Overlooked Google Ranking Factors

When trying to rank well on Google, you want to get as many factors working for you as possible. If you can use a few effective techniques your competitors overlook, so much the better. Keep reading for some ideas.

I saw these ideas in an article by Neil Patel that appeared on Search Engine Journal. He goes into great detail explaining why you should use these techniques and what you can gain from them. If anything I tell you here piques your curiosity, I suggest you check out that piece.

We’ll start with a ranking factor that’s near and dear to every writer’s heart: authorship markup. Google has been supporting authorship markup since the middle of last year. Even today, not everyone uses it, though you’ll find it on most of the major publishing websites. If you run a site with authored content, you’ll want to use it as well.

So how does it work? Google provides information on the technical details of authorship markup (), so you can implement it on your own site. But what do you gain? Patel showed an image from a search he performed which displayed an author’s thumbnail picture – in this case, Joost de Valk – underneath the link to de Valk’s article. Next to de Valk’s picture, Google displayed his name as an active link, listed how many Google+ circles he was in, and finally included a link for "more by Joost de Valk."

I don’t need to tell you that anything extra that catches the eyes of searchers may be worth doing, but you can already see that this gives you something special. Searchers can see that there’s a real person behind your articles; that builds trust. Content farm postings usually don’t list authors on their pages, so right away this separates your site from the fluff.

Bill Slawski at SEO by the Sea sees even more positives to using authorship markup. Based on some Google patents he’s read, he believes the search engine will take it further. For example, if you do a guest post and have an authorship markup profile, authorship markup could let you connect all of your content so readers can follow you wherever you blog. Slawski also thinks that authorship markup could stop content scrapers in their tracks – if Google crawls both pages and finds authorship markup on one, it might recognize that as the original page, thus keeping the scrapers from outranking you.

These are just two possibilities that Slawski listed. If Google takes the next step and actually starts using author badges, there’s even greater potential. But for right now, adding authorship markup will at least give your pages more authority, increase reader trust, and might increase your click-through rate even if you’re not at the top of the SERPs – because that author thumbnail really does make a result stand out.

How fresh is fresh enough? Like food, content has a "use by" date, but a lot of factors may affect this – not the least of them being the searcher’s intentions, at which Google can only guess. Is a week-old article recent enough? Not if the user is looking for news about something that happened a week ago, and more recent, relevant articles exist. On the other hand, if the searcher wants to study a historical event, an older article may be the most relevant item a search engine can return.

Google’s Caffeine web indexing system, completed about a year ago, is supposed to help the search engine spot these differences in freshness needs. As Patel explained, "Not every search needs the same level of freshness." He separated these needs into three different levels, and indicated how Google now responds to them.

The first level, a search for something relating to current events, demands the freshest, most recent content. Football scores, stock market changes, and the weather (as most people use it) would be examples of this kind of information. To answer this need, Google may return pages that could be less than five minutes old.

The second level of freshness covers annual or seasonal events. The Olympics, the Kentucky Derby, elections…these happen regularly, but you won’t see changes every day. "What is important is that you probably want the most recent election news…not news from four years ago," Patel pointed out. Even so, these results may not need to be updated every few minutes, so there’s a little more tolerance for results that aren’t quite as fresh.

The third level of freshness belongs to content that is old, but still useful. I recently searched for a recipe for spinach quiche. The top result must have been  seven years old, but that didn’t matter for my purpose. Indeed, in this case I actually benefited from it being an old recipe, because plenty of other users had commented on it, so I knew it would mostly suit my purposes – and that the changes I wanted to make to it would probably work. And recipes are far from the only kind of content that doesn’t need to be fresh to be useful to the searcher.

So what does this mean in practice? When Google lists search results, especially for a search that falls into the second category, it includes a notation under the link that tells you how old the page is. For example, in researching this article, I Googled "republican primary florida 2012." On the first page, the age of the results that came up ranged from six hours through two days. Not every link included this information, and not all of the newer links outranked all of the older links – though the newest links did tend to rank highest.

There are many factors relating to freshness that can influence how your content ranks. Cyrus Shepard found ten factors, including the document’s age, how much it changes, how often it changes, at what rate it picks up new links, the ages of the pages that link to it, and more. This is why you want a range of content on your website, mixing up items that cover current news in your field with "evergreen" content that never gets old; your site will turn up for more and different kinds of searches that way.

That’s all I have room to cover today. Put these two often overlooked or misunderstood ranking factors to work for you, and over time you will surely enjoy the results. Good luck!

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