The world of search is an ever-changing landscape as search engines continue to tweak their ranking algorithms in an effort to achieve better search results. SEOs have no choice but to play catch up, deciphering the signals that give us a peek into what matters most to search engines and so adapt the strategies we employ on websites and pages we maintain to ensure their places in the search rankings.
Year after year, links and keywords have been cited as two of the most important factors that affect a site/page’s ranking in Google’s SERPs. This year, Matt Peter’s analysis of the 2013 search engine ranking factors show that these two factors are indeed still the most important part of the algorithm with a total of about 40% of the algorithm attributed to links and almost 36% that to keyword signals.
For the link metrics, note that the domain level authority link metrics (20.56%) and page-level link metrics (19.31%) are both perceived to be equally important by survey participants. However, correlation data shows that sub-domain correlations seem to be larger than domain correlations, which COULD mean that focusing on link building on the page-level may have a bigger pay off than doing so on the domain level. As always though, it is important to be cautious when interpreting correlation data, because we all know how other factors can affect the results. So while it might be a good idea to up your link building efforts for individual pages, do not neglect your link building efforts for domain level pages.
When it comes to keywords, age-old advice on various keyword metrics still apply. For anchor text, this means staying away from over-optimized anchor text, unless a partial or exact match really makes sense with the rest of the content. That said, organic text distribution is vital with the survey participants even believing that it might be a more important factor than the actual number of links, both for partial and exact matches.
Both correlation data and the SEOs surveyed also showed that keywords are still important on-page, particularly in the title and the body text. And while the two differ in the level of importance of keywords on H1 and H2 tags (only H1 tags showing high correlation), the use of keywords in header tags is still undoubtedly beneficial as long as they don’t appear spammy.
All in all, you can say that what’s most important to focus on for now has not changed much. However, if your SEO strategy is to stay one step ahead of the game and not just to keep on playing catch up, then focusing all your efforts in link building and keyword optimization is obviously not the way to go. Instead, you also need to step up your game when it comes to other ranking factors like social metrics, usage data, and authorship metrics, though they may not factor in as heavily right now in Google’s search algorithm.