It’s getting harder to unpick all the ranking factors

I’ve participated in each iteration of moz’s ranking factors survey since its inception in 2009. At one of our recent conferences (the last time I was in san diego for searchlove) I talked about how I used to enjoy it and feel like I could add real value by taking the survey, but how that’s changed over the years as the complexity has increased.

While I remain confident when building strategies to increase overall organic visibility, traffic, and revenue, I’m less sure than ever which individual ranking factors will outweigh which others in a specific case.

The Strategic Approach Looks at Whole Sites and Groups of Keywords

My approach is generally to zoom out and build business cases on assumptions about portfolios of rankings, but it’s been on my mind recently as I think about the ways machine learning should make google rankings ever more of a black box, and cause the ranking factors to vary more and more between niches.

In general, “Why does this page rank?” is the Betting Email List same as “Which of these two pages will rank better?”
I’ve been teaching myself about deep neural networks using tensorflow and keras — an area I’m pretty sure I’d have ended up studying and working in if I’d gone to college 5 years later. As I did so, I started thinking about how you would model a serp (which is a set of high-dimensional non-linear relationships). I realized that the litmus test of understanding ranking factors — and thus being able to answer “why does that page outrank us?”

Boils Down to Being Able to Answer a Simpler Question


Given two pages, can you figure out which one Doctors Eamil List will outrank the other for a given query?
If you can answer that in the general case, then you know why one page outranks another, and vice-versa.

It turns out that people are terrible at answering this question.
I thought that answering this with greater accuracy than a coin flip was going to be a pretty low bar. As you saw from the sneak peak of my results above, that turned out not to be the case. Reckon you can do better? Skip ahead to take the test and find out.

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