While it stresses that correlation does not equal causation; a new study indicates social signals have a strong presence in top ranking pages.
SearchMetric’s “SEO Ranking Factors – Rank Correlation 2013 for Google USA” notes that high ranking pages also have a high number of likes, shares, tweets and plus ones.
Something not mentioned in its finding summary is *part* of that could be a chicken and egg situation. Higher rankings = more traffic and consequently, that can translate to more likes. While I don’t doubt Google is taking pre-existing social signals into account these days; the big find it easier to get bigger in this regard.
Some other highlights from the report:
– backlinks are still important; not just quantity, but quality
– keyword rich domains are less important
– keyword rich links are also less relevant
If the latter is true, that is a great relief. It’s just too easy a signal to game (as has been proven beyond a doubt) and the fact is the average user doesn’t always link to your site in the way you would like; or Google for that matter – and that shouldn’t impact on the quality of the link in G’s eyes.
The full 70 page report can be downloaded here. As always with these sorts of reports, take the information it contains with a grain of salt; don’t base a decision to make major changes to your site purely on this information.
While SEO has its ups and downs, something I find encouraging is Google does seem to be increasingly moving towards favoring “quality, substance, and ultimately, relevance of the respective search result” as SearchMetrics puts it. However, there will always be some low quality slipping through and collateral damage; such is the nature of dealing with algorithms.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I believe I was a far better writer years ago than I am now – and a good part of that has been due to writing with search engines in mind; perhaps a little too much so. I’m looking forward to regaining some of those lost writing skills in the knowledge that it will not negatively impact on rankings; that if I produce better quality, there is a good chance Google (and other search engines I assume) will reward it.