Verifying Google Search Engine Ranking Factors

Google search engine ranking factors are among the most important items to check in any SEO work. This will ensure that the strategies formulated are effective, current and optimal for the best search engine ranking results. Every search engine optimization analysis examines the website’s performance against these important ranking factors. This article series will take a closer look at these factors and find evidence for their existence, so you will know that you are on the right track when performing SEO on your website.

If deficiencies are found in a site’s Google search engine ranking factors, the SEO in charge will attempt to make some changes to the website in such a way that it will now become search engine friendly and compliant with SEO ranking factors. Taken from a broader perspective, these improvements cover three important aspects:

  • Content (using optimal titles, checking content quality, focusing relevance to targeted keywords, etc).
  • Links (how other sites reference the website in terms of quality and quantity).
  • Technical aspects (i.e. crawlability of the website). 

This three part article series will attempt to find objective evidence of the most common and current search engine ranking factors. Finding such evidence validates expert opinions on which most SEO professionals currently rely. You can read the complete list of search engine ranking factors in Google. We will use the SEOMOZ search engine ranking factors list with emphasis on the top five ranking factors and statistically validate it versus actual data found in search engine results.

With this method, we can be sure that these SEO ranking factors listed by SEO experts are actually providing value to your SEO efforts. If you are ready, let’s get started.

{mospagebreak title=Keyword-Focused Anchor Text of Inbound Links}

According to the study conducted by SEOMOZ, this ranking factor has an importance value of 73 percent, which means it is the most important SEO ranking factor in Google (2009-2010). To verify this, we will use the following method:

Step 1: Select one difficult and competitive keyword.

Step 2: Gather the Position 1 or Position 2, Position 5 and Position 10 ranking URLs in Google.

Step 3: Gather the ranking URLs at the bottom position. For example Position 300, Position 400 and Position 500.

Step 4: Using , gather anchor text data for all sample ranking URLs.

Step 5: Count the number of back links using the targeted anchor text coming from unique domains. Tabulate the data in the sheet.

Step 6: Compute the total weight = (Number of Unique links containing anchor text) X (Back linking Domain Relevance)

Backlinks coming from multiple pages of the same domain are counted as only one. The result is the number of unique links containing the targeted anchor text. Back linking domain relevance is rated as to how close that linking domain is to the linked page in terms of topics. The following rating system is employed for the purpose of test evaluation:

No relevance = 1 point

Medium relevance = 10 points

High relevance/Directly relevant domains = 100 points

As you can see, we have rated them logarithmically to provide strong emphasis on related domains, which counts a lot and helps user experience.

Sample computation:

The targeted anchor text is “commercial mortgage.” The data table above shows that there are 11 back links containing the targeted anchor text coming from unique domains. Relevant domains weigh more when compared to unrelated websites. So highly relevant websites are assigned a value of 100, moderately related domains are 10, and relatively unrelated domains are 1.

The total domain relevance rating with respect to the targeted anchor text is 515. Domain relevance is the “quality” aspect of the links, while the actual count of links is the “quantity.” Total weight is “quality” x “quantity.”

As a result, total weight based on the above sample data table is 11 x 515 = 5665.

{mospagebreak title=Formulating and Checking the Anchor Text Hypothesis} 

Hypothesis: If keyword-focused anchor text of inbound links is a strong ranking factor, at least the total weight of the anchor text should show a significantly “decreasing” trend from Google’s top 10 positions all the way down to the bottom positions. Though this might not fit perfectly, at least some trend could verify the strength of this factor (because Google uses a lot of search engine ranking factors).

Actual results:

The most important column in the results table above is the “Total weight" column. A quick observation reveals that, indeed, for a very competitive keyword like “commercial mortgage” in US, the total weight for Google’s top 10 positions (observed at Position 2, 6 and 10) is higher as compared to the bottom positions (Position 300, 400 and 500). There is almost no anchor text weight related to “commercial mortgage” observed in Position 400 and Position 500.

Plotting the total weight vs. Google positions:

The strength/measured importance of this factor vs. Google search result positions is 87%. It might also mean that this factor plays a strong role in Google rankings currently (as of early 2010).

Recommendations: if you are improving the link aspect of your domain using great tactics like link baiting, you must make sure that:

1. Those links do provide value in the search engines and to the user experience, instead of merely judging by quantity. Does it use your targeted keyword in the anchor text? It is a wise SEO tactic to provide users an HTML code containing your targeted keywords. This makes it easy for them to copy and paste to their own website or blog. Here is an example:

2. Is it coming from highly related domains (with respect to your targeted keywords and niche)?

3. Remember, quantity and quality of links both count.

{mospagebreak title=External Link Popularity and Diversity of Link Sources}

Link popularity is an old SEO factor, yet might still be counted and valued by search engines like Google. The primary reason is that it provides a good measurement of “authoritativeness.” If you are the authority, a substantial number of domains will link to you. Link popularity (the amount of links pointing to the domain) correlates strongly with Google Page Rank

However, in 2009, search engine optimization experts think that diversity of link sources might also play an important role in the offsite (link-related) factors of ranking in Google. This means that the number of root domains linking to you is more important than the number of back links that can be coming from only a few sources.

Sample hypothesis: 10 links, coming from different domains, can be more valuable than 1,000 back links coming from only one domain. We will attempt to verify this using actual data:

Tools used:

Looking at the figures on the table above, there is no clear trend between the numbers of unique root domains back link versus ranking in Google. This means that it is not clearly a strong factor unlike assessing the quality/quantity of links containing the targeted keyword in anchor text.

Recommendations: it is not an effective SEO technique to just get links or increase the “count” of the links pointing to the domain as shown in the data table above. Instead, it might be more effective to make sure those links use the targeted keywords in the anchor text and come from related domains.

Well, this strongly affirms also that, since link popularity or quantity of back links from root domains is correlated with Page Rank, Google PR plays almost no role in search engine ranking positions, EXCEPT if it is paired with relevance signals.

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