SEO and How Popularity Comes Into Play

It’s true that Google wants the most relevant and quality results at the top of their SERPs, but we can’t overlook the fact that they also want popularity. Your company might be the cool (and smarter) new kid in school, but those that are established and already deemed “popular” are going to stay at the top for a little while longer. This might not seem fair, but in the way of SEO there are really two ways to look at the dilemma:

  1. It isn’t fair because a website might have more detailed content, but is pushed aside for content on a website that is more popular.
  2. It’s a great way to make sure that websites are not manipulating search engines too much with link building and knocking down quality, popular sites that have long been trusted by Google users.

In the majority of cases, great SEO on a newer site can actually push trusted sites down a few notches on a SERP, so the latter choice is typically the one that most prefer. Google wants the popular sites on top and users want the popular sites on top. That isn’t to say that they can never be moved down in rankings, but sites should have to work for that spot. If you have the popularity, you’ve earned it.

What Makes a Site Popular for Better SEO?

As discussed above, actually positioning yourself into the popular crowd isn’t easy. There are several different popularity factors that Google takes into account when determining which site deserves to hold that title:

1. The quantity and quality of your social shares will affect your popularity.

When it comes to social shares, Google takes into account the quantity as well as the quality of who is sharing. Although links within those social shares do not pass PageRank (that we know of), the social shares themselves are great for your popularity, and therefore great for your SEO. It is also speculated that social signals could affect certain popular queries (news, celebrity news, etc.). Nonetheless, social signals are only going to become more important in the future, and that is according to Matt Cutts and Duane Forrester.

2. How readers engage with your site indicates popularity.

Google Analytics offers Google a ton of information on user behavior, so it’s easy to see how popular a site might be. Some of the factors considered include scrolling on a page, time on site, bookmarking, copy and pasting information, and scrolling on the page.

3. Linking, although it can be manipulated to a certain degree, is still a popularity factor.

Good links are always going to improve your SEO. While some less popular sites are beginning to find ways to earn lots of links they may not deserve, Google is starting to crack down even more on black hat tactics. As it becomes easier for the bots to pick out good, quality links, they will be even more important when it comes to popularity. It’s also worth noting that it isn’t just cool, news-type sites that get backlinks. Sites that some would label boring can also earn a lot of backlinks, and they are measured in proportion to other, similar sites in the eyes of Google.

It’s also important to note that this is not just speculation—Google has actually made algorithm updates and other announcements that say they are trying to give more credit to veteran sites that are trusted.

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