How to rank a website without links using Google secrets

users factors

While many people heavily focused on link building, there are others user behaviours factors that can rank you first.
Still, link building is superior and will continue to be so, but it is not the only way you can get first on the search listing.
In this Article, I’ll display few user ranking factors that should get more of your attention.
Social signals
Click-through rate
Time on Site
Bounce Rate
Brand Recognition

Social signals

On What social signals google may look?

Twitter: Number of tweets and re tweets
Facebook: Number of shares and likes
Google+: Number of +1s
How many flowers one have ?
Who are the followers and what authority they have ?
The period of time the signals are gained

You can look on Shares as a new form of link Building. If people decided to share specific content many times in their social networks, search engines can take this as sign for vote, just as with links.

A Case study from David McSweeney shows experiment with new site that had few backlinks with not much Domain authority and text below 300 words.In around 6 months, he been able reaching to organic traffic from google of nearly 6,000 visitors .
One of the main reasons for that, was due to strong social signals the post had.

See the numbers for yourself:
social shares example

Facebook shares: 6,296
Facebook likes: 10,311
Comments: 2,558

The post has created a great buzz on facebook with thousands of likes and shares and does received a lot of organic traffic.

Second example is how shrushti used Social Signals to Improve Search Rankings
Shrushti was trying to rank 1’st for the long tailed keywords “Argos Voucher Codes March 2013” while been ranked at 400th position.
They focused their efforts on social sharing and not on other off-page activities like link building.
Within just 1 month they got to 1st page in Google.co.uk for the keyword only through social signals.

I think if you create such a big social activity, google does take into account and the experiments does show it can’t ignore that.

Does social signals effects website ranking?

According to Google’s answer, it’s has no influence on your ranking , at least not directly.

Here are the main points Matt Cutts had to say, In answer to the question-
Are Facebook and Twitter Signals Part of the Google Ranking Algorithms?
1. Facebook and Twitter posts are treated like any other web pages for search.
2. Google is limited in how much of the social web it can crawl.
3. Google does NOT currently use signals like Facebook or Twitter followers for search ranking.
4. Social signal correlations with higher rankings for sites do not equal causation of those rankings
5. Be on social media not for search rankings but to build up your brand and drive qualified traffic.

What is the rule of social factors in search engine optimization ?

Social media is not a replace for traditional SEO, it’s addition to make it better.
You need to keep the creating quality content that will be useful for visitors, to research your keywords so they match your content and title, build internal and external links for your pages and on the top of this- use social media to engage and promote your content.
SEO Pyramid MOZ
Image source: SEOmoz

Does all Social Shares have the same weight?

The simple answer is No.
Let’s imagine that you can select between 20,000 twitter followers that you don’t know nothing about , we shall call them ‘general public’ audience and a second option are 500 industry leaders and professional.
Now, if you except to opportunities and involvement, the professionals has much better chances to share and like your content, because they are the right audience. 20k or even 100k non targeted followers that are general public won’t do you any good.
This is why buying followers or Likes just for increasing the numbers is a total waste of money that will not help your business much.

How to increase social signals

Now that we know better about the rule social signals play and that google does use them at least in some way
In is search algorithms, I’ll suggest some ways to gain more of them.

1) Open at least these accounts: Facebook, twitter, Google+ and Pintrest
If you already have accounts, cheek they’re update and well filled with data on your website/business.
Also consider adding LinkedIn.

2) Maintain activity of least once a week on the different platform
From your social accounts, you can sent updates, new products lunch, new posts, etc.
To make it easy use automated tools such as BuzzBundle or buffer to publish your posts at once on a few networks.
keep a life signals in this network, both for people to follow and for google to know.

3) Use Pintrest to drive traffic for your website
See what Peg Fitzpatrick wrote about Pinterest. It is the number two traffic referral to websites with about 50 percent of visits happen after 3.5 months of first Pinning. Pins get discovered long after they’re born and continue driving visits to sites.
Comparing 3 leading social networks half life post time,

• Twitter: 24 minutes
• Facebook: 90 minutes
• Pinterest: 151,200 minutes
So, traffic from Pinterest is excepted to last much longer than other social traffic!

4) Create content you can share on social media
Work on developing and Creating shareable content.
It can be things like article, case studies, videos, podcasts, infographic.
The more content you have, the more you can share and increase your social presence.

5) Add social sharing buttons to your website
Make it easy on people to share your content. Add call to action, even a simple text, saying to people – please share my post,etc.

6) Share others content
It’s good for both showing interest on someone else work and developing a relation.
I find that the best opportunities are coming from people who I have relation with and would like to share my content as well.

7) Gain more followers
The easiest way to do that is start following others and to expect them follow you back or join your circle.
Wait at least 5 days before you unfolow someone else who is not following you.

