Past the Basics: 10 Search Engine Variables You are Probably Ignoring

Posted on July 2, 2014 • Written by Jeff Williams
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At this point, virtually every company with an online presence has heard the term “SEO” at least once, if not more times than they care to count. The fact is, SEO is an integral part of many successful sites and smaller businesses are beginning to take note and implement their own SEO strategies.

The basics are a good starting point, but there are a number of ways that companies can affect their rank – positively and negatively – within search engines. Some actions are fairly easy to accomplish; others are simply a matter of circumstance that companies have little to no control over.

  • Integrate Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Keywords

LSI words are used when a site is crawled to verify the subject of the page. In non-technical jargon, LSI keywords are synonyms or complimentary words for the focus keywords that help to bolster the relevance of the page. This is exceptionally helpful when keywords could have several meanings.

For example, if the keyword were “apple,” there would be a very different set of LSI keywords for the fruit (orchard, farmers, juice) than there would be for the computer company (Mac, iPhone, iPad). These synonyms and clarifying words help give context and validity to a page.

  • Be Mindful of the Functional Ranking System

Everyone focuses heavily on optimizing his or her own site, sometimes to the point the algorithm has a difficult time determining whether or not the site is legitimate. In order to determine the validity of a site, the functional ranking system looks at the rank and reputation of the sites with inbound links to the site. Avoid setting up separate splash pages with links to the main site, since web crawlers will likely see that action for what it is: an attempt to game the system with inbound links.

  • Provide Helpful Supplementary Content

For sites with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on certain pages, this is a very important piece of site strategy. Web crawlers pay special attention to the pages with PPC ads to ensure that they aren’t just landing pages with a mountain of ads and no real useful content. Place ads on pages with helpful content such as recipes, product reviews, lyrics or discount codes.

Also, beware of the average word length for all of your pages. Most of the words commonly used in the English language average between four to six letters in length. Try to keep the average word length around this number by using simple, easy-to-understand words in the body copy. Oftentimes, when web crawlers read a page with an abnormal amount of lengthy words, they assume that it’s spam and penalize the page. Below are several additional steps businesses can take to make their site rise through the ranks.

Average Word Length
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  • Focus on Using Likely N-Grams

By itself, the term n-gram is neutral; it refers to a sequence of text or speech. However, when the n-gram is unlikely, like a set of stuffed keywords that would never form a sentence or clause, such as, “cows, cow, brown cow, brown cows,” site crawlers are more likely to assume the page is spam. Likely n-grams, such as “herd of brown cows” or “a field of cows,” help to boost ranking in comparison to neutral or unlikely n-grams.

NGram Distribution
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  • Keep Your ZipRatio Low

This is the term used to describe the ratio of uncompressed, visible text file size to the compressed visible text. The zipRatio number is determined by dividing uncompressed text size by compressed text size. If that number is over 2.0, then a site is considered a spam site. Be sure to keep the majority of text uncompressed and visible.

zipRatios distribution
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  • Click Fraud

Spam websites try to boost their ranking by generating the appearance of high traffic and thus popularity. A common sign of click fraud is a site receiving many “short clicks” (visits with short dwell time) from a single user. Click fraud can result in a site being severely penalized.

Click Fraud
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  • Increase Dwell Time

The opposite of the dreaded bounce rate, every site owner’s goal is to increase visitors’ dwell time. This term refers to the amount of time a user lingers on each page of a site.

Keeping people on a site longer is a complex mixture of good site design, compelling copy and interesting or relevant subject matter. What works for one site may not work for another, so it’s important to constantly monitor visitor behavior on a site in order to make changes to increase dwell time.

  • Assess the Sentiment of Inbound Links

Whoever said there was no such thing as bad publicity never met this Google algorithm. It analyzes the sentiment – positive, negative, neutral – of inbound links from social media, blogs and other articles and factors it into the site’s reputation, thus rank, on search engines.

While companies can’t control every negative tweet and blog, an abundance of negative feedback regarding a company or their site can result in heavy drops in ranking. Focus on quality customer service, reward positive feedback and address any negativity quickly in order to show demonstrate that sites are legitimate and can be trusted.

  • Avoid Being Reactionary to Rank Changes

True SEO specialists understand that great results take a little bit of time, so it’s important to have patience when optimizing a site. Don’t expect results immediately; SEO is a long-term strategy, not a short one.

There are measures in place to test for spammers by measuring how quickly they react to negative changes in rank after major changes to the webpage. This process is often referred to as the “Google dance.”

Google Dance
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  • Age of the Domain, Length of Ownership and Registration

This is an area of SEO that’s largely predetermined, but there are red flags to watch out for when purchasing a preexisting domain name.

Of course, domain age factors largely into ranking, so new sites have their work cut out for them. However, if a domain name has existed for a number of years, but frequently changes ownership it can get docked rank positions since it has the potential for “poisonous” links pointing back it.

Another thing that web crawlers look at is the length of time for which the domain name has been purchased. In order to up credibility on a site, it’s best to pay for a domain name for several years at a time instead of on a yearly basis.

It’s plain to see that ranking algorithms are complex and ever changing, but these are some of the factors that tend to stay in use through many of the algorithm updates because of their effectiveness in determining and rewarding high-quality sites and eliminating spam sites.

Post by Anca Bradley

Jeff Williams

Written by Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an SEO Project Manager at Fruition. He uses his deep understanding of SEO and internet marketing to guide clients, optimize websites and ultimately improve search rankings. Jeff continues to focus on understanding the technical aspects of SEO factors that affect website rankings in the major search engines. He has recently found a passion in local marketing and helping business carry out effective digital marketing strategies, taking a lead role in developing Fruition’s local SEO services.

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