Among the 22 ranking factors identified, social signals account for five of the six most influential factors in Google’s search results, according to a June 2012 study from Searchmetrics. The study showed that the most influential factors were:
- Facebook shares (0.37) have the highest correlation
- Followed by number of backlinks (0.36).
- Other high-ranking factors include Facebook comments (0.33) and,
- Likes (0.3), and Tweets (0.25).
A number of factors display a negative correlation with Google rankings, including title character length (-0.04) and the position of title keywords (-0.05).
According to a BrightEdge survey released in January 2012, 84% of search marketers say social signals such as likes, tweets, and Google +1s will be either more important (53%) or much more important (31%) to their SEO this year as compared to 2011.
Backlinks continue to be one of the most critical factors affecting rankings. The number of backlinks ranks just behind Facebook shares as the most highly-correlated factor. Additionally, other backlink factors also positively correlate, such as the proportion of nofollow links (0.15) and the proportion of links containing keywords (0.10).
Further results from the report indicate that too much advertising can be a dampener on search ranking success. The advertising factors studied all returned a negative correlation: AdLinks; AdSense; and AdSense Blocks each had a correlation coefficient of -0.04. Even so, the report notes that the correlation value for Adlinks includes AdSense, and separating out AdSense, which has a negative correlation, yields a better result for Adlinks.
Strong brands rank in the top five, even without perfectly conforming on-page structures, adding weight to the presumption of brand power in search rankings.
Keywords in domain names correlate much more strongly with high rankings than keywords in the rest of the URL.
Image count does not appear to be much of a factor, with a correlation coefficient of just 0.04.
It is no surprise that Google is placing more, and more weight on social media, i.e. what viewers are ‘liking.’ It’s a trend that is not likely to change but to accelerate in the coming years. We live in a digital city where, what our neighbors think matter and that will change to a digital village soon. Portals need to be prepared to take advantage of these new developments, or be left behind.