Almost everyone knows that backlinks and good quality, indepth content are ranking factors for their websites. But there are two other ranking factors that also need to be taken into account that a lot of people forget about. Social Signals and Click Through Rate (CTR). There is also another ranking factor that is looming in the distance, but we will get to that one later.
Google still insists that social signals are not a ranking factor. It’s a hot topic amongst other SEO’s and some agree and some disagree that social is a ranking factor. What needs to be taken into account is what type of social signals were they using, and the quality of those social signals.
Social signals consist of 2 different types. First the post with the link back to the site. This is pretty much just like a normal backlink to your site. Secondly, and what we focus more on is shares and likes. We haven’t seen a lot of increases from simple liking, but shares are a different story.
Bradley Benner from Semantic Mastery does an excellent job of explaining this and more in this video:
Bradley explains a lot in the video, and we highly respect his opinions. We can say that in our testing, we have had pretty much the same results. Good, quality social SHARES make a difference and influence ranking. Part of this may also be due to the fact that the shares themselves are creating more backlinks on people’s individual profiles, even though 9 times out of 10 they are nofollow links. Whether or not nofollow links count or not are a topic for another post.
With good social signals, our next topic is bound to happen naturally – CTR.
On to CTR (click through rate). This for sure is a definite ranking factor today, and more than likely will also be in the future. There are 2 signifcant CTR’s that we see effecting website rankings.
- People finding your site on the web when they search for keyword phrases on Google and click your site, and STAY for at least a few minutes and DON’T hit the back button is a good CTR.
- We find as another good CTR is people actually finding a link for your site somewhere else on the web and then click it to follow through to your site.
Yes, The Click-Through Rate Is A Ranking Signal, But…
Last year, I had to do an extensive online reputation management job for a client. While I was able to outrank most of the other websites already in search engine results pages (SERPs), one specific issue presented a higher difficulty: Two top spots were occupied by some very old (c. 2005–2006) articles.
My task was to override those results, growing the digital properties owned by my client. Unfortunately, even after employing a link-building strategy on the digital properties, I was unable to reach my goal.
So I decided to test a different strategy: Remembering the numerous theories about the influence of click-through rate on the search results pages, I hired a certain number of people on a “micro jobs network” and made them click on the digital properties.
In a matter of few weeks, the digital properties were able to overtake the newspaper articles.
The result was so interesting that I decided to do an experiment with my friend, Andrea Scarpetta, in order to validate the hypothesis of the click-through rate as a ranking signal.
We developed a software tool which could simulate a random sequence of clicks on a query, with these characteristics:
- Using a specific proxy service, we had access to thousands of IP addresses within the USA.
- We collected around 500 user-agent strings, between desktop, mobile and tablet browsers, to use randomly in order to emulate several kinds of browsers.
- The software opened a single session, made a query on Google, clicked on a specific URL, opened the page and stayed there for around 20 seconds.
- Each session had a unique IP in 95 percent of cases, and the repeated IPs were never consecutive.
- We did a random number of requests (between 250 and 700 per day) with a random number of concurrent requests between 2 and 4.
On to the last part of this post – the future and what is to come.
While Rankbrain has been around for a little while, there is a lot of speculation about how and where it’s being deployed.
It’s Google’s newest machine that is actually learning, machine-learning artificial intelligence. Kinda scary huh?! Terminator type stuff!
In a nutshell, RankBrain is actually learning and looking at websites and giving them a score of how relevant they are and to return to the searcher the highest quality, most relevant content. Kind of what they have always aimed to do.
Larry Kim made a post this week on WordSteam that covers this well, and how to protect yourself as well as thrive when and if RankBrain becomes the #1 Ranking factor, and here is a short snippet from it:
RankBrain Judgment Day: 4 SEO Strategies You’ll Need to Survive
RankBrain will analyze web pages for relevance. Every page will get a score between 1 and 10, with 1 being a dubious result and 10 being extremely strong.
But wait! This RankBrain technology is eerily derived from earlier G-350 technology. You may know it better as Google AdWords’ Quality Score. This intelligent AdWords technology never needed external signals (e.g., links) to rank paid search ads for relevance. Soon it will be the same for organic search.
Is this it? The SEO apocalypse? Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh.
No, it isn’t. I’ve come from the future to share the secret solutions used in the past to help you today as your prepare for the rise of the machines.
A group of resistance fighters have already fought, and won, great Quality Score wars. Resistance fighters like myself, Frederick Vallaeys, and a squad of highly-trained AdWords Quality Score experts have learned to fight back and win. Now it’s time to share our intel on how to defeat RankBrain.
There’s no fate but what we make. Today I’m sharing four key strategies to prepare for RankBrain in order to prevent your website from facing Judgment Day.
Hang On… Judgment Day? Overdramatic Much?
Imagine one day you wake up to find your website gone. Just gone. The fate of your site decided by a new order of machine intelligence in just a microsecond.
In the future RankBrain will take over the search results. All of them. In one possible future, Judgment Day happens on September 27, 2018* – Google’s 18th birthday. (*Standard Time Travel Causal Loop Disclaimer: Give or take a few months – time travel and navigating these time lines is quite tricky!)
For now, RankBrain is mainly used on complex long-tail search queries. But assuming RankBrain will only ever be used on long-tail queries would be dramatically underestimating its potential.
Google has pointed out that 15% of the millions of queries it handles have never been searched before. Additionally, for upwards of 99% of content across the web, Google simply doesn’t have enough signals (insufficient link and historical page data) to determine the most relevant search result for users. There are also whole niches that lack reliable natural link data (authoritative sites rarely link to porn, for example).
So now, with RankBrain, Google is learning in a very advanced way exactly what people click on and whether or not they are satisfied with the result when they click through.
Yes, Google is only using it on some queries for now. But when you create a new system like RankBrain, you wouldn’t initially test it on your big-money head terms – just as you wouldn’t replace a wildly successful paid search ad with an experimental one. You test on the things you’re least confident in.
There’s less downside and risk if Google’s RankBrain results aren’t as good in the early days. They will learn and come up with better answers based on analysis of user success metrics. Over time, Google’s confidence in RankBrain will grow and the signal will get more and more weighty.
Judgment Day is when RankBrain becomes the #1 ranking factor.
The link and on-page SEO signals won’t go away completely (they can always be used to corroborate other factors). But one day, they won’t be the most important factor in rankings. RankBrain will. Continue Reading The Article Here…
Great article from Larry! Well worth the read for SEOs, and anyone wanting to attempt to do SEO on their own.
One important takeaway from his article is that he still believes that CTR will still be an important ranking factor, and probably the most important.
So what do you need to take away from this article? Make sure that you are creating good, quality content that gets user engagement with headlines and tags that get people to click on your site. This will actually help you 2 fold so that when you share it on social media it will get shares from other people as well, giving you more chances of getting people to click through to your site, boosting that almighty CTR.