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In a Google SEO Office Hours Hangout, Google’s John Mueller revealed that Google has “moved away from the 200 ranking signals number.” He said that having a number like that is misleading.

Google Ranking Signals

In the distant past various HTML elements were used by Google’s algorithms for identifying what a web page is about. HTML elements like the page title, headings and font sizes were given extra importance, as well as the location of keywords on a web page (top of the page more important) and links and the anchor text associated with those links.

These were collectively known as ranking factors.

In the distant past, a web page literally needed to have the known ranking factors addressed with keywords in order to rank properly.

Many of those ranking factors were described in Google’s first Stanford University research paper from 1998, The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.

It’s been over twenty years and while many still cling to the idea of ranking factors, Google itself has evolved beyond ranking factors and incorporates things like Natural Language Processing, BERT, Neural Matching and AI spam fighting, and many other algorithms.

Not only that but by 2005 Google was already incorporating statistical analysis to identify normal sites and sites that were outliers and tended to be spam.

Statistical analysis is not a ranking factor in the traditional sense but it played a role in ranking.

A case can arguably be made that the paradigm of 200+ ranking factors was breaking down as early as 2005.

While in the past the idea of scoring points against a list of ranking factors made sense, in 2023 the idea of a list of ranking factors to focus on for better rankings has somewhat lost relevance because of how search rankings are calculated in modern search engines today.

Related: 11 Things You Must Know About Google’s 200+ Ranking Factors

Which Ranking Factors are Most Important?

Someone from the search community asked John Mueller which of the ranking factors was most important.

Ordinarily Googlers have in the past mentioned that the content is the most important ranking factor. But not today.

The person asked which ranking factors are most important:

“Among all of the 200 ranking signals, which are the most important?”

Mueller answered:

“I don’t like to rank ranking signals. So I can’t give you an answer there.

And that’s definitely not the case.

Like… a lot of these things just take into account so many different things, you can’t just isolate them out.”

Related: Google Ranking Factors

No More Top Ranking Factors?

Mueller said that it’s not the case that ranking signals could be listed and sorted by importance and that the factors cannot be isolated out.

Mueller didn’t elaborate beyond that. But it’s easy to understand how complicated Google’s search engine is today.

For example, the MUM algorithm can take images as an input (no keywords!) and provide an answer sorted from web pages around the world, regardless of language.

How would a general ranking factor like links or keywords in title even work in a scenario like that?

John Mueller has given the search community a deep insight into ranking factors by stating that the signals cannot be listed and sorted by importance because the search community believes that ranking factors can be sorted and ranked.

Citation Google’s Moved Away from 200 Ranking Signals Number

Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 49:47 minute mark:

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New Uk Google Ranking Factor Insights

New Research Shows Key Ranking Factors for the UK

Value/Importance: [rating=4]

Recommended link: Search Metrics 2012 Ranking Factor Report

The volume of data and number crunching to form this guide is remarkable. It’s based  on analysis of 10,000 selected top-keywords, 300,000 websites and millions of links, shares and tweets from within the Searchmetrics database.

It has been condensed well for a quick summary on SEO in the UK. The guide looks at the 6 trends / changes the research highlighted which are summarised in the diagram below.

Marketing implications

While the report probably won’t show anything that most people will not have heard already it may hopefully spur you into action or debunk some of the SEO myths.  I have summarised the 3  I believe are most important below, but you can see the full guide here.

1. Time to be social

The research conducted by Searchmetrics suggests that activity in key social networks does influence search rankings. The research actually showed that Google+ was the most significant when it comes to influencing search rankings but it does not unfortunately have the volume yet to be at the core of your strategy. Facebook shares came a close second, in fact Facebook dominated the top 4 spots when it came to influence in SEO. Twitter behind all that. Ensure you have Facebook well integrated into your sites content as well as activity on your brand page is now more important than ever for SEO in the UK. You can find Facebook tools for your website here.

