Today we have a guest post on our blog from Emma-Julie Fox of Pitstop Media who talks about SEO services. Take it away Emma-Julie...

The Most Significant Ranking Factors In 2013 By Emma Julie Fox, Pitstop Media

Since 2011 the international SEO community has been rocked by significant, instantaneous, and far-reaching updates in the ranking algorithm for Google. It seems that a new era has come to light after the implementation of the Google Panda, Penguin and EMD, among others—an era  that is marked by increased priority and regard for content and website quality over “black hat" SEO methods that were nevertheless considered the norm for a short time.

If you kept track of the official announcements released by Google in the last year, you'll be aware that the search engine is all about producing the best results for users—and by best results, they mean excellent websites with related, useful, and valuable content.

However, that alone cannot guarantee that a website will rank high in the SERPs. Everybody already knows the importance of content marketing these days, so you can expect that your competition will also endeavor to produce well-written articles and content.

That's good news for search engine users, but not so much for SEOs and websites. It means they have more competition to deal with. Situations like this tend to even out the playing ground, too. It would take something more extra for a website to break past the status quo and edge forward ahead of its competition.

So, as the competition for excellence (and SERPs rank) becomes stiffer, what should you or your SEO company do in order to pull more weight in the search results? Gain more points with the other primary ranking factors, of course.
What ranking factors can help you move up the SERPs fast

What are Ranking Factors?

Ranking factors are the elements that search engines use as basis to determine which websites should be published in the SERPs, and more importantly, what their order is in the search results. All websites aspire to be on the very first search engine results page. If not, at least landing within the first three pages would be a huge feat. More importantly, landing in these pages will potentially bring traffic to your website, increase your conversion rate, and hopefully give you back substantial ROI.

Weightiest Ranking Factors Today

It is important to note that even though high-quality content is what Google looks for, the search engine still have to consider the presence/absence of certain criteria that will help it determine which websites or webpages contain high-quality content that Internet users are looking for.

Based on the updates Google implemented on its ranking algorithm these past years, it is apparent that the following ranking signals have been given the biggest weights:

  • Link Profile (Backlinks)

Before the Penguin update was rolled out, SEOs had a habit of collecting links from all over the place. It didn’t really matter where they came from as long as there are many of them. Today though, with the introduction of the Google Penguin in particular, quality trumps quantity when it comes to link profiles.

Even if you have thousands of backlinks, they won’t do your website any good if they come from low-quality websites (link farms, bad neighborhood sites, web pages with very poor content, etc). They will even cause your website to get penalized by Google. Surely, you’ve read stories about websites that had crashed and burned because of this and Google Penguin.

In Order to Rank: Improve your link profile by earning backlinks preferably from high-ranking and authority websites. Quality over quantity, but quality and quantity will be so much better.

  • Authority Factor

You shouldn't have to remind people of your authority. Genuine authority is respected and acknowledged by people. 

One of the things that can make your website zoom up the SERPs is the authority factor. If your website can prove both to visitors and the search engines and their personnel that it is an authority in its niche, it will greatly improve its page rank and its position in the SERPs.

In Order to Rank: Start with two important things: content and presentation. Your website’s articles and page content should be accurate, have an air of authority, and be backed by credible authority figures (which could be you if you own the website, or the company, organization or individuals who own the website and write its content).

The website’s structure must be sensible and easy to navigate. Its appearance should be suited to the theme/topic/niche. It shouldn’t look mediocre or obviously designed by somebody inexperienced.

Contributing to reputed websites and blogs in your niche and getting inbound links from them will also help you build credibility.

With Author Rank likely to become a crucial ranking factor in Google this year, it will help to secure Authorship for all your published content too.

• Keywords

There are aspects of SEO that will not change, and keywords are one of them. Search engines will always look to keywords and phrases in the title, subheadings, meta information, and content body to determine if it matches the search queries. Keyword stuffing is of course a huge no-no (cue in Penguin!) but using too little will also limit your chances of appearing in the SERPs.

In Order to Rank: Use a variety of  related keywords (including local keywords) and phrases in your articles, especially in titles, subheaders, and anchor texts. This way you won't be flagged for keyword stuffing but still reap the benefits of having many of these little search magnets in your site.

For example, let’s say you are Canadian company and your target keyword is ‘App Development’, the related keywords could be—‘Mobile app development’, ‘app development services’, ‘app development Canada’, ‘Canadian App Development Company’, etc.

• Social Signals

Social signals are concrete representations of user preference and perception. 

It's amazing that something quite recent can already have so much influence in the search engines. Social signals mean so much more than just a hundred thousand likes, shares, or mentions. They are an indication of confidence and satisfaction from the wider public. 

Social signals also have direct impact on websites that contribute to its page rank. A successful social campaign can increase website traffic and conversion rates, and reduce bounce rates and increase time-on-site. Take note, these are ranking signals too. 

Social signals are probably the most reliable bases for determining a website and its content's popularity, whether or not people trust it and find it useful and reliable as a source of information.

In Order to Rank: Create accounts in at least these three social media giants: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, as well as popular social sharing sites like Pinterest, Digg, Stumbleupon, etc. Make sure you share all your content, especially new blogs on your social networks. It’s also a good idea to create social sharing widgets in your blog section to encourage people to share you content.

A great new tool to improve your social signals is Viral Content Buzz. It’s a free web tool that encourages people to share each other’s content by letting them earn credits for every share.  Users can then offer these credits to others as incentives for sharing their content.

• Structure and Webpage Health

Before your website has a hope of ever appearing in the SERPs, it has to be indexed first. That's why a logical, uncomplicated structure that's easy to crawl is very important. If there are too many unloadable pages, 404s and redirects, your content may not be indexed soon enough.

In Order to Rank: Create a sitemap (.xml) to help search engines crawl and index your website. Repair pages that cannot be loaded or takes too long to fully load and submit your sitemap to search engines.

Capitalize on these ranking signals so that you can improve your Page Rank and rank higher in the SERPs.

Emma-Julie Fox writes for Pitstop Media Inc, a Vancouver company that provides SEO services to businesses across North America. If you would like to invite the author to write on your blog too, please contact Pitstop Media.

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