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Google considers traffic diversity as a ranking factor

Google considers traffic diversity as a ranking factor


Google's SearchLiaison posted a tweet recommending diversifying your traffic sources and clarifying why they recommend it: A few days later, someone asked if diversifying traffic is a ranking factor, and SearchLiaison reiterated that it's not.

What was said

The question of whether traffic diversity is a ranking factor was pulled from an earlier tweet in a discussion about whether site owners should focus more on off-site promotion.

Here's the question from the original discussion tweeted:

“Please let me know if focusing on my site and content and writing new articles that can be found in search is the right thing to do, or should I focus more on off-site efforts to grow my readership? It's frustrating to see the traffic decrease the more I try.”

SearchLiaison broke the question down into its component parts and answered each one: For the off-site promotion portion, SearchLiaison (Danny Sullivan) shared his decades of experience as a journalist and publisher covering technology and search marketing.

I'll try to break down his answer to make it clearer what he meant

Here are some of the tweets talking about offsite activities:

“Regarding the question of off-site efforts, what I knew before I worked at Google Search and from my experience while I was on the search rankings team, is that I believe one of the ways to be successful in Google Search is to think beyond it.”

What he's saying here is simple: instead of thinking about what to do with your site, think about how to present it to Google.

He then explains that sites that rank tend to be sites that are built to appeal to people.

SearchLiaison continued:

“A great site with content that people love gets traffic in a variety of ways: people visit the site directly. They come through email referrals. They come through links from other sites. They get mentioned on social media.”

What he is saying here is that you will know your site is catching people's attention if people are discussing your site on social media, if people are referring to your site on social media, and if other sites are citing your site in their links.

Other ways you can tell if your site is doing well are when people participate in the comments section, email you with follow-up questions, send thank you emails, or share anecdotes of success or satisfaction with your products or advice.

Think about it: At one point, fast fashion site Shein wasn't even ranking for your chosen keyword phrases. I know this because I looked into it out of curiosity. But in that time, Shein gained popularity through word of mouth, and grew into a global brand with massive sales by gamifying site interaction and engagement. Zappos grew using a similar strategy, introducing no-questions-asked returns and upbeat customer service.

SearchLiaison continued:

“That means you're more likely to be building a regular site that's built for people, not for Google. And our ranking system tries to reward good content that's built for people.”

SearchLiaison makes it clear that having a site with diverse content is not a ranking factor.

He added a disclaimer to his tweet:

“This doesn't mean that getting a ton of social media or email mentions will magically boost your rankings in Google (it doesn't, as far as I know).”

Despite the warnings…

One journalist tweeted:

“Earlier this week, @searchliaison told people to diversify their traffic, and naturally some questioned whether traffic diversity is a ranking factor.

So we asked @iPullRank for their opinion.

Of course, SearchLiaison responded by clarifying that it’s not a ranking factor and linking to his original tweet, which I quoted above.

he tweeted.

“This is not exactly what I said, but again, I'll add a link to what I said.”

The journalist responded:

“This is a call for publishers to diversify their traffic because good sites are saying they are diversifying their traffic. This is good advice.”

And SearchLiaison responded:

“I was clarifying, the 'does it affect rankings' part, which is not what I said myself. Sure, I think it's generally a good thing, but it's not the only thing, or the magic thing.”

Ranking Factors Aren’t Everything

It's a long-standing practice for some SEOs to parse all the information Google publishes for clues about how their algorithms work. This happened with the Search Quality Rater Guidelines. Google has a policy of not (generally) checking whether something is a ranking factor, making them unwitting accomplices.

The habit of searching for “ranking factors” leads to misinformation. It takes more acumen to read research papers and patents to get a rough idea of ​​how information retrieval works, but it takes more work to try to understand something than skimming a PDF to see how a paper ranks.

The worst approach to understanding search is to make assumptions about how Google works and then sift through documentation to confirm your assumptions (and fall into the trap of confirmation bias).

Ultimately, it may be more effective to stop optimizing only for Google and focus at least as much on optimizing for people (including optimizing for traffic). I've been doing this for years, so I know it works.

Featured image: Shutterstock/Asier Romero




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