2. Backlinks rule

This is definitely not new but the data suggests that nofollow links still influence ranking I think is fascinating. Volume of links and utilising keywords in anchor text are still overwhelmingly important. This new data coupled with the social data above I think should help us refocus our efforts on effective content & marketing should be our priority, we shouldn’t do things because it is “nofollowed” which I have heard so many times in the past. You can use these link analysis tools to analyse your backlink profile.

3. Stop obsessing about on-page

In my line of work, I get asked a lot of questions about SEO and it seems on-page factors seem to stress a lot of marketers and copywriters out. Hopefully this research will put some peoples mind at rest. On-page factors have been superseded by backlinks for years, but this latest research goes as far as saying some on-page optimisation tips are just not worth the time and effort. Having keywords at the start of titles instead of middle or the end will have no impact whatsoever, length of content is irrelevant and pictures are no bad thing.

I think this is a little misleading though since this chart and the previous suggest the title isn’t important which is not the case. We still find that pages that include a title (particularly in a relevant phrase) will outrank those that don’t “all other factors being equal”.

I hope you find this interesting. It is worth noting that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, so what you find in your own experience is most important.

Google Ranking & Results Update Underway

Google set blogs and webmasters ablaze in coverage last week with their changes in Toolbar PageRank, which was cast aside by some and taken quite seriously by others. It looks like this week, there may be an update of much more importance going on at Google, in their search result rankings.

Google has just cranked up the dial for domain name relevance, it seems.

I have a fairly new website (about a year old) in a very competitive area with millions of search results. The site has only about 100 pages. PR2. Hardly any backlinks. No link campaigns. No optimization. But it’s a single-word dn in .net, e.g., chúng tôi (I bought it in the aftermarket hoping search engines would dig it.)

Once again there has been an update and as usual I lost another 30% of my traffic from Google. Soon it’ll be down to nothing and that is without me doing anything except adding more pages, fixing some typo’s and a few layout fixes.

Yes, there definitely has been an update or algo movement yesterday. My first guess is that there has been some movement on dup content filtering measures.

Strong domains and duplicate content filtering being tweaked in the Google algorithm? Possibly.

One fear last week would be that since Google lowered the PageRank of some sites that it suspected as passing paid link juice, the target sites which were linked to from those sites would lose some kind of ranking.

Hopefully this will not be the case, but if it does happen the full effect of a PageRank (yeah, I know it’s only the toolbar) ‘penalty’ would be heard from the top on down to the bottom. Google does have a knack for keeping things exciting, don’t they?

Google Voice Number Porting: Pros And Cons

If you’ve ever wanted to wrestle your phone number away from the carriers, now’s your chance.

So — what’s involved in porting a number into Google Voice, and is it worth doing? Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.

Google Voice Number-Porting Pro: You Control Your Number

Once you’ve ported your phone number into Google Voice, you have full control over where your number goes — and you can change it anytime you want. You could have the number ring your work phone during the day and your cell phone at night; you could even have it ring three different phones at once so you can grab whichever is most convenient. And if you move or change mobile providers in the future, all you have to do is log in to your Google Voice account and update the forwarding info there; you won’t have to mess with the carriers at all, and no one else will even know anything happened.

Google Voice Number-Porting Con: The Process Can Be Messy

Porting an existing number into Google Voice seems simple, but the process can quickly turn complicated. The reason: Once you port your existing mobile number into Google Voice, your current mobile service plan will be cancelled. You’ll have to call your carrier and get it to restart your service and assign a new number to your phone (even though you won’t be giving that number out, it still has to exist — otherwise, your phone won’t work and Google Voice won’t have anywhere to actually forward your calls).

Google has some tips on making the process as smooth as possible, but you should be ready for a hassle. As Wired’s David Kravets discovered, mobile carriers aren’t always equipped (translation: competent) at handling this type of request, and — unless you’re planning to cancel your current service plan and switch carriers right now anyway — you may be in for a bumpy ride.

