What other factors affect rankings besides backlinks?
Where you’re getting your links, the quality of these links, the relevancy of these links, how many links you have and what keywords you’re using as the anchor text all affect your rankings. But there are other factors that affect your ranking, including but not limited to:
On page optimization factors – this is how well you’ve optimized your tags, content, formatting, keyword proximity, site map, and links on your web page. This also includes whether you use your keywords at the top of your page and in your “alt” tags (both good things).
Having a lot outgoing or reciprocal links pointing to “bad” sites (like link farms) – can negatively impact rankings.
Whether you have unique content (which the SE’s like).
How frequently you update your site. Faster isn't necessarily better. Check what ranks well for your niche and aim to match it.
Whether your domain includes your primary keywords.
Your domain’s age, reputation, IP address and whether it’s a top level domain (e.g., a .com is better than a .info although probably not by much).
Shady practices such as keyword stuffing or using text that’s the same color as the background can negatively affect your rankings. Only an issue if your site gets manually inspected and you don't have a legitimate reason for it.
Showing one page to the search engines and other page to visitors negatively affects your rankings. (Cloaking and doorway pages.)
Frames negatively affect your rankings.
Using content that the search engines can’t read, like audios, flash, videos, graphics (without alt tags), etc.
Whether you have a robots.txt file that tells the search engine bots to stop crawling or indexing your site.
Does domain age help?
Yes – search engines view older domains as more trustworthy, which means older domains may have a slight advantage. But this is only true if the older domain has a good reputation (e.g., it hasn’t been blacklisted, penalized or banned from the search engines).
Why would I want to 301 redirect an aged domain?
Google passes link juice/authority/age/ranking strength (call it what you like) from one domain to another if you do a 301 redirect on it.
For the less tech savvy out there the 301 code means “permanently moved” and is a way to announce that your site that was once “here” is now “there”.
The upshot of this is that you can buy an aged domain and “301” it to the site you’re trying to rank instantly passing on all that lovely ranking power that it’s acquired just by sitting in some domain squatters account for 10 years.
Just make sure they do a domain push at the same registrar it was originally registered at or all these effects are lost.
Also, you have to wait up to 2 weeks to see the benefits. They are not instant!
What is rel="canonical"?
If you have two or more pages with similar content, you can tell Google which is your preferred page to show in the search engine results. This is referred to as your “canonical” page. If Google agrees this designated page is the best version, it will show this preferred page in its index.
To tell Google which page you want listed as the canonical page, add the following bit of code into the head section of the similar (non-canonical) pages:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/filename.html"/>
Naturally, you should replace the example.com/filename.html with your actual domain name and file name.
Example.com/file1.html is your preferred canonical page, the one you want displayed in the search engine results. You don’t have to add any tags to this site.
Example.com/file2.html and Example.com/file3.html have similar content to example.com/file1.html. As such, you’d place the canonical code within the <head> tag of these two sites to tell Google that example.com/file1.html is the most important page.
The most common reason to do this is to tell Google that these pages are all the same –
Don’t go overboard with this and certainly don’t use it on stuff like paginated comment pages because they are “similar” but contain the same post. They contain enough unique content to be treated as unique and Google will start to ignore your legitimate canonicals if it finds too many instances of you misusing it.
Yes, Google thinks it’s smarter than you, deal with it and move on.
What's the truth about duplicate content?
There is no duplicate content penalty when it comes to multiple sites. Otherwise, your shady competitors could just create near-clones of your site to make your site disappear. But that doesn’t happen. Indeed, run a search for a PLR article and you’ll likely see many SE results for that same article.
TIP: Nonetheless, it’s better if you have unique content, rather than competing with others for the same keywords using similar content.
What about duplicate content on your OWN site? In other words, what happens if you have two web pages with the same content but different file names? In that case, refer to the question on rel-canonical for instructions on how to deal with this.
What is a doorway page/cloaking?
Cloaking refers to showing one page to a search engine and a different page to your human visitors. Doorway pages are optimized pages that pull in SE traffic, but this traffic is immediately redirected (either manually or automatically) to a different page.
Google and other search engines do NOT like these practices.
What are meta tags?
Meta tags are information that you put between the <head> tag of your web page’s source code. These meta tags primarily tell search engines and other user agents about your site’s content (description), keywords, formatting, title and whether you want the search engines to crawl (and index) the page.
There are also some tags that are shown to the user, such as the title tag (which is the title that appears at the top of your browser).
Note that the big search engines no longer take these tags into consideration when ranking your web pages (with the exception of the title tags). Some smaller and more specialized search engines still utilize the keywords and description tags when ranking and displaying your site.
What is the "freshness" factor?
Search engines such as Google prefer “fresh” (newly updated) web pages and content over stale content. That’s why when you first add content to your site – such as a new blog post – this page may sit high in the rankings for a while. Eventually it may sink to a more realistic ranking.
It’s this “freshness factor” that allows your pages to get those higher rankings, even if the ranking is temporary. Thus updating your pages frequently can help push them to the top of the rankings.
