Google Myths and True Ranking Factors

20 Jul

Google Myths and True Ranking Factors

 

Author: Cyrus Shepard

Did you know that if you include Google Adsense on your website, you are likely to rank higher?

We’ve heard this rumor before from prominent SEOs. It makes sense. Google stands to make more revenue by promoting websites that display its ads. Exciting? Yes.

But completely not true.

Well meaning folks spread a lot of Google myths that can harm your SEO efforts.  Sometimes they come from your boss or even an Internet hack trying to make a quick buck.

Earlier this month SEOmoz released the 2011 version of its Search Engine Ranking Factors. This year’s survey contained a number of new insights, but also debunked a number of Google myths that have persisted far too long.

Myth #1 – Using Google Services Improves Your Rankings

Many webmasters believe that installing Google Analytics on their site improves indexing or that displaying Adsense will help them as described above. While it’s true that the insights provided by Google Analytics helps are invaluable, the service itself has absolutely no impact on rankings.

In the case of Adsense, the correlation data actually shows a negative correlation between Adsense slots and rankings. This makes sense, given the recent Panda update and Google’s emphasis on high quality content.  The data implies that the more Adsense on your page, the less likely you are to rank.

This isn’t to suggest that you shouldn’t display ads at all. Best practices are to ensure your original content to ad ratio is high, and to place your original content prominently above the fold.

Note: Google Analytics is a super useful service and I recommend every website owner should create a Google Webmaster account.

Myth #2 – Keep Your Link Juice Internal

It’s the pet peeve of online marketers. Another website mentions your brand – heck, they even write an entire article about how great you are – but they fail to include a single link to your site.

This anti-social behavior stems from the false belief that you should preserve link juice within your own site to improve your rankings. It also springs from the absurd rational that you don’t want visitors to leave your website – ever.

Contrary to this thinking, the Ranking Factors correlation data actually shows the opposite relationship. There exists a positive correlation between the number of external links on a page and higher rankings.

  • For years top SEOs have share anecdotal evidence that linking out to quality, relevant sites improves their rankings
  • Linking out fosters goodwill among webmasters and visitors alike, which can lead to an increase in backlinks and other positive ranking signals
  • External links can help Google to better understand the content on your page

Myth #3 – Nofollowed Links are Worthless

Yes, followed links still rule, but one of the most surprising results from this year’s Ranking Factors was the negative correlation between the percent of followed linking pages and ranking ability.

What this means is the higher percentage your link profile is in followed links, the less likely you are to rank. It’s not a big correlation, but it exists. For example, if 100% of the links pointing to your site are followed, the correlation data predicts a lower ranking for your site than a website with a link profile of only 80% followed links.

Surprised? It stands to reason that the natural, healthy link profiles Google favors contain a range of nofollowed links and citations. We’ve believed for years that nofollowed links from high authority domains like Wikipedia, although they don’t pass PageRank, act as ranking signals.

This also makes sense considering the strong correlation data surrounding link diversity. One of the strongest indicators of ranking ability is the number of linking root domains. This means the greater diversity and breadth of your link profile, the more likely you are to rank higher. A broad, diverse link profile undoubtedly contains a number of nofollowed links. This is also an actionable metric that you can use to improve your SEO.

Good SEO is hard. Use science and best practices to ensure SEO myths don’t get in your way.

As SEO Strategist for SEOmoz, Cyrus Shepard helps guide content strategies, link building, customer education, information architecture and feature development for the fast growing SEO software company. His diverse experience includes innovative SEO, paid search marketing, web design and a strong background in customer-focused services. Follow Cyrus on Twitter @cyrusshepard

 

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