by Chris Horton
Moz released its latest chart on 2013′s SEO ranking factors and if nothing else, it certainly proves that SEO is certainly not dead, but it may change our job titles. The report asked 120 SEO professionals about what they considered to be the most important elements in SEO out of 80 SEO ranking factors that they feel you should focus on for your website and the results may surprise you.
From the extensive list, the top 68 are elements that are out of your control (to an extent) and they all involve external people, organizations, and sites that link to you or talk about you. You can’t affect how many people +1 your post on Google+, or who sets up links to you on external websites, or how many people share your posts on Facebook or re-tweet you. And the means by which you can control that are frowned upon by Google because then you’re being manipulating. So that means you have to create great content that people want to re-tweet, re-post and whatnot.
Of particular interest is the first item on the list indicating that Page Authority is the primary important piece. Outside of the re-tweets and re-posts we spoke of, the remaining 60+ elements are people linking to you from other websites, from different locations, IP addresses, servers, subdomains, etc. We’ll talk about those in a couple of days, but let’s discuss Page Authority now.
What is Page Authority?
What is Page Authority and how do you get it? Page Authority essentially asks the question, “Is your website the authority on the search term the person just typed into Google?” It is a combination of variables including how many inbound links there are, how many people refer to your site as an “authority” on the given search term, the PageRank, amount of content on the page regarding that search term, and a wealth of other considerations. It’s far more technical, but essentially, are you considered the “go to” site for that term?
What may be surprising to you is that even a simple adjective change or even “plural versus singular” searches can affect whether or not you show up in the search engine results pages (SERPS). In the automotive industry, if someone searches Google for “cars“, an authoritative site would be a site such as Cars.com, Autotrader.com, etc. Primarily because the searcher didn’t specify a make or model and those types of sites specialize in featuring a variety of cars regardless of make and model.
But if the searcher indicates “Audi“, then the authority sites change. The previous sites may show up further down the list, but the top positions will then be Audi.com, info on Audi such as their Wikipedia page, their Twitter page, Facebook page, and even possibly local Audi dealers. It assumes that the searcher wants info on Audi and the search engines make sure that it lists the places that contain the most information about “Audi” and that would be Audi‘s own website and the social sites where Audi posts regularly because very simply Audi is the authority on Audi.
However, if the user even goes a step further and adds a location into the mix and indicates “Atlanta Audi“, the search results change yet again to focus specifically on Audi dealers in Atlanta. And to take it even further, if the person then indicates a specific year, make, model (i.e. – 2013 Audi A4), then the search engines will point to specific pages that contain information about that make and model, such as review sites, and other locations that have a wealth of information about that specific car like a Wikipedia page or dealership page that has lots of info about that exact car.
This is why page authority is such a broad term that means different things based on different terms. It can mean that while your website may be an authority on a specific item, it may not be authoritative enough for broader terms. An Atlanta Audi dealer may be authoritative for “Atlanta Audi”, but not “Cars” because there are a wealth of other cars other than Audi and their site only talks about Audi and is located in Atlanta. The broader the term, the more competitive it becomes and the more difficult it then becomes to rank for those terms. Location based terms are broad as well, but are much easier to rank for than their broader counterparts. Ranking for “Maine Wedding Planner” is a much less daunting task than just “wedding planner“.
Having an actual physical location is even better because you then can take advantage of location based searches. More and more mobile searchers utilize location based searches based on where they are at that moment making use of GPS data. Even the worst of poorly constructed websites can sometimes rank in the localized listings simply by having the advantage of a physical location.
If you’re in a competitive industry such as wedding planning, automotive, web design, etc., you should probably discover if you have a niche and then considering whether or not you fit under that umbrella to become more authoritative for that term. One important element to remember is that page authority is not something that you can alter. Your’e at the mercy of external forces. The only thing you can control is what’s on your site. Don’t alter your entire website based on chasing a niche if you’re really not about that niche.
It’s tremendously important to enjoy what you’re doing and the authority will come. You can’t fake your way onto the SERP’s. Many have tried and failed. Content will always be king, but if you can’t provide more information and more often than your competitors, your road to SERP domination will be more painful than waiting at the DMV.