SEO violations & ranking penalties

SEO violations & ranking penalties
Make no mistake — search engines want people to perform SEO because it can help improve their search results. Search engines provide help in the form of guidelines, blog posts and videos to encourage specific SEO techniques.

However, there are some techniques that search engines deem “spam” or “black hat,” which could result in your pages receiving a ranking penalty, or worse, being banned from the search engines entirely.

Violations are generally tactics meant to deceive or manipulate a search engine’s understanding of a site’s true relevancy and authority.

Weighting of search ranking factors

All the factors we show are weighted on a scale of 1 to 3, as shown in the top right corner of each factor, as well as reflected in the hue of that factor. A weighting of 3 is most important and is something you should pay special attention to because it has a bigger impact than other factors.

That doesn’t mean that factors weighted 2 or 1 aren’t important; they are. It’s just that they are of less importance, relatively speaking, in terms of the other factors on the chart. Violations are also weighted, but in negative numbers, with -3 being the worst and potentially most harmful to your SEO success.

The weighting is based on a combination of what search engines have said, surveys of the SEO community and our own expertise and experience in watching the space over time. We don’t expect them to be perfect. Not everyone will agree. Your mileage may vary. But we’re confident it is a useful general guide.

SEO factors work in combination

SEO factors work in combination

Those two-letter acronyms you see on the chart above? That’s our play on the periodic table of elements and the letter representations, or symbol, of each element. You may have had to remember that the symbol for gold was Au or that iron’s was Fe.

In the Periodic Table of SEO, we’ve tried to make it slightly more intuitive. The first letter of each “SEO element” comes from the subgroup that it’s in, and the second letter stands for the individual factor.

SEO factors work in combination
No single SEO factor will guarantee search engine rankings. Having a great HTML title won’t help if a page has low-quality content. Having many links won’t help if they are all low in quality. Having several positive factors can increase the odds of success, while the presence of negative factors can worsen those odds.

On-the-page success factors
On-the-page search ranking factors are those that are almost entirely within the publisher’s own control. What type of content do you publish? Are you providing important HTML clues that help search engines (and users) determine relevancy? How does your site architecture help or hinder search engines?

Off-the-page success factors
Off-the-page ranking factors are those that publishers do not directly control. Search engines use these because they learned early on that relying on publisher-controlled signals alone didn’t always yield the best results. For instance, some publishers may try to make themselves seem more relevant than they are in reality.

With billions of web pages to sort through, looking only at “on-the-page” clues isn’t enough. More signals are needed to return the best pages for any particular search.

SEO factors work in combination

SEO factors work in combination

Those two-letter acronyms you see on the chart above? That’s our play on the periodic table of elements and the letter representations, or symbol, of each element. You may have had to remember that the symbol for gold was Au or that iron’s was Fe.

In the Periodic Table of SEO, we’ve tried to make it slightly more intuitive. The first letter of each “SEO element” comes from the subgroup that it’s in, and the second letter stands for the individual factor.

SEO factors work in combination
No single SEO factor will guarantee search engine rankings. Having a great HTML title won’t help if a page has low-quality content. Having many links won’t help if they are all low in quality. Having several positive factors can increase the odds of success, while the presence of negative factors can worsen those odds.

On-the-page success factors
On-the-page search ranking factors are those that are almost entirely within the publisher’s own control. What type of content do you publish? Are you providing important HTML clues that help search engines (and users) determine relevancy? How does your site architecture help or hinder search engines?

Off-the-page success factors
Off-the-page ranking factors are those that publishers do not directly control. Search engines use these because they learned early on that relying on publisher-controlled signals alone didn’t always yield the best results. For instance, some publishers may try to make themselves seem more relevant than they are in reality.

With billions of web pages to sort through, looking only at “on-the-page” clues isn’t enough. More signals are needed to return the best pages for any particular search.

SEO violations & ranking penalties
Make no mistake — search engines want people to perform SEO because it can help improve their search results. Search engines provide help in the form of guidelines, blog posts and videos to encourage specific SEO techniques.

However, there are some techniques that search engines deem “spam” or “black hat,” which could result in your pages receiving a ranking penalty, or worse, being banned from the search engines entirely.

Violations are generally tactics meant to deceive or manipulate a search engine’s understanding of a site’s true relevancy and authority.

Weighting of search ranking factors
All the factors we show are weighted on a scale of 1 to 3, as shown in the top right corner of each factor, as well as reflected in the hue of that factor. A weighting of 3 is most important and is something you should pay special attention to because it has a bigger impact than other factors.

That doesn’t mean that factors weighted 2 or 1 aren’t important; they are. It’s just that they are of less importance, relatively speaking, in terms of the other factors on the chart. Violations are also weighted, but in negative numbers, with -3 being the worst and potentially most harmful to your SEO success.

