan Sugar.

Social Signals

Rather unsurprisingly Moz have found that social signals could affect how well a page ranks. However, this is likely related to the links that come from social activity rather than the social activity itself. Either way social signals seem to be a big player in the world of ranking factors. Want to find out more about social media and its implementation? Why not check out our blog posts on Local Internet Marketing, Sales Via Social Media Marketing and our How To Create Successful Social Media Campaigns.

Anchor Text

Penguin 2.0 saw a crack down on the overuse of keyword rich anchor text, especially in spammy link farms or link networks. Moz’s study has found that despite this it is still a high correlating factor in Google SERPs. What is keyword rich anchor text though? Put simply it is the use of a keyword, preferably for which your site is trying to rank, as the text to which a link to your domain is attached. This was massively exploited by black hat Search Engine Optimisers (SEOs) who used the aforementioned link networks and farms to point large amounts of these types of links to their sites.

In all honesty we are not particularly surprised that Penguin has had little effect on how highly Google views keyword rich anchor text, especially if they feel they have cleaned up the mess. (Hint: They haven’t) Keyword rich anchor text only works when it is not possible to obtain any other way than genuine citations from other sites. Until that happens it will be a loophole in Google’s algorithm.

Schema.org and Structured Data

Schema.org provides webmasters with a collection of html tags that allow them to markup the content on their pages to create structured data which indicates to search engines what exactly is on them. It is used by all the big search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex to determine what content is on a page and how it should be presented in their search results to create rich snippets. More information can be found here. In our opinion it is no surprise that something that makes search engines jobs easier could well be a ranking factor.

In Conclusion

No one will ever be sure how much of an effect each ranking factor has on how highly Google will return web pages in its SERPs. This study by Moz is an extremely well educated guess and that is the best anyone will ever be able to do. Sure, there are things like Googlebombing that will come along and reveal holes in Google’s algorithm but Google soon close them back up again. Discover what works for your site and stick to it, even though it may take a huge amount of trial and error for you to get there.

Written by Ryan Hill

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