Google Voice Number-Porting Pro: Free Calls and Texting

Putting your primary number on Google Voice can also let you say so long to texting plans: If you have an Android phone, iPhone, or BlackBerry, you can send and receive unlimited texts directly through the Google Voice mobile application. You can also use the Google Voice website and Chrome browser extension to accomplish the same thing, which comes in quite handy when you’re sitting at a computer during the day.

Google Voice Number-Porting Con: The Process Won’t Be Free

Long story short, plan carefully and act only if you’re in between contracts, or okay with paying the price.

Google Voice Number-Porting Pro: You’ll Gain Lots of New Features Google Voice Number-Porting Con: You’ll Be Reliant on Google

I’ve been using Google Voice for almost two years now, and for the most part, it’s quite reliable. On rare occasions, though, the service has gone down for short bursts of time. If your primary phone number is connected to Google Voice and an outage occurs, anyone trying to call you won’t be able to get through.

Thus far, this hasn’t happened much — but it’s always a possibility, and it’s a risk you take when committing your primary number to this kind of service.

Google Voice Number-Porting Con: You May Get Number Confusion

Using Google Voice as your primary number is easy if you have an Android phone: With Google’s free Android app, you just select the option to have all of your outgoing calls come from your Google Voice number. From there, you’re home-free; any call you make will automatically show up as coming from your newly ported number.

On other smartphone platforms, it isn’t so easy, as Google Voice functionality isn’t so tightly integrated into the operating system. You can still place calls through Google Voice, but instead of using your phone’s normal dialer function, you’ll have to open up the Google Voice app and select the option to place a call from there. Otherwise, people you call will see your “real” mobile number, not your Google Voice number — and that’s bound to cause confusion.

Google Voice Number-Porting Pro: You Can Always Undo It

Ultimately, the risk of porting your number into Google Voice isn’t too high, if only for one reason: You can always change your mind. I confirmed with a Google spokesperson this evening that users can opt to port their numbers out of Google Voice at any time, if they so choose. So if you ever decide you’d like to take your number back and put it in the hands of a carrier or a VOIP service, you have that right; all you have to do is initiate a port from your new provider.

10 Key Steps To Ranking Higher In Google Maps

You’re searching for a lunch spot in an unfamiliar neighborhood, or you need a mechanic to assist with an unexpected flat tire.

Where do you look?

If you answered Google Maps, you’re not alone.

These days, many of us are turning to Google Maps to discover local businesses and make more informed buying decisions.

So how can local businesses rank higher in the place consumers are increasingly looking to purchase local products and services?

Here are ten steps to take in order to rank well, drive more traffic and secure more customers via Google Maps.

1. Claim And Complete A Google Business Profile

The first, crucial step in establishing visibility in Google Maps is claiming and optimizing your Google Business Profile (GBP – formerly known as Google My Business or GMB).

You can do this by simply searching for your business name on Google or Google Maps and verifying your listing if you have not already done so.

Once you have a listing and are logged into your Google account, you can now edit it, even from directly within the search results.

Being a Google property, GBP provides a primary signal to Google of your business’ existence – and the information here is assumed to be accurate and up to date.

Google will cross-reference these details with those it finds on your website and in other local directories and resources; more on the importance of these in a moment.

2. Post Linked Content (Including Photos)

After you’ve claimed your GBP listing, your work is only partway done.

Google rewards active businesses with higher visibility in Google Maps, so it’s important to post regular updates to your GBP profile.

These updates may and should include special offers, hosted events, links to relevant blog posts, or general business updates.

You should also be including links in your posts, ideally to primary product or service pages on your website.

3. Optimize Your Web Presence For Local Organic Search

If you want to rank well on Google Maps, you should ensure your web presence, including your website and external content, is optimized for your local audience.

You can start by performing a local SEO audit to identify where you need to focus your attention from a keyword, content, and linking perspective – as these are the three primary components upon which a presence is built.

Your website needs to be properly structured to enable Google to easily crawl and index your content, and the content within your site needs to be rich with relevant, locally-oriented, intent-driven keywords and logical internal and external links to the answers your audience is searching for.