The weighting is based on a combination of what search engines have said, surveys of the SEO community and our own expertise and experience in watching the space over time. We don’t expect them to be perfect. Not everyone will agree. Your mileage may vary. But we’re confident it is a useful general guide.

‘Missing’ SEO factors & the Guide’s philosophy
Experienced SEOs may be wondering why some factors aren’t shown. How come ALT text and bolding words aren’t included as HTML factors, for example?

The answer? We don’t think those things are as important, relatively speaking. We’re not trying to encompass every possible signal (Google has over 200 of them) and sub-signals (Google has over 10,000 of those).

Instead, the goal of the Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors and this online companion guide is to help those new to SEO focus on the big picture and perhaps allow experienced SEOs to hit the “reset” button if they’ve gotten lost staring at specific trees in the SEO forest.

That’s why this SEO guide doesn’t address having your most important keywords at the beginning or end of an HTML title tag. Nor are we trying to assess how much more weight an H1 header tag carries than an H2 tag.

We’re purposely avoiding being ultra-specific because such things often distract and pull us down the rabbit hole. Instead, we hope you gain an understanding that pages should have descriptive titles, that indicating page structure with header tags may help, and topping things off with structured data is a good idea.

Do these things well, and you’ve probably addressed 90 percent of the most important HTML factors.

Similarly, it’s not whether a good reputation on Twitter is worth more than on Facebook. Instead, we’re trying to help people understand that having social accounts that are reputable in general, which attract a good following and generate social shares, may ultimately help you achieve search success.

Want more specifics about success factors?
We know some of you may want to drill down into specifics. In that case, the Moz Search Engine Ranking Factors survey is worth a look. Every two years, hundreds of well-regarded SEOs are asked to determine the importance of specific ranking factors. We do hope you’ll keep any specific ranking factors in the context of the fundamentals covered by our table.

In addition, many of the success factors aren’t true algorithmic factors at all. Content Research (element Cr) is a highly weighted “on-the-page” factor that describes the process of researching the words people use to find your content. Understanding your user is important to your SEO success, even if it’s not a “ranking” factor.

You can also check out our What Is SEO/Search Engine Optimization? page, which lists some useful guides to the fundamentals (including one from Google itself) along with many more SEO resources.

Of course, the guide you’re reading now is a great resource for understanding key SEO factors. So use the links below to continue reading through the Search Engine Land Guide to SEO.

Google to close Google+ after 7 years

Google to close Google+ after 7 years: A look back at the impact it once had on Google search

Just about seven years ago, Google launched its own social networking site named Google+. On Monday, Google announced it will be closing down the consumer version of Google+ in the coming months as it disclosed a privacy bug.

Google said “the consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement,” adding that “90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.”

Google+ and +1 button ranking influence? Before Google+ rolled out, Google launched plus one buttons for websites in 2011. It hinted those buttons were one of many ranking signals used for search quality and rankings. Over the years, Google pushed back on that, and as Google+ grew (or shrunk), Google said it did not use Google+ or plus ones as a ranking signal. It was a hot topic as studies showed evidence both ways.

In any event, with Google+ going away, you can rest assured that Google+ and +1 buttons will have no impact on rankings going forward. So this case is closed.

Google+ did influence some search results. Google+ and +1 buttons did show up over the years in Google search. With Search Plus Your World Google would personalize your search results based on what your Google+ friends searched for and clicked on. Google would also show your personal assets, such as your photos, emails, flights, etc based on your Google+ account directly in the search results. These days, Google barely uses personalization in search, as it recently admitted.

Google also showed Google+ posts in real time search when Google Real Time Search was a feature Google had.

Google also suggested that searchers take conversations to Google+ over the years. This was Google’s way of trying to drive conversation on its social network. Google would highlight Google+ content in search results and in Google News, even by showing you what is being discussed on Google+. You would see Google+ show up all over the search results early in the days so often that it became a joke in the SEO community.

Let’s not forget about the heavy local search integration between Google+ and Google Local results. In fact for a time, Google+ pretty much replaced Google Places, the old name for Google My Business.

Google+ had a long, slow death. As adoption lost steam over the years, Google slowly stopped pushing Google+. I saw fewer and fewer Googlers posting on Google+, at least the public commercial version. We saw Google sunset Google+ features like ads integrations, saved searches, Google+ in knowledge panels and Google local edits.

In fact, we rarely covered Google+ announcements or changes over the past few years because it was a product/service that was out sight and out of mind.

Google said it will wind down Google+ “over a 10-month period, slated for completion by the end of next August, ” adding that, “Over the coming months, we will provide consumers with additional information, including ways they can download and migrate their data.”