Why These 3 Ranking Factors Matter (but Nobody Seems to Care About)

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Neil Patel
Why These 3 Ranking Factors Matter (but Nobody Seems to Care About)

While factors like local relevance, link building and trust seem to get all the attention these days, there are some ranking factors that you need to learn how to use effectively if you want to become a top-notch SEO.

The following ranking factors have proven to be equally important to the other factors. In fact, learn how to leverage these factors with the other factors and you will become one powerful SEO…building sites that generate lots of hard search traffic for you and your clients.

Authorship Markup

Authorship markup is Google’s way of connecting your personal content on the web. The quickest way to show you the benefits is from a search. Let’s say I searched for “optimize rich snippets.” The photo that you see below was pulled using authorship markup.

The implications of what authorship markup can do now are fascinating.

First, in the SERP space, an authorship snippet builds trust between both the search engine and the user. Spammy content farms typically create pages without authors.  On the one hand, Google might treat a page differently if it had a connecting authorship snippet, showing that this article was created by a real author with history.

On the other hand, searchers might also favor a search query that has a picture. Think about it: a picture says that a real person with something at stake is behind the article, giving it authority. Of course this can be easily gamed.

In addition, this could actually allow you to generate more search engine traffic without actually improving your search ranking position because people are clicking on your content because of the picture.

Over at SEO by the Sea, Bill Slawski shares some other important implications to authorship markup and profile badges and their connection to search ranking:

  • Guest posts – Creating an authorship markup profile will help you connect all of your content as you post articles on your blog and across the web. This is another way to authenticate the author.
  • Duplicate content – If you write a blog post that gets scrapped, Google may crawl both pages, recognize the authorship markup and then assign that page as the original source, thus keeping scraper content from outranking your original content.
  • Multiauthor identification – If you write a section of a multi-author article, the markup, using a <div>, could identify your and then tagged with a special identifier like <div id=5792>content…..</div>.
  • Author verification via image – It’s also possible that through the use of an image tag (<img>) plus a link that authorship verification becomes automatic since the image is in the badge server.
  • Authorship snippet meta data – Hovering over the name badge will allow you to see additional information. Optimize this for higher clickthroughs.

And to add authorship markup that makes your profile pic appear in SER, link to his Google+ account through the author bio page with this code:

<a herf=”” rel=“author”>Google+</a>

Check out these resources to learn more about authorship markup:


Since the first web page was published over 20 years ago, information gets spread on the web at a head-spinning pace…and not all of it is good. That is, of course, why Google is trying so hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Freshness is one of the more recent ways in which they are doing that.

Information can be recent from a month ago to a minute ago…but what is important is based on the user. News about a riot that is a week old, especially when there is more recent articles on the topic available, is probably not the most relevant search a user wants. Then again, it could be that someone is looking for information on a historical topic where an article that has been around for a while will be the most relevant.

The Caffeine web indexing system that Google finished a year ago allows them to crawl and index a massive amount of information for that fresh content. They eventually leveraged Caffeine’s power to improve significantly their ranking algo, an impact that affected 6-10% of searches.

This development is supposed to enable Google to better understand the subtle freshness differences in searches. Not every search needs the same level of freshness. For example:

  • Current events – When you want information that is up to date, like football scores or stock market changes, you’ll now get pages that could be less than five minutes old.
  • Annual or seasonal events – The election, Olympics or American Idol are examples of events that happen more than once in a period of time, but not so frequent. What is important is that you probably want the most recent election news…not news from four years ago. Google’s freshness update has made SRs more relevant now.
  • Useful, but old content – Not all content needs to be fresh. Recipes or historical stories can be useful even if they are not fresh. As you can imagine, Wikipedia doesn’t really benefit from this freshness factor.

Here’s what this looks like in practice. Search for a popular topic like the Republican presidential candidate race and you get results like these:

The top query dominates the content below because it is an authoritative site holding station for all-things on the topic. The other content may not get re-freshed over time, so fall out of relevancy.

