08 Sep 2015

Moz’s Ranking Factors for 2015: Do’s and Don’ts

Since 2009, Moz has gathered information through surveys and various studies in order to get a grasp on what works and what doesn’t work in search engine algorithms. From the data that they gathered, they can determine what currently helps and hurts a site’s presence and rankings on search engines.

This year, Moz surveyed 150 expert search marketers (including our own Art Enke and Arnie Kuenn) and ran their correlation studies alongside SimilarWeb, DomainTools, and Ahrefs. What came out was a highly informative infographic that gave a condensed but precise depiction of what search marketers should prioritize in the oncoming future.

What to do & what not to do according to Moz

Since the infographic was a condensed depiction of what to look out for, some feel like they need a more fleshed out explanation or presentation of the entire thing. Inspired by the Good Idea/Bad Idea model (made famous by the cartoon series “Animaniacs”), I came up with a way for people understand the do’s and don’ts of the current ranking factors based on the Moz survey. Hopefully after reading this, you won’t feel like you have “no idea what you’re doing,” and can step into a stronger SEO future.

Not Understanding the Moz Ranking Factors of 2015

1. Domain-Level Link Features

Which include: Quantity of links, trust, domain-level Page-Rank, etc.

DO: Continue working on getting links that are valuable to your domain. When I write “valuable,” I mean really valuable. All in all, you want to have a good quantity of links from high quality sites that are directed to your website. This practice will help build your domain’s authority and page rank.

DON’T: Go out and buy links to your domain from places that promise to link to you from “high” ranking and “high” authority sites. If you’re doing that, you’re probably like the Poor-Decision Rob Lowe from the DirecTV commercials that ate the tuna sandwich he found on the bus.

Poor decisions while building links to your domain

2. Page-Level Link Features

Which include: PageRank, trust metrics, quantity of linking root domains, links, anchor text distribution, quality/spamminess of linking sources, etc.

DO: Same as above, but on a page-level. Whatever was good at the domain level is just as good for the page level. So if it’s good for your bakery’s main page, it’s also good for your page about chocolate croissants and cronuts.

DON’T: (see previous Don’t – as if that wasn’t a big enough warning. If not, here’s a visual aid.)

Jack Black's warning about spamming links

3. Page-Level Keyword & Content-Based Features

Which include: Content relevance scoring, on-page optimization of keyword usage, topic-modeling algorithm scores on content, content quantity/quality/relevance, etc.

DO: Put some energy into making sure that your focused keywords are appearing in the right places and in the right content. Having your keywords in places like the title tag, the H1 tags and other valued areas can help set up a semantic structure for quality content.

As for content, make sure that it does have the keywords you are aiming for, but also have it be a small (but important) part of relevant content. For example, let’s say your gift basket company is aiming for “manly gift baskets.” Writing a blog post about “Gifts Ideas that One Bro Can Give to Another” and have it contain a sprinkled usage of the keyword (and variations of it) can benefit your site in the eyes of Google.

DON’T: Produce massive amounts of poorly constructed/optimized thin content on your website. Don’t then pray to the search engine deities that your thin content and over-spamming of keywords is a “good enough sacrifice of your time and money.”

Thin content depicted as a sandwich

4. Page-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features

Which include: Content length, readability, Open Graph markup, uniqueness, load speed, structured data markup, HTTPs, etc.

DO: Dedicate some time to sweat the small stuff concerning your website’s pages. Make sure your content is unique, lengthy and is readable to everyone (especially your target audience). Also make sure that all of your pages have good structured data markup (like schema coding) and is making proper use of other small ventures.

Not sure if your website is broken or slow according to Google Analytics

DON’T: Think that the smaller things concerning your website aren’t going to add up. Because at the end of it all, it will. Just because you believe meta descriptions alone are “good enough” and think that your visitors won’t mind that your homepage is slower than Jabba the Hutt in Alaska, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear for top rankings.