This is one of the primary reasons why you hear people talking about how “Google loves blogs”. Google doesn’t love blogs, Google loves regularly updated sites.
What is a C-class IP and why should I care?
A computer’s IP address is it’s address on the Internet. A C-Class block of IPs are ones which are next to each other. Links from the same IP have very limited value. Links from the same C-Class IP block have a little more value but still not much. Links from different C-Class IPs are worth the most.
Not as important as it once was, especially when it comes to sites hosted on huge shared server clusters like those at HostGator/ThePlanet, BlueHost and others. The shortage of available IP addresses is driving this.
Most importantly tons of domains all on the same IP or C-Class that all interlink are the fastest way to announce to Google that you’re trying to cheat the system. This may have worked a couple of years ago, now it’s just a flashing neon sign telling Google to deindex you.
What is LSI?
LSI is short for latent semantic indexing. This refers to different words that have the same or similar meanings (or words that are otherwise related). For example, “housebreaking a dog” and “housetraining a puppy” are two entirely different phrases, but they mean about the same thing.
The reason this is important is because Google analyzes webpages using LSI to help it return the most relevant results to the user.
For example, a page that has the keyword “housebreaking a dog” but NO other similar words (like housetraining, paper training, potty training, puppy, dogs, puppies, etc) probably really isn’t about housebreaking. End result: Google won’t rank it as high as a web page that does include a lot of relevant, related terms.
What does this mean to you? When you create a web page around a keyword, be sure to also include the keyword’s synonyms and other related words.
Pure LSI analysis isn't scalable enough to handle the volumes of data that Google processes. Instead they use more streamlined and scalable content analysis algorithms that have some basis in LSI and other related technologies. It also appears that this analysis is ongoing and not just a one time run through the system.
Cliff Notes: Don’t write content that a drunk 4th grader would be ashamed of. Spend the extra couple of minutes to write decent stuff and you’ll be fine.
Should I build links for human beings or the search engines?
Both but make sure you know which one you’re going for at any point.
If you want human beings to click the link then make sure your content high quality and worth that click.
If it’s never going to be seen by a human then don’t spend a week writing a beautifully crafted piece of prose use automation or anything you can lay your hands on to get links fast.
What is an XML Sitemap?
This is a listing of all the pages on a website, along with important information about those pages (such as when they were last updated, how important they are to the site, etc). The reason to create a sitemap is so that the search engines can easily find and crawl all your web pages.
This is really only important if you have a large and complex site that won't be crawled easily. A 10-20 page HTML mini-niche site doesn't really need one while a 20,000 page product catalog might benefit from one. Also avoid automating this on WordPress autoblogs since sitemap generation is a processor hog and can get you kicked off of shared hosting.
What's the sandbox?
The disappointment webmasters feel when Google's stupid algorithms don't appreciate their site. It can't be them so it must be Google's fault.
What is robots.txt for?
This is a file some include in some or all of their website directories. Search engine robots (bots) look at this file to see if they should crawl and index pages on your site, certain file types or even the entire site. An absence of this file gives them the green light to crawl and index your site.
If you don’t want search engine bots to crawl your site, then create a robots.txt file in your root directory that includes this bit of code:
You can also create a meta tag that keeps the search engines from indexing your site:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex">
Important: Only “well behaved” bots read robots.txt so don’t use it to “protect” content on your site just to keep Google from indexing stuff. Most importantly be aware that malicious bots will look for pages you’re asking not to be indexed and go to them with priority to see why.
What's a spamblog?
A spamblog (or splog) is a blog used primarily to create backlinks to another site. Splogs tend to be populated with fake articles, commercial links and other garbage content.
In other words, they provide little or no value to a human reader. As such, the search engines tend to de-index these sites once they discover them.
What's an autoblog?
An autoblog uses an automation tool to pull in content from other sources and post it on the blog. In other words, it’s an easy way to automatically and frequently update a blog.
They are a great way to build foundation sites to provide link juice to your higher ranking, more competitive sites but a good way to get sites banned if you don’t know what you are doing.
Most importantly there is a lot of discussion about how legal they are due to reproducing content. I’m definitely not going to get involved in that discussion and I ask you not to turn this thread into a flame fest discussing it.
What's an "authority" site?
An authority site is one that is seen as influential and trustworthy by search engines, and thus it tends to rank well. Authority sites tend to be well-established sites that have a lot of high-quality, relevant content as well as links from other authority sites,
Obviously, getting your own website recognized as an “authority site” will boost your rankings. However, it’s also beneficial to get backlinks from these authority sites.
What are "supplemental" results?
These are results that are displayed in Google’s index after the main results – especially if Google’s trusted websites didn’t return many results. These supplemental results are no longer labeled as “supplemental” results. However, this secondary database still exists to index pages that have less importance, such as duplicate content on your site or orphaned pages.
For example, if you have multiple pages on your site with the exact same content, then Google will index your most important page in the main index, and place the duplicate page in the supplemental index.