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A world beyond links

Written by David Harry   
Wednesday, 23 July 2008 13:59

Understanding Ranking Signals in a Modern Search World

I was reading a post from Dave Naylor the other day in which he was musing over what he’s seen as a shift in ranking signals and weights over at Google. In short, he seems to be noticing movement in the dominance of links as a ranking factor.


Link addiction leads to madnessWhy do they do it?

One of the more important things to consider is that for a (nodal) link centric search engine aspects such as spam detection are often easier. What I mean is that if we valuate links heavily, it effectively funnels spammers down the path of link spam to ultimately rank. This means that it is exponentially easier than if we used a more balanced set of factors which could be manipulated.

The balance that one would need to weigh is between search quality and web spam control. Certainly not a task I envy.


A brave new world for the link addicted

The problem is when the relevance of results begins to suffer due to the link centric approach and other signals are needed. The more weight various signals are given, the more likely that they can be used by spammers. The more signals we need to monitor, the more resources will ultimately be required.  Not to mention the associated costs that can affect the bottom line. This becomes a problem in more ways than one.

Add to that the fact that delivering results in a timely manner and you begin to see how a search engines can get addicted to a link based approach. Obviously with higher bandwidth delivery speeds increasing, new methods can be implemented.

It is a careful balance of delivering quality results and quality quarterly reports – I’m just sayin’ – so how does one go about ranking a web page anyways?

Here are some typical signals;

  1. Link/nodal Factors
  2. KW/Phrase and on-page relevancy factors
  3. Age/Authority factors
  4. Domain related factors
  5. Structural/technological factors
  6. Historical ranking factors
  7. Query analysis
  8. Behavioural metrics (and personalized search)


…. And more. These are just some of the more important ones off the top of my head.

As you can see there are a myriad of signals from which the whoop ass SEO can draw from to rock the ranks. In the past, due to Google link centric approach, more often than not advice given from peeps was always; links, links and more links. It is time for us to begin to look deeper into other signals instead of merely throwing links at a given target page.


A word to the wise

Regardless if you believe search engines are gravitating to other signal or not – one of the more time consuming areas of SEO is link building. The more one understands the other rankings factors and their associated values, the less reliant one will be on links ultimately.

I am not suggesting that you stop thinking about link building as much as you should not forget the other areas within the art.



Some reading on here on The Trail to get past the addiction;

How to leverage relevance in SEO
The Art of personalized search optimization
5 ways to improve rankings through content management
Google and query analysis
Using keyword research to diversify link profiles



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