The 17 Factors That Actually Don’t Affect Search Engine Rankings
Misconceptions about search engine rankings often saturate the industry, making it difficult to understand what actually affects SEO performance. It’s important to know these misconceptions so you can instead focus your ranking efforts elsewhere and dominate the search page.
However, you should still keep these factors in mind, as they often have other benefits. They aren’t ranking factors themselves, but they can still affect the overall SEO performance in other ways.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- The difference between pogo-sticking and bounce rate
- Whether the word count of your blog post matters for rankings
- How accessibility affects SEO
Here are the 17 factors that don’t affect search engine rankings for your website:
Social signals have to do with a website’s social media presence on Instagram, Twitter (now known as X), Facebook, and other sites. While social media presence is important to drive brand awareness, it’s not a factor for search engine rankings.
Most social media websites offer an option to privatize your pages. According to Statista, 45% of people private all of their social media accounts. As such, it’s difficult for Google to crawl websites that have a lot of information blocked. Focus on social media to improve your brand awareness rather than worrying about it when it comes to search engine rankings.
Google has stated that the age of your website doesn’t matter when it comes to search engine rankings and authority. Although, there is still some correlation. Older websites are more likely to have accumulated high quality backlinks because they’ve been online for a longer period of time, and backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors. These older websites also have had time to establish their content and domain authority.
However, website age doesn’t directly cause you to see better rankings. A brand new website can still perform well in search engine rankings as long as they have high quality content and backlinks, so don’t feel discouraged. Creating the best content and building backlinks from other websites is the way to go.
Domain Registration Period
Domain registration length – also doesn’t matter for search engine rankings. While former Google software engineer Matt Cutts has said that Google filed a patent in order to use historic data in search engine rankings, which can look at how long a domain has been registered for, they don’t actually use it.
However, it’s still important to pay attention to your domain registration length, as an unexpected expiration can allow someone else to take control of your website. Some registrars also offer discounts if you sign up for longer periods of time.
When a user quickly hops back and forth between different search results. Usually, the user enters the site from the search engine results page (SERP) and then quickly leaves the site to go back to the SERP. This signifies that the user isn’t finding what they’re looking for on the site they just visited, but it doesn’t actually affect your rankings.
John Mueller, a Senior Search Analyst at Google, even confirmed that pogo-sticking isn’t anything to worry about with your website’s SEO performance. Since there’s a number of reasons why a user might volley between sites, it’s difficult to track as a factor. It’s only used for internal research.
Bounce Rate & Time Spent on the Site
The bounce rate is determined by the rate a user visits the website and doesn’t take action. They don’t interact with other pages, like buying your products or reading articles. The two terms get confused, but this isn’t the same as pogo-sticking. Someone might spend several minutes on a website before they click out, while pogo-sticking indicates that the user immediately leaves to click on a different link.
A high bounce rate may indicate a user isn’t finding what they’re looking for on your site, it doesn’t actually affect search engine rankings. Google employees have confirmed this both on YouTube and Twitter.
Since bounce rate doesn’t matter, neither does the time a user spends on your website. Whether someone spends a half hour on your site or 30 seconds, don’t expect it to affect your rankings at all.
While word count doesn’t necessarly matter when it comes to search rankings, longer content tends to be more informative and comprehensive than shorter content. It also offers the opportunity to include more relevant keywords and phrases to rank for. These can help you rank higher, but you can still rank on the top page with shorter articles.
Focus instead on the content you’re including in an article rather than whether it’s 300 words or 3000 words.
Search engine’s don’t understand accuracy. As much as Google and other search engines want to display the most accurate information, the best they can do is to find the general consensus people write and rewrite in their posts online. Instead, search engines look at the intent of the search as well as the amount of links to a specific source to determine what ranks.
Though, this doesn’t mean you should write whatever you want on your website. Spreading incorrect information can cause you to lose credibility and therefore, your audience trust. It won’t matter if you have great search engine rankings when your audience doesn't trust you.
