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Google Ranking Factors: Fact vs. Fiction [Podcast]


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Google ranking factors are usually a hot topic of debate in the SEO industry.

While Google has confirmed a few ranking factors and signals, there is a lot of speculation and bad information out there about what is, what might be, and what definitely is not a ranking factor.

So the Search Engine Journal team set out to separate fact from fiction.

Join Search Engine Journal’s Assistant Editor Anna Crowe and founder Loren Baker as they give you the facts, so you can aim your SEO strategy for the biggest impact on this special edition of the Search Engine Journal Show.

Whether you’re attempting to understand the latest algorithm update, improve a site’s rankings, or boost conversions, understanding how the search engine works and where you fit in the ecosystem can result in a much better strategy, a smoother user experience, and more high-quality traffic.

We’re talking about a few key ranking factors from the ebook, how the book was put together, and what it means for you. (Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction is available for download here.)

This started back in November 2019, so this is how long this ebook has been in the works. The goal really was to become the SEO Mythbusters on what is and what isn’t a ranking factor. We wanted to come up with something more defined by facts and not just based on opinion and commentary. –Anna Crowe [04:44]

There are tons of studies out there, but whenever you actually get into the meat of those studies, a lot of it is opinion or cause and correlation types that don’t necessarily ring true to what Google’s statements are, what’s in their patents, or what’s confirmed from the voice of John Mueller or Danny Sullivan. –Anna Crowe [07:51]

A good chunk of our time, I’d probably say, maybe even 60 percent of it was spent researching before we actually began writing this piece. –Anna Crowe [09:32]

[00:00] – What Anna does at SEJ and her digital marketing interests
[02:33] – What Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction covers
[02:52] – Are there still only 200 Google ranking factors?
[03:41] – What led to creating this book?
[04:14] – The methodology behind Google Ranking Factors
[07:26] – Why this book took almost two years to write
[08:24] – What Anna learned from researching the various ranking factors
[09:57] – How did Google algorithm updates affect the research behind the many ranking factors?
[11:07] – How might continuous mobile scrolling change website visibility in the search results?
[14:30] – Are Easter eggs a Google ranking factor?
[16:54] – Is word count a ranking factor? The final verdict
[21:51] – What is Query Deserves Freshness, and does content freshness affect website rankings?
[28:27] – Is E-A-T a ranking factor?
[29:55] – Are links a ranking factor?
[34:37] – The gray area of domain and site age as a ranking factor
[37:30] – Is the Better Business Bureau (BBB) a ranking factor?
[38:50] – What is the difference between Google Quality Rater Guidelines and a ranking factor?
[42:14] – The interesting panini analogy by Loren
[43:57] – The main takeaways from reading the book

The more you understand how the Google algorithm works, the better you can deliver an amazing piece of content to the user. –Anna Crowe [10:20]

It’s about science, so it’s interesting to learn how the algorithm works. But it’s more important to realize that the goal really is to build a better page for the user. –Anna Crowe [44:27]

The purpose of this Ranking Factors ebook is to demonstrate that yes, there are all these ranking factors, but they evolve. In the end, it’s really just about the user, and the goal is to make sure that your website is an amazing experience for them. –Anna Crowe [45:11]

It sounds like the life of an SEO has been mirrored into this project in terms of keeping up with everything. –Loren Baker [11:09]

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Anna is the Assistant Editor of Search Engine Journal. During the last 10+ years, Anna has successfully run her own SEO and content agency, working with clients like Moz, Kissmetrics, Dollar Thrifty Rental, Hearst Magazine, Mailboat Records, Philip Morris International, Bloomin’ Brands, and many more. Besides burritos, she loves puppies.

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Are Easter eggs a Google ranking factor?

No, Easter eggs are definitely not a ranking factor.

Is word count a ranking factor?

No, word count is definitely not a ranking factor. What Google cares most about when ranking search results is satisfying user intent. (We go into more detail on page 149 of Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction.)

Does content freshness affect website rankings?

Yes, freshness is a Google ranking factor. It’s always a best practice to keep your content up to date, relevant, and valuable for your audience/customers/clients. (You can read more on page 234 of Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction.)

Is E-A-T a ranking factor?

No, E-A-T is not a Google ranking factor, BUT it guides and contributes to many other traits that are ranking factors. (You can learn more on page 213 of Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction.)

Are links a ranking factor?

Links can have a substantial impact on rankings, but not always. Contextual links, inbound links, and internal links are or are most likely ranking factors. Nofollow, paid, and outbound links are unlikely (or definitely not) a ranking signal. (There’s an entire section discussing links as ranking factors starting on page 361 of Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction.)

Is the Better Business Bureau (BBB) a ranking factor?

No, despite many rumors, BBB ratings are not a ranking factor. While the importance of trustworthiness for Google rankings is well established, there is no evidence that their algorithms consider BBB ratings a ranking factor. (You can get more information on this topic on page 77 of Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction.)

Category SEJ Show SEO

Angie Nikoleychuk

Content Marketing Manager at Search Engine Journal

Angie Nikoleychuk is the Content Marketing Manager at Search Engine Journal. Along with social media, copy, and marketing, she has ...

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