8) Don’t use fake signals
Buying followers and likes is not a good idea. the audience is not what you usually wants and Google can know when you’re doing this.
Try to make it natural ,it may be slower but safer and better.

Click-through rate

A click through is the ratio between the number of times a given search result was clicked on, and the number of times it was shown in the search results listing (impressions).

Google is not hidden the fact that he collects this information, this is how they put it:
“A high CTR is a good indication that users find your ads helpful and relevant”
Do they approve it as ranking signal ?

Google click thru rate
Yes and no, they like to keep it vague.
The moz guy, Rand Fishkin, did a brilliant experiment to reveal how Google acts on a clicking scenario.
He asked his twitter followers to run a Google search on the query “best grilled steak” , click the first result and go back (Pogo sticking, see more later). last was to click result No. 4 and stay on that page for a while.
Very soon, result No. 4 came on top of the search results and the page was ranking higher for other broader related queries.
After that, It last more than 12 hours before getting back to original position 4.
What Fishkin said, the big motivation to test it was google saying it won’t work.
So, we can learn that CTR does has big effect on the SERP and that Google update it in real time. And also they do use it within their search algorithm.

Clues from Google’s patents

Google has more than few patents which belong to the search algorithm, one of them is called:
“Modifying search result ranking based on implicit user feedback and a model of presentation bias”
And what it actually says is, search result ranking can be modified based on data received from user feedback.
The feedback are the users clicks that effects the search results and can re-rank them!

rank modifier engine google

Interesting is to read the background part:

“For example, user reactions to particular search results or search result lists may be gauged, so that results on which users often click will receive a higher ranking. The general assumption under such an approach is that searching users are often the best judges of relevance, so that if they select a particular search result, it is likely to be relevant, or at least more relevant than the presented alternatives.”

What is good CTR (click thru rate)?

CTR depends on the search query you’re looking at. generally speaking, for branded keywords, expect the CTR of position 1 to be around 50%.
If using Advanced Web Ranking study on the click-through-rate, it’s around 31% for position 1 and 14% for 2’nd place.

click through rate by exact position
click through rate by exact position

How to increase click thru rate

1) Find pages with poor CTR and work on them
The first step is to locate low CTR pages using Google Webmaster Tools.
Use Search Analytics Report to select pages and sort by CTR.
Locate pages with low CTR you want to improve, use the numbers I just gave you to decide what good CTR is.

2) Rewrite Your Titles and description
Try to figure why users are not finding your result attractive enough, by asking yourself a few questions:
Is my Title answer to the search query ?
Does my description relevant?
Do I miss something in my description?
What define my product /service ?
What people need that I don’t give them ?

Answering these question will help you locate the main flow in your listing.

3) Include numbers in your Title
User prefer Titles and headlines with numbers, see The big facts sheet for the busy marketer.
Odd numbers had a 20% higher click-through with eight words performed best.
Numbers are also easier for the human brain to process.

4) Use Rich snippet
Rich snippets are these kind of visuals that sometimes appear in the search results. it can be: as products, recipes, reviews, events.
book rich snippet
To preview your snippets , use Google’s markup Testing Tool

Not always google will decide to show them, but if yes- snippets can be a big booster for your CTR.
More on markup and Rich snippets:
How To Increase Organic Traffic To Your Website
WordPress Best SEO Plugins That Will Rock Your Site

5) Takes ideas from listing in the first places
If they are first, what make them so ? it can be domain authority or other factors -yet we assume they have high CTR
(remember statistics ~31%) look at these higher results and see what you can learn from them.

6) Copy words or titles in Google AdWords
Google Ads and other types of Ads are well optimized for CTR.
Many professional selected them after running A/B split test
so the conversation rates should be high.

7) Put a Special Offer in Your Headline
Putting a bait in a form of Special Offer is good way to attract people and make them click on your listing.
People like to get things and will be happy to click to see what is there. make sure your content meets with your title- otherwise
you have a change of making your bounce rate higher.

Time on Site

The average time that user spend on your site is called Session duration.

‘Roadmap’ tracked the performance of the top 100 ranking websites for more than 1,500 keyword
To find there is a high correlation between how long people stay on site and how well that site ranks for a group of keywords.
time on site and high position

It apparent that site mange to keep users for longer- ranks higher.
It have a sense, knowing google mission and goals are all about user satisfaction.

How Google measures user satisfaction?
Ideally Google want you to click on the first top search result and not to return.
This tells Google has successfully fulfilled your search query.
However, if users are moving back and forward, this is a sign they are not satisfy with the results.

Dwell time
Dwell Time is a complex parameter build from few components. But In a simplified way, dwell time is the actual length of time that a visitor spends on a page before returning to the SERPs.

You want to have long dwell time, as it indicates the user consumed most of the page content before going back to the search engine results page (SERP).

