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Navigating SEO is a DrivingSales.com exclusive series by Timothy Martell, CEO of Wikimotive. In this series, Tim breaks down ways dealers can improve their SEO and offers insight into how it will benefit business.
While ranking factors are a controversial topic in the SEO world, they're also something SEOs love to speculate about and test in order to learn more about Google.
Last year, Brian Dean of Backlinko created a list of 200 Google ranking factors that took the SEO world by storm. One half hated it because they thought it was presumptuous to assume the factors, and the other half loved it because it was a great piece of content that sparked interesting discussions.
Now, there are plenty of ranking factors we know to be true. There are also some that have been tested to death, but never officially confirmed. And finally, some are simply theory based on correlation.
Either way, it's fun to dig into the world of ranking factors.
So with that in mind, here are five of the lesser-known factors that could be affecting your website's rankings:
Back in 2006, Matt Cutts made comments on public vs. private WhoIs domain information. He alluded that someone who uses private information to hide their identity might be up to something they don't want the public to know about.
And because it's thought that Google accesses and uses information from WhoIs records, a domain that has been sold or changed drastically over its history could have its authority "reset." This would take away any link authority the site achieved throughout its history.
This would prevent domain owners from selling a high-authority website, which could then be changed to something completely different, capitalizing on the built-up authority.
There's no one out there claiming that on-page media, such as images and video, increase rankings on their own. These elements do, however, provide users with a better overall experience, increase time on site, and can improve bounce rates.
There is a possibility that media elements are a small quality signal that Google's content raters look for when determining what makes a specific site higher quality when compared to another similar site.
Authoritative Sources of Information
If you're working on a content page for a model as part of your automotive SEO strategy, you might create a section that let's readers know what it's like to drive it. But is your opinion useful in this example? You work for the dealership, and likely don't have a record of reviewing vehicles on the web.
In this case, citing reviews from established sites like Car and Driver, Edmunds, or Motor Trend is going to provide your readers with a more accurate and authoritative review. And according to Google's Quality Guidelines, it wants its own site reviewers to look for expert sources when a site is covering specific topics.
Difference Between Useful and Quality
When I talk about content, there are three words I most often use: quality, useful, and valuable. All three have different meanings, but can be used together.
Quality means it's well written, researched, and formatted for users. Useful means it serves a purpose and answers questions. Valuable means people find the content entertaining and worth sharing.
When it comes to providing search users with the best results, however, Google knows that quality isn't always the best way to go. Because no matter how high quality a specific piece of content is, that doesn't mean it's what users are really looking for.
Google is focusing more and more on intent when serving results, and that should always be on your mind. So when you're creating content for a topic in which the intent is to provide answers or actionable information, try to focus solely on that. That doesn't mean ignore the principles of quality content, it just means the user should immediately understand that this content was created to help them.
Popups, Sliders, and Annoying Ads
Google's guidelines for its human site raters included a lot of information on how the company views certain site elements, such as popup windows and display ads.
The company has stated that both popups and ads seen as "distracting" are signs of a low-quality site. This may not affect you today or tomorrow, but as Google evolves and focuses more of its efforts on user experience-related algorithm updates, making appropriate changes could save you a lot of stress in the long run.
Another frowned-upon element that's prevalent on car dealer sites is homepage content sliders. While not called out directly, many SEOs believe sliders affect usability, which in turn will affect time on site and bounce rates.