Websites must also load quickly and provide seamless navigation, regardless of device.

This is particularly important at a local level, as searchers increasingly begin their quests on their phones.

4. Use Local Business Schema

When it comes to structuring content, and especially business details, Google and other search engines prefer standardization – which has led to the development of schema.

Local Schema enables businesses to wrap code around their content to make it easier for Google to crawl and index.

Local business schema covers many of the same business details captured in a Google Business Profile, which Google will naturally cross-reference.

The easier it is for Google to validate your location, the more likely your business is to show up prominently in Google Maps.

5. Embed The Google Map On Your Contact Us Page

While it’s not explicitly stated that embedding a Google Map in your website will make a difference in terms of where you rank in Google Maps, it’s not far-fetched to assume this is Google’s preferred format.

Here again, Google is able to ensure a consistent user experience for its searchers, which should likewise be the aim of any business looking to please its customers.

6. Mine And Mind Your Reviews

Any business can create a GBP listing, ensure its basic business information is up to date, and post plenty of relevant, local content.

However, another critically important factor in determining if, and where, a local business shows up in Google Maps is customer reviews.

Google pays close attention to both how many reviews your business obtains, and how active it is in responding to those reviews, regardless of whether they’re positive or negative.

Any business naturally wants to limit the number of negative reviews it receives and all negative reviews should be dealt with swiftly.

This can actually become a valuable way of displaying your business’ commitment to customer service.

While there are many places customers can leave reviews online, including Facebook, Yelp, and other industry-specific review sites, reviews on GBP profiles will carry more weight when it comes to Google Map rankings.

Consider proactively asking your customers for reviews soon after you’ve successfully delivered a product or service when a presumably positive experience is top of mind for their customers.

There are services available to help automate review requests (via email or text) once certain on or offline customer actions have been completed (e.g. appointment completed, invoice paid, etc.) and review management across multiple sources through a central dashboard.

Automation can save busy local businesses a lot of time, and ensure positive reviews flow in on a regular basis.

7. Update Your Local Listings/Citations With Your NAP

The three most important pieces of directional information on your GBP, website, and across the web are your Name, Address and Phone Number or NAP.

It’s critical for both Google and your audience to have your NAP consistent and accurate across all of these sources.

These references to your business from third-party sites are also called citations.

To find and ensure your NAP is up to date, you can start by simply searching your business name and noting all of the places your business details can be found.

Check each instance and reach out to each directory or website owner to update this important contact information, as needed.

There are also free and paid automated local listings services, which will enable you to identify and update your NAP, along with other important business information like your website URL, services, or even relevant images, from one central location.

8. Build Local Backlinks

Backlinks or inbound links are effectively an extension of our NAP strategy, whereby you look to have relevant, local third-party websites link to your primary website pages.

Backlinks can validate your business from both local and product/service perspectives.

If you maintain listings with links in local directories, you will want to ensure those listings are in the proper categories, if category options are offered.

Ideally, these links to your website are “follow” links, which means Google will follow and recognize the source of the link to your content.

Most directories realize the value of “follow” links and therefore charge for inclusion, but you should also look for opportunities to secure links from other non-paid sources such as relevant partner, industry or service organization sites.

9. Engage With Your Community

Just as Google rewards GBP activity, it also pays attention to how active a business is within its community as a means to establish its local presence and authority.

Businesses noted to be engaging with local service organizations (e.g. Chambers of Commerce, charities, or sports groups), sponsoring local events, or partnering with other prominent local businesses are naturally deemed to be a thriving part of the community.

Engagement can include publishing and/or promoting linked content e.g. event announcements, partner pages tied to these partner organizations, and, of course, physically engaging and perhaps getting mentioned/linked in local news stories or other publications.

10. Pay Attention To The SERPs And The Long Tail

If you are going to optimize any aspect of your local web presence, you will want to monitor your progress in terms of whether or not and where you rank within Google Maps and the regular search engine results pages (SERPs) based on the keywords you are hoping to be found for.

