Are Category Keywords in the URL a Significant Ranking Signal Now?

A screen shot of Google results where category pages rank exceptionally well.

Above: Not personalized search results for the query [content strategy mistakes]. I rank at #7. Look who ranks at #2 and #4.

While trying to assess the impact of stolen and otherwise copied content on my rankings here on the SEO 2.0 blog I’ve found an anomaly in the Google results I want to share with you.


How a web design blog outranks others

A post from a popular web design blog, indeed a blog I like very much, Six Revisions outranks other far more relevant search results.

How does it do it? It succeeds by a single keyword mention below the posting:

and most importantly a category named after part of the keyphrase in question: “content strategy”:

So the most significant onpage ranking factor seems to be the category keywords in the URL.

The site has lots of backlinks, the post itself as well. So far so good but there is reason why this post should rank specifically for that keyphrase or is it?


No inbound links with matching anchor text

There are no incoming links with the keyword combination in the anchor text as you see on the screen shot below:

Above: a list of the inbound link anchor texts. None of them contain the term “content strategy”

Still it outranks other pages that really deal with content strategy mistakes while itself the post does only cover SEO mistakes.

What do you think? Is this an exception from the rule? Are category keywords in the URL a significant ranking signal now.

Or does Google favor authority sites so much these days hat they need only slightly relevant content to outrank the competition that covers the topic at stake directly?


Penalized by Google

You may wonder why I rank so bad in this example. My blog has been “pandalized” recently during a minor Panda update with the number 2.5.2.

I have been removed from the top 10 for all two word keyphrases I have been ranking in the top 10 for years. You won’t find my blog for phrases like

  • [seo blog]
  • [image seo]
  • [advanced seo]
  • [url seo]

anymore. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t rank higher for [content strategy mistakes]. I only rank for some very long long tail queries now.


Experts weigh in

Also take note that an aggregator called curated by a friend mine, Gabriella of Level 343 who cites my posts ranks higher than the post on SEO 2.0 itself.

I have asked on Twitter whether other SEO people can confirm that keyword mentions in categories are an important ranking factor these days.

I know that the impact of keywords in URLs beyond the domains has been negligible over the recent years. Has Google changed this?

Two experts, Shark SEO and Mark Edmondson have weighed in that there might be different reasons but were as well surprised by this example. What do you think?

P.S.: I didn’t link out to any of the sites or pages involved here in order not to skew the results.

Last updated: July 18th, 2018.