Not Everything that Affects SEO Results is a Ranking Factor

Ammon Johns
Mar 27, 2016 · 2 min read

Things move pretty fast in the world of the Internet. That was, after all, the point. Near instant communication means ideas evolve faster than ever before. Every day, new ideas make new concepts, and those need new names and labels. That’s all good.

However, because things move so very fast, and everyone wants to sound like they are right there, riding the crest of the wave, people often adopt terms before they have fully understood them. The terms get used in wider contexts and become blurred and fuzzy. Even where the terms contained pretty descriptive words.

Case in point is in SEO where we talk about “Ranking Factors”. It’s a general term for almost anything that can factor into the calculation of rankings. Note however that it is about the factors that determine ranking, not relevance. Relevancy is, itself, a ranking factor, but only indirectly, or rather, through the intermediary effect of how relevance is determined and measured.

Not everything that affects results does so by adjusting the rankings, or the way that rankings are calculated. Search for “Indian cuisine”. Note the first 4 results. Now search for “Popeye the movie”. I’m pretty sure the first 4 results for this second search are all different. That’s not because I changed the ranking factors in the algorithm.

Think of ranking factors as being like all of the things that can affect your performance on a race track given that you know your vehicle and it is tuned a specific way. Your speed, endurance, reliability and technology all play their part, as can your starting position.

Now, imagine that you turn up to the race and find it is a completely different sort of race to what you expected. There you are in your tuned up track racer and you suddenly find it is a rally. Or a boat race. Well, that’s how query rewriting would fit into the analogy.

Things like query rewriting don’t change the algorithm, or the way your site performs for ranking within its relevancy. They change the race, making an entirely different query be run. Query rewriting doesn’t change the ranking factors, the performance within the race. It changes the track and race parameters.