Search Update #2: Ranking Factors, Review Extensions, and More

We’re back for another round of search engine updates, but first, we wish you a happy Independence Day! In case you missed search update #1, we covered a few large changes that took place concerning Phantom, Penguin, and Domain Crowding. Fortunately, there’s not much to report on that front. This week’s post will offer more useful nuggets for you to consider when implementing SEM and SEO strategies. Let’s begin…

Search Metrics’ 2013 Ranking Factors

The guys and gals over at Search Metrics recently developed a helpful infographic that covers 2013 ranking factors for search marketers and SEO professionals. Their examination consists of 300,000 URLs that appear in the top of Google’s search results for the presence of certain properties.


Social signals are becoming more and more important when determining search engine rankings. In their report, they measured each URL for many social signals across platforms including Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Pages from brands often lack aspects like on-page optimization, but on average they have a lot of great links and many social signals that rank them in top positions.

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Links for your site are votes for your site; it’s more important to focus on link quality over quantity. For example, you’re more likely to achieve higher rankings if you have 10 links from sites that have a high domain authority, as opposed to 100 links from sites with low domain authority. When providing anchor text preferences to publications, keep in mind that Google increasingly devalues links with keyword rich anchor text.

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You can produce all the killer content you want, acquire all the quality links you desire, but you still won’t rank in top spots if your website architecture is wonky. At the foundation of your SEO efforts, you should still consider things like the length of your URL, existence of title and description tags, and website speed. While on-page keyword existence is still important, the relevance of keywords in the address bar seems to decline. More so, performance factors like site speed should not be sacrificed.

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What is Google’s purpose? It’s to provide users with the most relevant, fresh, and authoritative information for their query. Quality content remains to be one of the most important factors in ranking high in search engine results pages. Our advice is to feature more original text on your web pages while linking to other relevant pages on your website.

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Google Says to Build Quality Sites, Not Links

Google has quietly updated their Webmaster Help documentation urging webmasters and SEOs to focus more on building quality sites, not links.

The article used to read:

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.

It now reads:

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.

The head of Google’s web spam fighting team, Matt Cutts, frequently publishes short videos addressing the questions of webmasters and SEOs. He’s been consistent with the message that it’s more important for SEOs to produce website content that others will want to use and share. In these videos, he often says that SEOs are focused too much on link building efforts – a mistake in the grand scheme of things.

New Review Extensions in Google AdWords Ads

Last week, Google announced the soft release of AdWords Review Extensions, which gives advertisers the opportunity to include blurbs of third-party reviews in their text ads. The reviews come in two forms: snippets that are either a direct quote or a summary from a review.


The third-party links will point to the publisher’s website, while advertisers can also set the destination URL to the page where the review was given. And no, advertisers are not charged for the clicks that point to the third-party review site.

Worried about spam abuse? You’re not alone. Google wants to make sure these extensions don’t fill up with bogus claims coming from third-party review sites that have no trust in the space. According to the policy, each review in the extension must come from a “reputable 3rd party source.” Google also says that “automated and human-based systems” will be used to review and validate the listings.


There’s a lot to learn from this post, and I urge you to check out that Search Metrics’ infographic for a more detailed look into how Google ranks websites. They did a really great job laying out all of that data in an easy-to-read, digestible illustration. Don’t get caught up in the numbers – just focus on the callouts, visuals, and important points.

Not sure where to begin your search marketing and SEO efforts? Feel free to give the Elasticity office a ring – we’re just arms length away from answering any questions you may have. And remember; stay tuned for search update #3!

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