Unlike blacklinks, unlinked mentions are when your website is mentioned in a post without the relevant link that takes the user back to your site. According to Google, unlinked mentions don’t affect your rankings at all. Google would pick it up as a mention, but it doesn’t matter for rankings because it’s unlinked.
Direct Website Visits
Direct website visits are visits to your website that do not come from a referral from another website. For this, the user types the website’s URL directly into their web browser.
Google doesn’t use it as a factor because it's not a quality metric. Most links use URL shorteners, are shared across platforms, and are shared across devices. It’s also incredibly easy to flub the data, which means it can be inaccurate.
Google Analytics Usage
Google Analytics identifies trends on what pages users are visiting in order for website owners to strategize for future marketing campaigns and how to drive more traffic to their website. Program features enable data collection, analysis, monitoring, visualization, and reporting.
Out of all websites that exist, 54.6% of them use Google Analytics. Other websites use different analytics tools, like Adobe Analytics and Semrush. As such, Google doesn’t have a reliable way of getting metrics for the other half of the internet, so it’s not an actual factor.
AMP is a framework that allows people to create fast running web pages, usually for mobile users. For most pages, it makes a copy of HTML5 pages, and websites will use them over the canonical page when they’re available on mobile. Google’s John Mueller also denied AMP as a ranking factor.
It’s important to note that page speed is a ranking factor, but overall minor compared to other ranking factors. Make sure your pages still run smoothly and load quickly, or users may go to other websites.
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Keywords are keywords that are related to the main keyword. For example, if the page’s primary keyword is "ocean”, other related keywords might be “fish”, “water”, “swimming”, “sharks”, etc.
Latent Semantic Indexing has existed for decades, even before the internet, to help understand the relationship between words. Since this technology is so old, Google doesn’t use it to determine page relevance. Google’s John Mueller said that LSI keywords don’t exist, either.
However, Google does pay attention to non-keywords on your page to determine relevance, so it’s still important to utilize words related to your primary keyword.
TF-IDF, or term frequency-inverse document frequency, is the ratio of how often a term or keyword appears on a web page in relation to how often it appears across a collection of web pages, even the entire internet. It’s used in information retrieval rather than search engine optimization.
John Mueller says to focus on other ranking techniques, as TF-IDF keywords are an artificial metric.
Quality raters fully evaluate how Google’s search ranking system provides helpful and relevant information. Google rates search quality with E-E-A-T, or experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Quality raters evaluate how Google changes the algorithm and whether they achieve their desired results, not which sites actually show up first in rankings.
Google also stated that quality raters don’t affect your rankings.
An XML sitemap is a file that lists the website’s pages, videos, images, other files, and the relationships between these that helps search engines to crawl the site more efficiently and in its entirety. It often looks like this:
Contrary to popular belief, XML sitemaps aren’t necessary to rank well in search engines. As long as your website is coded and linked properly, Google shouldn’t have a problem crawling it. It doesn’t hurt to have one, though, especially if you have a large website or a lot of images and videos.
While important, accessibility doesn’t affect search engine rankings. The search algorithm can’t currently indicate whether a site is accessible and use it as a factor when ranking the top websites.
However, still keep accessibility in mind when you’re building your site. Accessibility can lead to increased website engagement and influence factors that Google does consider in their rankings, like proper heading usage and alt text. Make sure your website can be read by screen readers and can be navigated easily.
Subdomains and subdirectories
A subdomain is an addition to your domain name that links to a completely separate section of your website – which looks something like “about.aikenhouse.com”. A subdirectory instead comes after the domain name, such as “aikenhouse.com/about”, and stays within your website.
Neither of them actually affect ranking, as John Mueller stated that there isn’t much of a difference between the two of them. Google sees them as the same. However, you should keep related content grouped together as much as possible.
Search engine optimization is rapidly changing, and it can be confusing for newcomers. If you’re looking for SEO guidance or quality content marketing strategies, Aiken House provides top notch services.