A couple of days ago, I was chatting with a buddy, talking about the difference between ranking signals and ranking factors. It got me started on a train of thought, and as I jotted down a list of a few factors and signals, I started thinking about what the criteria might be that define something as one or the other.
I had a fair good idea of what each variable is, but I found it difficult to nail down a clear definition that would readily classify something. So I went to Google and started doing some digging.
Ranking Factor or Ranking Signal
First, I looked for obvious things like ranking factor versus ranking signal. That came up dry. Seems like nobody in the first four pages had ever clearly defined them, let alone Google (big surprise there, right?)
So then, I did some more extensive searching, for terms like:
search ranking signal
search engine ranking signal
search algorithm ranking signal
followed by repeating the same searches, but substituting factor for signal. Then I looked for common results. By that time, I wasn’t too surprised to see that with the exception of a few documents trading positions, the results were pretty much the same.
So I chatted with a couple more friends, getting their opinions, and one of them told me that he had once asked a Google engineer at a conference what the difference was between a factor and a signal. The answer they gave him was that they’re the same thing.
That doesn’t ring true to me. I’ve always looked at ranking factors as a fixed attribute, such as on-page elements or number of links. Signals, I’ve always thought of as being more liquid, such as social media interaction or freshness.
That’s when I decided this could be an interesting poll. Not that the results will yield any definitive value… I’d just be interested in seeing what other search professionals think about it. So I built a short list (not all-inclusive, by any means) and built a poll, so that you can simply check the things you see as ranking factors. If you think something is only a signal, leave it blank.
The poll is simply one question: Which of the below are direct ranking factors (as opposed to being only signals or having no effect whatsoever on ranking)?
I’d appreciate your input. The more people that respond, the better. It should only take you one to two minutes. I’ll be publishing the results next week.