Which SEO Metrics Really Matter
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Let’s talk about a few things Google may factor into their search engine rankings that you may not have given much thought, but you should. Google pays great attention to the following factors, so this makes them your priority if you want to improve your rankings and user experience.
No follow Links
Value of no follow links is hard to measure. While they include the code rel=”nofollow”, search engines have traditionally spidered and indexed pages linked to using the nofollow tag. A good example of this is Twitter. Pages with only no follow links from Twitter get indexed in Google very quickly. The question becomes how much link value is passed from nofollow links if any at all? One possibility is that the link itself does not pass any link juice, which is the official version as far as 99% of SEOs are concerned. However, only having a pattern of do-follow links may not be entirely natural. In this case, it’s possible that an individual nofollow link may not pass any value, but at the same time a handful of no follow links could add value to an overall linking pattern.
Link velocity is the speed at which a site or page is getting links. The faster a site gets links, the higher the velocity. The speed at which a site gets links could be an indicator that a site or page is popular. Often webmasters will build links quickly, then stop their linking campaign and find their sites have dropped from Google’s index. Some people blame this on being in Google’s “sandbox”, but it’s possible this is a result of declining link velocity.
Link decay is the opposite of Link velocity and occurs when the number of links to a site or page declines. For example, if a site had 1000 links last month but only 500 links this month, it has lost 50% of its links within a 30 day period. Losing links could be an indication of a low-quality or spam page and begs the question, why are so many webmasters removing links to that particular page or site?
Impact of Social Media
Many blackhat SEOs claim that you can’t gather links too quickly. They will often cite examples where some web owner may have appeared on Oprah and consequently have thousands of links pointing back to their site overnight. While this is possible, it’s also likely that links to sites owned by guests of Oprah would have links to their sites throughout the social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter in some proportion to the links found elsewhere. This leads us to the current golden mine of internet marketing, social media, surprisingly a factor too many SEOs tend to skip in favour of pure link building. The majority of traffic to our sites apart from search engines is being driven by social media, and there is no better way to get attention and build an online brand these days than participating in social media. Anyone who skips this part is giving away an important part of their potential traffic.
On Page Usage Metrics – Bounce Rate
There’s been some interesting recent developments about how the actions of visitors to a site may influence that page’s ranking in Google. Through data collected from Google related tools such as the Google toolbar and Google’s browser Chrome, Google can mine tons of information revealing how real people react when visiting a page. Google may use this information as part of the ranking algorithm.
For example, Google can detect “bounce rate”, which is how quickly a person clicks on a link in the search engine results, visit the site, then returns to Google and clicks on a link to another site. If a person spends little time on the site, then returns to Google and clicks on a link to another site, this could show that the first site was either not relevant or of poor quality. Bounce rate since Google instant also has a 3 second rule, which says that if a user doesn’t type or do basically anything while in search for 3 seconds that counts as an impression, so that may increase the website’s bounce rate, hopefully Google will soon find a way to deal with this issue a little bit better. Improvement of on-page factors and the landing page can significantly decrease the bounce rate. One trick some news sites use to show Google a low bounce rate is splitting their content into two or more pages.
The strategy of splitting content over multiple pages frustrates users, however with microdata and rel=”next” and rel=”prev” this is a smart move to lower your bounce rate in the eyes of Google. But then again, you will also be faking your bounce rate, so there goes your insight into visitor behaviour.
On Page Usage Metrics – Click-Through Depth
Click-through depth of the site tells us how far a visitor navigated through a site. For example, if a person clicks through four or five pages of a site, spending a minute or two on each page, Google could see this as an indicator of a quality site. Which makes sense, the more users spend on your site on average the higher the quality score is.
On Page Usage Metrics – Scroll Depth and Speed
Another possible on page usage metric is scroll speed and scroll depth. When using Google’s Chrome browser, and possibly their toolbar, information about how far the user scrolled down the page and how fast they did it is another indicator of the quality and relevancy of the page. If people scroll all the way down the page at a constant reading speed, this is likely an indicator of a high-quality page. Whereas a quick scroll a quarter way down the page, followed quickly by a click on the “back button”, is likely an indicator of a poor quality page or a page not relevant to the search query.
This is another thing most SEOs don’t pay attention to, and they should, as Google does. Although we didn’t mention titles, alt tags, or linking metrics, all of which are considered important for ranking, we feel that constant talking about these metrics has rendered other important metrics useless in the eyes of beginners. There are more and more important metrics, and, the more Google develops the more we will be forced to pay attention to little details. The metrics mentioned here are not small factors, so they should never be overlooked.