SEOMoz has just published their 2011 Ranking Factors Guide, which is the essential reference for search marketers to learn about the new or changing factors shaping their world. While the entire report is very large, I've pulled out some of the most important details to our readers, based on the questions and discussions that I see on a daily basis from HubSpot customers and fans. If you're interested in reading more of the report or looking at their raw data, you can find it on SEOMoz's site here . The overview page alone contains some great insights from a survey of some of the t op search engine optimization experts today.
Trend Number One: Exact-Match Keyword Domains Going Away
SEOMoz calls out something specifically that has been a particular thorn in the side of many marketers: Exact-match keyword domain names. If you've never heard that term before, that means domain names that match the exact keyword phrase they want to rank for, such as "www.boston-barber-shop.com" for the phrase "Boston Barber Shop". These used to be an incredibly powerful way to rank for specific keywords, but their value is dropping quickly. Last year, exact-match .com domains had a .38 correlation with higher rankings, which is very strong. This year, they are down to .22 correlation, and the feedback from individual optimizers is much more negative. Lindsay Wassell provided the comment, "Exact match domains, while still highly effective today are beginning to wane in power." There is still some value to that exact-match domain that you might be using, but the value given by that is beginning to shrink and it will only go further downhill. As with all things, as people got better about buying domains up or trying to game the system with exact match domains, Google has turned down the value of them.
Takeaway : If you're on an exact match domain today for a generic phrase, make sure that you're doing other activities that will support the natural ranking of your site so that you don't lose your rankings. If you're not on one, don't sweat it- This just means your competition is losing a trick.
The next two trends have a lot to do with both what Google and Bing have been saying for the last few months, and the opinions of what search engine optimization experts are seeing in the wild: How people use your site matters almost as much as what's on your site. Usage data, social media sharing, and more is important to understanding how you will rank in search engines. Below is a chart from the SEOMoz survey, of the factors that SEOs believe will increase the most in the next year in importance for search rankings.
Source: SEOmoz Ranking Factors Report
Trend Number Two: Social Media Directly Affects Search Results
This should come as no surprise to anyone, but social media signals on the pages of a website, such as the number of likes or tweet a page has, appear to be incredibly valuable. The correlation value of things like Facebook Shares and Tweets had been previously covered by SEOMoz in a couple of different blog articles , their survey of search marketers and their experience is still very interesting. The correlation data shows that Facebook is by far the most frequently correlated with high ranking pages. That is, pages with many Facebook comments, likes, and shares tend to rank better than ones that do not have this. Tweets are similar but not quite as strong a correlation. However, in the survey results, the answers were flipped - Most search marketers believed that tweeted links and the authority of the Twitter users tweeting the links (such as their number of followers) was more important to social search than Facebook activity .
Takeaway : Make sure that it's easy for your visitors to share your content on social networks, so that you can get the full benefit of social sharing for your website. Shares, Likes, and Tweets are all very important to a modern linking profile.
Trend Number Three: More End-User Usage Data Playing Into Search
Google has been using usage data from customers for years to help understand how people use their search engine and what they are searching. Most search engine optimization professionals have indicated that they expect Google to start using this data much more than they do today - For example, tracking the bounce rates of clicks on organic search results back to the search engine. If people are clicking back to the search results page from the website they visited very quickly, it probably means that they didn't find the content or website useful to their query. If Google starts seeing some websites that are frequently in that position , or seeing some websites doing very well on that front, they can reorder the search results to hide things that people do not like to see.
Did you find your own takeaways from the SEOMoz ranking report? Share them in the comments below. We'd love to hear what else you found in here.