Google Ranking Factors: What have we learned so far this year ?

Tim Aldiss of Brighton-based social media agency No Pork Pies takes a look at what we have learned about Google’s secret ranking algorithms during a year of Panda and Penguin updates.

2012’s Updates have made an SEO’s work harder than ever

2011 was easily the busiest year to date for Google algorithm updates. If 2012 continues with the pace it’s started it will easily trump 2011. To give you some perspective there were approximately three updates in 2009, seven in 2010, and 21 in 2011 (seven of which were versions of one update alone). 

Far from making the algorithm any clearer the sheer volume of changes have made an SEO’s work harder, or should I say ‘more challenging’ than ever! 

How to figure out the impact of Google’s algorithm updates

Whenever Google update their search ranking formula, it’s best to conduct testing, then when you are done with that do some more testing. Once that’s finished test again! And then of course you should read a lot about other test conducted by those that you trust. In June, before the Penguin update, Search Metrics released an excellent whitepaper called UK SEO Ranking Factors 2013 – a good example of data analysis. 

There is always subjectivity involved in the insights drawn but research like this tackles all the subjects SEO strategists are preoccupied with. And don’t forget that when collecting analysis during testing it’s always good practice to use good-quality social media monitoring tools (such as Brandwatch) to monitor sentiment throughout the networks.

Don’t expect Google to serve up the ranking algorithm on a plate

Google are trying to show more of how the process works {video link} thereby making people feel closer to the rationale behind the algorithm but the reality is that it has never been more complex and is still impossibly closely-guarded. However it’s still built by a team of humans (!) so in theory a community of expert SEO’s should be able to get pretty close to emulating it.

It’s not yet time to ditch banner ads

Yes, it’s true that Google did confirm that “particularly prominent distracting adverts could lead to ranking problems” but advertisements still have their place. There are a lot of websites (and blogs in particular) that monetise themselves from advertising and some abuse the privilege.

Google have figured out a way of identifying this so it’s time to pay attention and do something about improving your user experience by dumbing down on over-prominence.

Yes, the era of the keyword is coming to a close

The realisation that the era of the keyword is coming to a close is the single most important factor that has changed since I began in Search Engine Optimisation in 2000. Coming to terms with this has split the industry down the middle and forced practitioners to either focus on the technical or the creative (left vs right hemisphere if you like).

This doesn’t mean you should ignore search-term research or review your analytics keyword reports but there’s a lot less insight to be gained from Google keyword data at this time.

The age of the exact-matched keyword domain still remains!

Strangely, although the era of the keyword might be in its death throes, the age of the exact-matched keyword domain still remains (for now, at least).  Google has said that sites with keywords in their domain name “will slowly weaken in power” yet this does not seem to be the case.

In fact a recent and fairly high-brow study revealed that this is part of the algorithm that Google hasn’t touched.

Personalisation and localisation will become more useful

Google are about to improve their mobile maps offering, and as part of this there is no doubt that social-sharing will be rolled into local search too. I’d also suggest that there will be more emphasis placed on location-based services using Near Field Technology that are currently hard to get your head round. For me – I’d like to see a wider uptake of rewards-based systems for check-ins.

This is, after all, the easiest way of marketing at a recommendation level. Next time I walk into my local and check in I would love to be given a discount, and not only that but to be poured a pint of my usual without having to be asked what I want. Ah, the wonders of technology!


  1. Google Adsense is good for your page Says Google, then google said you should not put adsense in this part. then same Titles would be considered duplicate, then an article with little similarities would likely be copied... Things are becoming more challenging, and there could be another set of updates and one thing I see why Google is doing this might be the coming of their Knowledge Graph. Making Google give results easier and very relevant to what everyone is trying to search.

    (Califa Berks)

  2. That's why Google Adsense Program is the best paying ad campaign ever...Majorly used by blogger's worldwide irrespective of the updates made by Google.

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