This is part 2 of the top 10 list for Myths and Misconceptions of Google ranking factors.
Time spent on the site
There was a belief the Google would track the time people spent on a page after they had clicked a link from its search results. The belief was if a link resulted in a a high bounce rate or more searches then it would mean the result wasn’t good. To improve its result Google would reduce the rankings of sites with high bounce rates. However, though this theory sounds great, there has been no evidence that Google actually does this. It is my belief that though Google does try to improve the quality of its results there are easier ways to do it than to monitor time spent on the site.
Keywords in the URL
Yes, keywords in the URL help in rankings. However, Google only gives a small boost to the rankings from the keywords being present in the URL or page name. Probably when I say this every other SEO will think that I’m out to lunch because they’ll cite thousands of sites that have good rankings by just having the keyword in the URL. Here is where the misconception comes into play. Google likes links as a ranking factor. In fact, Google really loves links when the keyword is in the anchor text of the link. When people link to sites, that just happen to have the keywords in the URL, they generally will use those same keywords in the anchor text. This is what causes the rank boost people are noticing. The point is if you can get people to link to your site just using the correct anchor text your site can get the same benefit even without having the keywords in the URL. So if you can get a keyword in a URL that’s great, but don’t worry if you don’t.
Description meta tag
The description meta tag is what Google will use as a default description in its search results. This is hidden code within a site’s HTML that has been historical spammed by overly aggressive optimizers. Google gives little or no weight to it. I spoke to a representative in the past from Google who said they give some value albeit very little value. This was many years ago and I doubt the tag is given any value now. However, this doesn’t mean the tag should be ignored it is used because it is often what the user will read and use to decide whether to click your link or a competitors. So having a good description meta tag can improve your clickthrus.
Google editor adjusted ranking
Google has the power to adjust the rankings. It can in theory put itself at the top of every search result, but it doesn’t. Google for the most part tries to make the ranking process as automated and reliant on its algorithms as possible. I have actually made some of my client sites rank better than Google for keywords it targets. However, in the past in should be noted that Google editors have put Wikipedia pages at the top for certain searches. However, there are millions of searches happening everyday on Google and editor influence is a minute.
Large amounts of repetition of a keyword
Keyword stuffing is never the correct way of trying to achieve rankings. It is better to write content that people will want to read. The fact is keyword stuffing can actually negatively impact your rankings. I recently experienced this first hand when I was doing some design work for a client. I put up a template where I just copied the keyword phrase several dozen times for showing the layout of the site when temporary text was in place. Google indexed the site while I was doing this and if you searched using the keyword phrase the site’s homepage where this temporary text was placed would not show up. However, internal pages would show up where it appeared naturally. This goes to show that Google hates keyword stuffing.
Oh this is a bonus or 11th myth. There are companies that tell their clients they will submit their site to Google and that regular submissions will increase a site’s rankings. This is not true. First a site doesn’t need to be submitted to the search engines, Google will naturally find it. However, pinging of deep pages or creating a site map is sometimes necessary to encourage fast indexing of this deep content. For most part never pay for submitting your site to the search engines it is a waste of money and does not improve your site’s ranking.
If you have any questions about what are or are not ranking factors, please feel ask me in the comments section below.