As for many other signals, there is debate if google use it as ranking signal or not.
But, we have two-piece of clues saying, Google may used it (maybe still are) as a ranking factor.
1) The option to block all results from specified domains.
Results are most likely came from SERPs based on dwell time.
2) “More by” feature in the SERPs.
Long dwell times authors, been rewarded by offering more of their content under the primary search result.

While these two features are not available any more, they still hint that dwell time is important.
Ways to increase dwell time are the same as the ones you would use to decrease bounce rate (find next).

Bounce Rate

A definition for Bounce rate is, the percentage of visitors who leaves your site after viewing only a single page.

Technically speaking, if visitor land on a page, no matter how long he stays, and then leaves your site- you have 100% bounce rate.
Is high bounce rate is a bad thing? Not necessary.
It does says that the visitor didn’t spent much time on the page and maybe was not been able to find what he was looking for.
But, you need to check more to come into a conclusion.
Still, google may take it as bad sign, so you want to lower your bounce rate, but not only because of that.
It can be that some ‘wrong’ organic keywords are leading people to your page, so they are relay not getting what they want.
Fixing that is good also for you, and especially if you want to sell- you want the right people to arrive your website.

What is a good Bounce rate?
It’s kind of those numbers that depends a lot on the industry we talking and user habits.
Here are bounce rate values by industry, the average is around 40%.
bounch rate ny industry

How to Decrease a site Bounce Rate?
1) Target the right keywords to attract the correct visitors
2) Organize your Content into sections using headers
3) Add Visuals in your posts like- images, infographics and videos
4) Use Internal links for each 500 words you write
5) Add call to action inside the post
6) Make sure your site is fast and users don’t leave because of that
7) Select right colors and fonts for your page
8) Format with Bullets with Bold Text to list Key Points
25 Proven Ways to Decrease Your Bounce Rate

What is Pogo sticking and why you want to avoid it?
Pogo sticking is when user giving a search query ,clicks on the search result, very quickly clicks back to the search result page and clicks on a different result. It shows immediate dissatisfaction from the result and this a bad thing.

google pogo sticking

It’s even worse than high bounce rate, because if people didn’t bother to read your page , it means you failed answering on people questions and from google’s view, maybe your rank should be lower. A lot of pogo sticking can even lead to penalize and certainly to lower your serp.

What can cause Pogo Sticking?
• Content doesn’t match to site title or description
• Content doesn’t match to what the site is about
• Thin and short pages with few paragraphs
• Not updated content
• Poor page design that is hard to read
• Many grammar and spelling mistakes in a page
• Pop up windows or noisy music
• Page with slow load time
• Hard to navigate website

Brand Recognition

Guess who are the big winners in search engine results? Big brands.
And Why is that? (clue, not only links!)
When people search for your brand it tells Google that people are aware of who you are.
That’s why brand searches become so important for your seo.
If you have a new website, probably no one is looking for you yet. you need to build a brand awareness.
This will tell Google that you’re important and people look for your service and products.
That’s why you also need to make a list of brand keywords and build you link anchors with them.
For example, let us take neilpatel.com – the top 2 anchor words are Neil patel (25%) and neilpatel.com (11%).
This is good branding with the author name and website name.
Also, make sure to include variations of the brand keywords and don’t keep them all the same.
Besides link building, another fast way to promote your brand is using Social media.

Here are some ways to build your brand:
1) Make Infographics and include your brand keywords
2) Make a freemium product, so users will need to pay only for the full product
3) Give away of Freebies and let people spread the word
4) Run a social media contest- see where people love contests the most (social section)
5) Use cheap paid social advertising like Facebook and Twitter ads to help get your brand seen on social.
6) Find new audiences in Instagram and Pinterest

But, my best advice for that, would be listing your site in local and geo targeted niche directories, what is called Business Citations.
I wrote about this in 40 White Hat Creative Link Building Techniques.

Very strong signals to google would be any or combination of these things:
• Copying and pasting the URL into google
• Bookmarking the post for later reading
• Specific searches with brand name and parts of the post or title

For Search with brand name, google expect you to be place 1, because it’s usually a unique name belongs to you.
This is also why most of your links anchor text should be your brand name and no other anchor keywords.
Therefore, many brand name searches or any of the above signals are showing to google that users know exactly where to look for what they want.
When these occur many times, it will leave a mean-full impression on google that people find the article useful and therefore worth to promote it in the search results listing.

Wrapping up

Yes, links and very important, we all need them and this signal is not going to disappear so fast. But Social signals, CTR and other On page factors related to user behaviour- have direct impact on your ranking and traffic. I didn’t want to show you a black seo methods on how to use the data in this article, but if you relay interested, this is possible and Matthew Woodward wrote a post about using faking metrics.
My advice, is to keep away from these and work on how to make each point better.

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