You can perform your own manual Google searches (preferably in Incognito Mode and while not logged into a Google account), or you can choose from a number of rank monitoring tools, many of which enable you to specifically filter out Map rankings.

When considering which keywords to follow, be sure to consider and include local identifiers and qualifying keywords such as “near me,” “best,” and “affordable” – e.g “auto body shops near me,” “best auto body shop in Barrie,” or “affordable auto body work.”

In time, if you’ve truly established your business’ local authority, the short tail top rankings will follow.

Put Your Business On The Google Map

So now, with your laundry list in hand, go ahead and put your local business on the map.

Establishing your authority and expertise online is not really all that different from how it’s always been in the real world, but it can take time, as any real relationship should.

Google rewards those businesses that provide the best answers to their customers’ questions, deliver solid products and services, take an active role in their local community, have their customers say nice things about them, and provide a high level of customer service at all times.

If this describes your business, get out there and do it.

More resources:

Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

Apple Could Be Close To Shifting Cpu Orders Away From Samsung

The iPhone 5 comes with a brand new Apple-designed A6 chip for a twofold jump in CPU/GPU performance. In fact, the iPhone 5 could easily be the first ARM Cortex-A15 smartphone on the market. The A6 is likely manufactured on Samsung’s 32-nanometer process, but probably not for long as Apple has been looking to take its chip contract elsewhere.

There ain’t many places to go: Intel sucks at power management and Samsung is #2 chip vendor in the world. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), however, is the world’s largest dedicated independent semiconductor foundry and Apple could be closer than previously thought to shifting production contracts away from Samsung and towards TSMC.

Can you say “stock plunge”?

According to the somewhat reliable DigiTimes (they’re good at semiconductor and supply chain news), back chatter in Asia suggests that Apple and TSMC are “about ready to enter the design-in phase”.

The report also goes on to note that Apple is believed to have “reduced its orders with Samsung and raised the proportion of purchases from other suppliers including SK Hynix, Toshiba and Elpida Memory”.

The claimed iPhone 5 logic board that leaked 24 hours ahead of Apple’s keynote shows NAND flash chips by SK Hynix, a long-time Apple supplier. And back in May, Samsung denied rumors asserting Apple had secured half the manufacturing output from Elpida, the third-largest maker of dynamic random access memory chips.

“Apple is definitely using our chips”, an unnamed Samsung executive allegedly said.

And why is this important?

Because the $1 billion in damages a U.S. judge awarded to Cupertino in the high-profile Apple v. Samsung case could be a drop in the bucket compared to billions in lost orders should Apple take its chip contracts elsewhere.

Samsung is safe so far and even dropped $4 billion towards renovating its Austin, Texas plant in order to boost production of ARM-based chips, mainly for Apple, its biggest client.

DigiTimes wrote back in May that TSMC has a “good chance” of winning Apple’s chip biz in 2014. Apple is thought to be moving chip production to TSMC’s 28-nanometer process, but the semiconductor foundry is currently struggling to provide sufficient capacity to its existing 28nm customers.

Today’s report states that TSMC’s 16-nanometer double-gate FinFET process could be Apple’s most likely choice.

Note that TSMC already makes Qualcomm’s 4G LTE baseband package used inside the iPhone 5, generating an estimated ten bucks in per-device revenue for TSMC (see the full iPhone 5 bill of material estimate here).

TSMC also provides foundry services for other iPhone component suppliers such as Broadcom, STMicroelectronics, NXP and OmniVision.

Qualcomm and Apple both offered $1 billion for exclusive access to TSMC’s production output, but the company turned down the offers to “retain control of its plants”, its finance chief adding that TSMC “doesn’t want to sell part of itself and doesn’t need cash for investments”.

The way I read this: Samsung will build one more iteration of the iPhone and iPad processor (perhaps the A6X) and TSMC gets to build the A7 chip that should go into 2014 iOS devices.

Or, Apple could be simply looking to diversify its supplier base.

Either way, it will be Samsung’s loss.

Make sense?

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