Tom Capper's Posts

What is a Ranking Factor?

I decided to write this for a couple of reasons. One is that I’ve seen a lot of potentially misleading Tweets on the subject recently (naming no names!), and the other is that it’s related to another pet peeve of mine, about ranking factor studies.

What is a ranking factor?

A ranking factor is a variable that a search engine uses to decide the best ordering of relevant, indexed results returned for a search query.

Note that I’ve said the decision is between relevant, indexed pages - a good illustration of this distinction is the often absurdly high number shown beneath your query when you perform a Google search, such as the 643 million “potatoes”-related pages shown here:

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Reading Between the Lines - Three Deeper Takeaways from John Mueller at BrightonSEO

Last Friday I had the pleasure of watching John Mueller of Google being interviewed on the BrightonSEO main stage by (Distilled alumna!) Hannah Smith. I found it hugely interesting how different it was from the previous similarly formatted sessions with John I’ve seen - by Aleyda at BrightonSEO previously, and more recently by my colleague Will Critchlow at SearchLove. In this post, I want to get into some of the interesting implications in what John did and, crucially, did not say.

I’m not going to attempt here to cover everything John said exhaustively - if that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend this post by Deepcrawl’s Sam Marsden, or this transcript via Glen Allsopp (from which I’ve extracted below).

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DA is the Wrong Metric for Reporting on Link-Building

I decided to write this post when I saw, in late February, this poll on Twitter:

Link to tweet

Twitter polls may not be the most scientific way that one could research the state of the industry, but it did remind me how common this is - I routinely receive outreach emails or see RFPs & case studies that discuss link-building in terms of Moz’s DA (Domain Authority) metric - typically how many links of above a certain DA were or could be built.

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How to rank for head terms

Over the last few years, my mental model for what does and doesn’t rank has changed significantly, and this is especially true for head terms - competitive, high volume, “big money” keywords like “car insurance”, “laptops”, “flights”, and so on. This post is based on a bunch of real-world experience that confounded my old mental model, as well as some statistical research that I did for my presentation at SearchLove London (create a free Distilled account to access the video) in early October . I’ll explain my hypothesis in this post, but I’ll also explain how I think you should react to it as SEOs - in other words, how to rank for head terms.

My hypothesis in both cases is that head terms are no longer about ranking factors, and by ranking factors I mean static metrics you can source by crawling the web and weight to decide who ranks.

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The 30-Minute Information Architecture Audit

The SEO community really doesn’t take much persuading when it comes to the importance of links. Sometimes it feels like they’re all we want to talk about.

And yet, we spend hardly any time talking about the most important and easiest links of all - the ones on our own sites. The links in our templates, our footers, our faceted navs, and our hideous drop down nested mega menus.

Those links might affect your site’s performance, at least as much as those you get from other sites. If you’ve ever done log analysis for large sites, you’ll have seen how Google’s understanding of a site is shaped by internal linking, and how unimportant pages can end up hogging the limelight.

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