While there are a large multitude of factors that search engines take into consideration when ranking our content, it’s becoming increasingly obvious which of those factors currently hold the most weight. Among the hundreds of signals that Google takes into consideration upon site evaluation, it appears to be the quality of link profiles and overall domain authority factors that are performing the strongest. Unfortunately, and especially in terms of link profiles, larger publishers appear to be gaining the upper hand in not only ranking, but retaining that rank over the long term. But, it’s also not without cause or reason.
Today Google is looking ever closer at our link profiles to determine not only the relevance of our links but where those links are coming from, as well as how diverse your link profile is. When I state diverse here, I’m simply referring to having more high quality links from a multitude of trusted domains. It’s the link diversity that kills the smaller publishers. It’s very difficult with today’s ranking climate for smaller and newer publishers to compete with sites that have been building a strong link profile for years. This doesn’t mean the smaller guys can’t rank, it simply means it will be much harder to since they wouldn’t be able to gain ground against sites that have thousands of trusted domains pointing back to them.
Google +1’s, shares, comments in posts etc, appear to be of a lesser value in terms of ranking in SERP’s, but they appear to be quite valuable in terms of building a strong social presence, which should be considered a fairly strong ranking factor itself. +1’s are recommendations to those in your G+ Circles, in organic search, and do provide a number of important signals to Google, but they fall short in gaining real world rank on the internet. That being said, you will essentially need to build a strong link profile fairly quickly and maintain it over the long term in order to gain the upper hand for much of any keywords.
Don’t think for a second you’re the only one trying to rank for a given set of keywords! Several months after we published the Pacman page on this site, it ranked first page on Google search for tons of keywords, and it still does, but the higher the rank the page gains, the more other surrounding sites appear to be keyword spamming their pages to gain their rank back. If you type the keywords “play original pacman” into Google search you will notice our position is number 2, but look at the titles of the links below it. They are keyword spammed to the core! The point here is, in order to rank well and retain that rank you need to be consistent in terms of producing new content often in order to retain your position in search results. It doesn’t look like that keyword spamming helped them any.
Also, domain authority appears to be playing a leading role as well in current day SEO. What’s more valuable to a user, the sites like hubpages that show content written from anyone regardless of who they are, or the sites that specialize in a given set of topics and are run by real professionals? The problem with sites that cover too many subjects is that they don’t signal to Google that they specialize in any given subject, so their value to users is definitely low. Also, being as anyone can write an article on those sites, it makes it a lot harder to validate that what people publish there is actually true and correct. This is similar to the issue with infographics that Matt Cutts has mentioned in the past, in which they tend to often be an overview of a given topic, and often they aren’t accurate as far as the statements they make.
In the end, it’s really a combination of factors such as, link diversity, social presence, and those who are authorities within their subjects that appear to rank the highest. This means that for the publishers who are new to the scene, they will have to do a lot more than simply build back links manually, they will need to get others to share and link to their content on a very large scale and continuously. Remember, you are effectively competing against the rest of the world! Like I already stated, social presence matters, but it’s not everything. Some of the highest ranking pages on this site weren’t the ones which were talked about, shared, or +1’d the most by others. That being said, this appears to be where the quality of content comes into play. Paying close attention to the factors that were mentioned here will cause you to rank well, but not without some serious persistence in your efforts.