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Why the Two-Part Ranking Model Simplifies SEO – Here’s Why #84

SEO seems so complex. Can The Art of SEO lead author Eric Enge really reduce it down to just two essential factors? Find out in this episode of our Here’s Why series!

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Eric, recently you’ve been talking about something you call a two-part ranking model for SEO. Now, before we get into the details of what that involves, tell us the origins of the concept.
Eric: Sure, Mark. Earlier this year, I was part of a live hangout with Andrey Lipattsev of Google. During that session, this happened.
Ammon: Would it be beneficial to us to know what the the the first two [ranking factors are]? Could webmasters build better sites with that information?
Andrey: I can tell you what they are. It’s content and links pointing to your site.
Eric: So there we have it. Google says that the two most important factors for ranking are content and links to your site. I provided strong backup to the power of links in my links as a ranking factor study.
Mark: So, what about the content factor?
Eric: Well, from my experience, I think many organizations could dramatically improve their SEO just by creating better quality content and more effectively promoting it. But so few bother to do that.
Mark: Okay, so the two factors in your two-part ranking model are content and backlinks. So, is that all we need to think about for SEO now?
Eric: Well, of course not. I mean, that would be a gross oversimplification. There’s still a lot of other things you can do that will help your SEO. These are things like better information architecture, making better use of SEO tags, and good usability and all that. But I think it’s undeniable that all of those take a second priority to content quality and links.
Mark: And when you come down to it, a lot of those other elements of SEO, like title tags, headers, use of synonyms, page layout, and all the things that you mentioned, they all in some way contribute to the quality of the content and its usefulness to the reader. Right?
Eric: Right.
Mark: So, how do the two parts, content and links, interact? Is there a way we should view them in relationship to each other?
Eric: Well, to keep it simple, let’s imagine a hypothetical set of scores for content and links. Here’s an equation that depicts the possible relationship between those two things.
SEO ranking score equation
Now, let’s plot that on a graph.
Hypothetical content ranking score
Notice two things. First, the Y-axis is labeled “Chances of ranking,” not ranking. So we’re dealing with probabilities here. The higher in the curve you are, the more probable it is that you’ll rank high. But of course, there are never any guarantees. Second, notice that I’ve made the content score way more influential than the link score.
Mark: Yes. Why is that?
Eric: Well, think about it. If your content isn’t at least good quality, and it doesn’t do a good job of satisfying your user’s query, or if it provides a poor user experience, then it really shouldn’t have any chance of ranking in the first place, no matter how many links you get. So, while links are very powerful for establishing the basic authority of a page, Google is smart enough to know that they don’t tell the whole story. That’s why Google has invested so much in being able to discern the quality and appropriateness of content.
Mark: Okay, so, what should my takeaway be here as a digital marketer? How do I apply this in a practical way?
Eric: My goal with my two-step ranking model is to simplify SEO for most people, without oversimplifying it. But making it simple in no way implies there’s not a lot of hard work to be done in order to be successful. Far from it.
Look, it comes down to the two things that have always been true for successful companies: make really good stuff, and market it effectively.
In the case of content marketing, the good stuff is the content that goes above and beyond in creating delight, trust, and respect in your target audience. The marketing part is effectively sharing and promoting that content, getting in front of the right eyes. And if it’s really good, that’s where the earned link opportunities kick in.
Mark: Thanks, Eric. Now, folks, what you just heard is only a taste of what you’ll find in Eric’s in-depth article on the two-part model, over on the Moz blog. Check it out here.
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About the Author

Mark Traphagen was our Content Strategy Director for Perficient Digital until February of 2019. He has been named one of the most influential content and social media authors in numerous industry listings.

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Thoughts on “Why the Two-Part Ranking Model Simplifies SEO – Here’s Why #84”

  1. Wow for a beginner like me in SEO you made some of these concepts and ideas very simple to understand. I’ll be focusing much more on content so thanks for the tips. Look forward to reading more posts and learning even more.

  2. On very competitives niches, great content without links can’t just rank.
    Links and Social signals are the key, but you don’t need a lot just a few from authority sites.

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