Moz.com (formerly SEOmoz) yesterday released their Search Engine Ranking factors report. The report is a combination of survey data from industry professionals and correlation data from a separate study.
Through the hundreds of sites we manage and monitor using our own Insights platform, we have our own correlation data which we review every week. However, it is always with great excitement that we get to compare with others in the industry. The excitement reminds me of two kids comparing the contents of their lunch boxes.
If I could give 2012 a title to summarize the changes in search engine optimization that took place, I would sum it up as the year of authority. Google decided to battle SERP spam head on and their metric of choice was authority. What this means is that big brands and sites with well established reputations online continue to rank well.
Beyond the high preference shown to authority domains, we still see much of the same signals having results in the SEO world. The basic process still breaks down as:
1. You won’t rank if you don’t have content around a topic.
2. You will rank better if that content is well structured and shared throughout the community. This includes titles, anchor text, and overall relevancy of the topic to your site’s authority.
3. If Google trusts you, you will have an easier time ranking.
So what we see here is that content strategy including keyword research is still of primary importance. Even if you are CNN.com with extremely high authority and trust, if you don’t have content, you will never rank. And if you are going to publish content, it might as well be well structured and targeted to an opportunity.
The biggest change over the last 12 months has come in the area of #3
‘If Google trusts you, you will have an easier time ranking’
This has always been true but in the past it has been a lot easier to ‘trick’ Google into trusting your site. Today, Google isn’t so interested in being tricked. Instead they are looking for well established and reputable sites and giving less credibility to the Johnny come lately’s or new sites.
So how do you establish trust in 2013? Well the same way you legitimately established trust in 2012 and 2011 — by writing content that deserves to be shared and by receiving links and mentions from others online.
It sounds easy but the hard work comes in when trying to promote your content and get the recognition you think it deserves. I have talked about virtual networking before as well as how to organize your social networking efforts. And as I see the direction Google is heading, it will be those who have built a strong network of influencers who will continue to receive the rankings and traffic for the foreseeable future.