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SparkToro Ranking Factor Survey Affecting SEO

A recent survey conducted by SparkToro, founded by co-founder and former CEO of Moz, Rand Fishkin, shows how 1,585 SEOs feel about Google’s rankings.

According to the results, Google entering verticals and competing directly against publishers, advancements in machine learning and AI, and zero-click searches are the top trends most likely to affect SEO in the next three years.

Trends That Are Here To Stay

Survey respondents were presented with a list of choices and asked, “How much of an impact do you believe the following trends will have on SEO in the next 3 years?” Options were ranked on a zero-to-four scale; zero meaning “no impact” and four meaning “huge impact.”

Sparktoro graph showing trends that will impact seo

Source: SparkToro

According to SEOs, outcomes from US Congressional and Department of Justice Investigations, visual search advances, and “content-nudging” products such as Google Discover are the trends less likely to affect SEO.

Google’s Versatility

On top of being the most popular search engine, the company has also expanded into travel by launching Google Flights in 2011 and, more recently, Google Hotels along with a trip planning tool that is heavily integrated with Maps and consolidates bookings based on email confirmations.

Moreover, Google’s travel offerings increase the odds that vacation-goers will use Maps to plan their trips because their reservations, along with places they’re interested in, can all be viewed in one place.

Machine Learning

Machine learning can also affect SEO in many different ways, such as identifying signals, personalizing results based on a user’s search history, better understanding of search intent, and much more.

As search algorithms continue to use machine learning and technology continues to advance, marketers may find themselves focusing more on creating the best possible content for their audiences while leaving the smaller details such as metadata, keyword research, alt text and the like up to machine learning to figure out.

Do Links and Keywords Matter?

Some of the most surprising findings of the research revolved around SEOs’ views regarding the importance of links and keywords.

SEOs believe that keywords have their place in the content, title, and metadata of the page. “Exact (or near exact) use of the searched-for keywords in the content, title and meta data of the page” was ranked sixth overall in importance as a ranking factor, with relatively high levels of consensus among SEOs.

When it comes to links, SEOs ranked both the quality of sites and pages linking to a particular page, and the quantity and diversity of linking websites highly in terms of overall importance, at #2 and #7 respectively.

However, SEOs were less convinced of the importance of link anchor text or of external links used on a page to a high ranking on Google.

How Much Has SEO Changed In The Last 10 Years?

The SEO industry has changed a lot since 2009. Tactics that we would now consider to be dubious were far more commonplace 10 years ago. And things like Google algorithm changes and manual penalties could have detrimental effects on a business’s revenue, sometimes causing it to sink altogether.

Even still, when it comes to priority, Moz’s Ranking Factors Survey in 2009 suggests not so much has really changed. While some of the ranking factors that SEOs considered all-important in 2009 have fallen out of favour, many are still considered important in 2019.

SparkToro trends impacting SEO

Source: Moz

In 2009, SEOs considered “Keyword focused anchor text from external links” to be the most important ranking factor for SEO – but that has since changed considerably.

However, second and third on the list were “External link popularity” and “Diversity of link sources,” which map to the combined factor “Quantity & diversity of linking websites” in the 2019 survey. SEOs in 2019 still ranked this highly, at #7 out of 26.

All things considered, over the course of 10 years, some of the fundamentals of SEO remain the same. The role of content in SEO has shifted and changed along with the internet, while certain tactics like keyword stuffing and link spamming have diminished as Google now penalizes them.

Machine learning may also advance to resolve searches more quickly, which may mean more no-click searches, but can also mean that users find the content they’re looking for even faster, potentially driving higher quality traffic to your pages.