5. Engagement & Traffic/Query Data

Which include: Data SERP engagement metrics, clickstream data, visitor traffic/usage signals, quantity/diversity of various analytical factors like audiences/audience behavior/site metrics, CTR of queries – both on the domain and page level

DO: In a nutshell, brush up on your Google Webmaster Tools (now known as Google Search Console) and your Google Analytics. Understand your bounce rates, click through rates, metrics of your visitors’ behaviors, etc. Every single part of analytical traffic and query data could tell a lot about your domain. They can show you opportunities (like an untapped geographical audience) or point out problems that you were previously unaware of (like high bounce rates on pages with very thin content).

Be an overly obsessed Google Analytics analyst

DON’T: Ignore analytical data and graphs because “numbers are hard.”

6. Domain-Level Brand Metrics

Which include: Offline usage of brand/domain name, mentions of brand/domain in news/media/press, toolbar/browser data of site usage, entity association, etc.

DO: Take time doing offline promotion of your brand/product. Attend local marketing events to showcase yourself as well. Use networking to your advantage and increase your presence through other forms of media. Even making it on a small part of the local news station’s website can bring in big opportunities to your domain. Having both traditional media and digital marketing can put you at an advantage over your competition (especially if they only embrace one).

Having the advantage through traditional and digital marketing

DON’T: Pass off opportunities to talk about your brand/product in other media because your business is “too hip” to be on “dead media” like the radio or the local TV station’s evening news.

7. Domain-Level Keyword Usage

Which include: Exact-match keyword domains, partial-keyword matches, etc.

DO: Think about how your keywords are implemented in the root and subdomain names. While it’s not as important as it used to be, it can be a beneficial factor.

This consists of how keywords are used in root or subdomain names and how they impact search engine rankings. With the rise of the use of a domain name being the anchor text instead of a keyword, along with other methods that go against the initial algorithm, this has thus decreased their value over time.

Domains for Cats in Tacky Sweaters

DON’T: Go out and buy multiple domains that contain your keywords and have them redirect to your site. For example, if you run a website that sells tacky sweaters for cats, you don’t need to break the bank and buy tacky-cat-sweaters.com, tacky-cat-sweaters.co.uk, cat-sweaters-that-are-tacky.com, etc.

8. Domain-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features

Which include: Domain name length, TLD extension, SSL certification, etc.

DO: Take time and consider your domain’s name length and relevancy. Once you have your domain figured out, you should immediately grab the right kind of TLD extension for it (.com, .net, etc).

Investing in a yearly SSL certification for your site will ensure your visitors are visiting a site where they can login, transfer data and engage in Ecommerce with confidence.

DON’T: Wait around and delay the confirmation of your domain name (relevancy, length, etc.) and its TLD extensions. Waiting around means you won’t get the .com, .net, .org versions of your wanted domain name. Especially if your company has a common name/trend/focus in its industry. For example, if you’re a man named Hugh and own a company that sells Jazz equipment, it is best you not end up with an unfortunate url like HughJazz.company or iLoveDolphinsAndUnicornsIn.vegas

Misunderstanding domain name length and other keyword features

And as for SSL certifications, getting them is easy and cheap. If you’re an Ecommerce site that sells things online, customers are willing to shop on your site with confidence because they see you value their privacy and their money is well protected. If you don’t have one, visitors will think that your site is a front for some kind of crime organization that is operating out of a fried chicken shack in New Mexico.

9. Page-Level Social Metrics

Which include: Quantity/quality of tweeted links, Facebook shares, Google +1s, etc. to the page

DO: Put some time and effort into social media strategies that correspond to your SEO plans. You post your content to Facebook and Twitter so that they can be liked/shared/tweeted and direct traffic back to your site. The same goes for other forms of social media like gaining Google +1s and having a presence on slightly smaller social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Linkedin.

Put some effort into your social media metrics

DON’T: Put ALL of your efforts into social media, get distracted by it and ignore all of your SEO and content marketing strategies. I know it’s interesting that you posted 57 Instagram pictures of the Reuben sandwiches that Becky from Accounting made for the company lunch, but shouldn’t you be doing something about your internal linking strategies?

Now that you have a clearer picture of what influences your site’s ranking on Google, it is very likely you know what to do. In case you are still confused, just remember:

Is this good for your domain's online prescence