A strong Google+ presence is key to search engine discoverability, new study shows
According to Searchmetrics’ Rank Correlation 2013 study, social signals such as Facebook likes and shares, tweets and Google +1s all correlate closely with Google rankings. However, Google +1s – perhaps unsurprisingly – correlate more strongly, with a correlation coefficient of +0.4.
Facebook shares were the second most closely linked social signal, with a correlation of +0.34, followed by tweets on Twitter and pins on Pinterest, with correlations of +0.28 and +0.29 respectively.
However, there is debate as to the validity of these correlations. As Searchmetrics founder Marcus Tober says: “The pages in top positions in the search results stand out with a very high mass of social signals. Of course there’s a lot of debate about whether social signals directly influence rankings or are just closely correlated with rankings – because highly ranked pages will get more traffic and so attract more shares, likes, plus ones etc.
He added: “At Searchmetrics we’ve done a number of studies – that we plan to publish in coming months – which indicate that social signals do in fact have an influence on rankings.”
Other key findings from the report show that:
Quality content is important for search rankings
Although the study did show that a positive relationship between text/images and ranking dropped off after around 10,000 characters. “So you can’t just go on adding text in the hope it will continue to drive a more positive rankings boost,” Tober notes.
Keyword domains and keywork links have lost relevance
The study found that having a keyword in the domain name has only a low positive correlation (+0.03) down from +0.11 in 2012, while having a keyword in the URL or web page address has declined from a correlation of +0.04 in 2012 to an even lower +0.01 in 2013.
Backlinks remain vital
“Pages with more links rank even better,” Tober summarizes. “However, it’s not just the quantity that matters, but more the quality. The more natural the link profile, the greater the prospect of a positive ranking.”
To get the most benefit, the report says, a site needs to have a spread of links that looks natural – not artificially created by SEO experts.