So how does Google exactly score fresh content? Cyrus Shepard shared ten ways freshness can influence ranking…study these to help optimize your pages so they are relevant to searchers:

1). Age of the document – The age of a document is not calculated by counting the number of days since you published it. The date is actually defined by either when Google first discovered and crawled the page or the page appeared in results. This is a page’s inception date. This date degrades over time. A page will receive a higher weight the closer it is to the inception date. This is how Justin Briggs graphed it out:

2). Document changes affect fresh content – How much on the page changes matters. A large-scale change might be judged differently than a page with a little change. You would have to change a small percentage of content on a page more frequently to carry the same weight than if a large percentage of content on a page changed.

3). Rate of change – How often changes are made to a page will also matter how they are scored. A home page with a blog feed with change daily, as would a major newspaper’s home page.

4). Creation of new pages will impact freshness – A website with more pages added will be judged differently than a  website with fewer pages added.
5). Important page changes matter more – Changes made to less important pages will influence freshness score less than changes made to a page that is more important.
6.) New links to page – The rate at which a page picks up links will influence the freshness score.

7). Age of pages that are linking – Your freshness score will also be influenced by how old the page that you are getting links from is. Pages receiving links from fresher pages will be judged differently than pages getting links from older pages.

8). Content of anchor text stays the same – When you do not change the purpose of your website’s content dramatically, your anchor texts remain unchanged. These pages will be ranked differently than those pages/websites where purpose shifts dramatically like from a site about baking becomes one about motorcycles.
9). Time on page – How long visitors spend on your pages influences your freshness score. A page where visitors spend more time may be deemed fresher than a page where visitor time spent on page is low.
10). Age of some pages still matter – Some search queries deserve older, more authoritative pages like for the term “magna carta” and the respective Wikipedia article.

As you can see that it takes some effort to optimize a page based on freshness but it is worth the investment since Google has given it so much attention.

Category Authority

Finally, one search optimization tactic that is often underused is category domination. Don’t confuse this with the marketing term of “category.” This is an on-site, internal linking strategy that involves the “category” tag found on blog content management systems.

Category domination or authority happens when you focus on a particular category of topics and create content specific to that category. In a way you are treating each category like a blog so that you are optimizing off-site and on-site, you are optimizing the entire site.

In the end you will have created a site that is an authority with a minimal number of incoming links, but ranking high regardless. It’s like dominating all of the niches inside your industry…and instead of doing it on separate sites, you are doing it on one site.

How do you prove whether this is true or not? Here’s the case…

You know that authority is an important factor to Google when it comes to a page being relevant. When Google is trying to determine what to do with a new page, it looks at the authority links.

When Google indexes it keeps record of the keywords indexed on these authority sites. Then Google looks at the keywords from these authority sites and compares them to the content on your web pages. This helps them understand how much the content can be trusted…the TrustRank score.

Creating these authoritative categories and writing the SEO-friendly content will take time, but a little planning and elbow grease and you will start to see results in 6 to 12 months. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Create category pages that are very narrowly focused on a topic. For instance, build categories on “SEO TrustRank,” SEO authority markup” and “SEO Freshness Update.” It’s really all about the keywords that you want to rank high on.
  2. Next, create pages of detailed, technical and advanced content inside each category that attracts links.
  3. Massively upgrade the links between pages inside a category so that you have a tightly woven matrix of links inside that category. As the spiders crawl your site they recognize the relevancy of the content you have created.
  4. In addition, build links back to these pages inside this category through guest posting.
  5. Finally, as you track the rise of authority for these pages and ultimately the category, then you can leverage their PageRank as you start to build out other categories.

And that’s it. By the way, you don’t have to display these categories on your site. This tactic will work if you do or don’t.


It seems like everyone is chasing after link building and clients are begging for more and more links. While that factor is important, it’s not the only SEO tactic in town. Learn how to build links to your site and do these other things as well that are going to prove significant in 2012.

So, if you really want to take your site to the next level or even offer clients a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors, take the above ranking factors serious and learn how to use them effectively.

Besides these three, can you name other ranking factors that are important but neglected?

Neil Patel

Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions. Neil also blogs ... [Read full bio]