SearchMetrics has released its 2012 Google ranking factors report.
Based on 10,000 keywords, 300,000 websites, millions of links plus other factors (but discounting content per se it seems), social media signals show extremely high correlation with solid ranking says the company; in fact higher than backlinks.
Facebook appears to rule the roost in this respect, with Facebook “likes” having the greatest weight. Facebook signals are four of the top 6 ranking factors; with backlinks at no.2 and Tweets at no.6.
Among its other findings, it seems sites displaying too many Adwords blocks are struggling to rank – an observation that may have the Google Adwords team gnashing their teeth; particularly as they are all for encouraging AdSense publishers to plaster their sites with Adwords :).
However, SearchMetrics also mentions the “clumsy” display of ad blocks causing problems. Something that Google themselves have said in the past is that a site with too many ads ATF (Above The Fold) may be impacted. So it’s not necessarily the number of blocks you display, but how you display them.
SearchMetrics says while backlinks are still important in ranking well, quantity is not the be-all and end-all; and even nofollow links should be included in an inbound link profile. This makes sense as it indicates a more “natural” backlink profile. Even if those links don’t pass google-juice in the traditional sense, perhaps they are noted in other ways.
The report states the rumor of keyword-rich domain names’ demise is somewhat exaggerated, as keyword domains are still “alive and well”.
“Google Ranking Factors U.S. 2012″ can be downloaded here. I went to the download page expecting to have to supply my email address, but SearchMetrics is using “pay with a tweet” (or like) instead. Obviously putting their money where their mouth is :).
By the way, always take advice you find on the web about SEO with a grain of salt. While I didn’t see anything particularly untoward in SearchMetrics’ summary; sometimes “experts” can lead you in the wrong direction and following their advice can do your rankings more harm than good.