Direct and indirect ranking signals play a major role in getting your site ranking and ultimately increasing your bottom line. Gaining more leads, sales, or other goals, should be the most important reason to why you perform search engine optimization and social media marketing. The proper use of both can help both in the short term and the long term. Below, we’ll go over a few examples of direct and indirect ranking signals and why both can be very important to your company’s growth.
What are direct ranking signals?
Direct ranking signals are the efforts that directly affect your website no matter how small that change may be. These direct signals should be beneficial to you even if they only slightly move your rankings up. These usually don’t deal with external factors at all, though they can certainly be improved by them and supplement them. Three examples can be as follows: Changing the keyword focus, links to your site, and basic site maintenance.
Changing the keyword focus
This is an important one specifically tied to SEO. Sometimes we try to find the really long tail keywords, the search phrase that is non-competitive or only very slightly competitive. These keywords can have a very, very low search volume, so we might want to change up the language to better represent what we’re trying to do. For instance, if we’re trying to sell keyboards, they phrase “computer input devices for typing” is apt, but it isn’t going to perform on the site as well as “keyboards.” Sometimes we have to try for the long tail keywords as we build upon the harder, more competitive keywords such as “keyboard”. Focusing high quality content around stronger keywords or phrases will help increase the rankings for those keywords or phrases.
As this affects content on your site, it is a direct ranking signal.
Links to your site
Also called “backlinks,” links to your site are a major ranking factor and will be for the foreseeable future. Building strong links from quality domains will improve your ranking signals. The better the domain quality pointing to your site, the better the benefit to your site. This is not an easy procedure, but it is one you should be actively pursue to some extent.
As these links point directly to your site, they are direct ranking signals.
Basic site maintenance
Performing basic site maintenance will benefit your ranking signals to some degree and is typically a minor ranking factor, though important to user experiences. One such factor would be page loading speeds. Reducing the amount of time a page takes to load is certainly beneficial to people on your website and can help boost your site ever so slightly. You’re not likely to jump from position 10 to position 9 by making this change; however, it will help the site’s overall rankings as seen by the algorithms.
As this affects the site as a whole, it is a direct ranking signal.
What are indirect ranking signals?
Indirect ranking signals are the efforts that affect your website by directly affecting something else, which in turn affects your website. A few examples include sharing something on a social media network, having some face-to-face interactions at a meet and greet, and having some feature on your site that benefits visitors. Each of these creates their own ranking signals and can create direct ranking signals from other sources with little or no additional interaction on your part. Indirect ranking signals are definitely beneficial in both the short term and the long term, though it also can be a bit more work to get these types of ranking signals.
Sharing something on a social media network
Most of us are familiar with sharing something seen on social media that we liked and wanted our friends to see if they hadn’t already. Those items that we find were originally located on a website somewhere and shared by people who saw them. This can create a trend where someone might click through the shared item, land on the website, find something else they like and that item gets shared. This in turn gets someone to click through to the shared item. This is the ongoing efforts of social media to bring people to a website and to talk about the website.
It’s possible that a brand could be attached to a product to make it as though it was their own. You see this all the time. An example would be when people call any locking sandwich bag a Ziploc bag simply because that’s what they’ve identified the item as. If enough people identify an item as a brand rather than the generic product descriptor then search engines may very well start using that brand as an identifier for all of those sorts of products. Thus the brand may rank for certain products directly simply because the brand became synonymous with the product.
As this is caused through external interactions, this is an indirect ranking signal.
One of the most traditional forms of networking that can bring visitors is through face to face interactions. Conventions, business meetings, and other gatherings of people outside of their respective companies provide the unique opportunity to meet people who would be interested in your product or services and who would be willing to talk about your company online with a link for people to visit your website. While the link itself is a direct ranking signal, the networking performed prior to this was the indirect ranking signal.
Meeting influencers and interested people via face to face interactions are indirect ranking signals.
Beneficial website feature for visitors
Website features can be a great way for you to easily enhance a user experience; however, it is also a great way to get people talking about your website. If the feature creates a way for people to upload an image that can be used on the site to see how the item in the image would look. An example would be to have people upload an image of their current entertainment system and with the use of this handy website feature, they are able see what their TV and other entertainment devices and media would look like on the new entertainment system that they are interested in buying.
People will often share whatever they find interesting and this sort of feature would most certainly get social exposure. Enough social exposure will lead to those other indirect ranking signals, however, it was the website feature that starts people on the path to viewing the site and hopefully becoming a conversion.
The user experience generated by the feature is what creates an indirect ranking signal.
–Doyle Clemence, Manager of SEO