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Ranking The SEO Ranking Factors
Back in 2005, SEOmoz tried to assemble a list of all the possible search
engine ranking factors out there and get various experts to rate them. I say
tried to because while they had a list, and ratings, no one knows all the
factors or exactly how each individual search engine chooses to use them. But I
admired the determination. SEOmoz is back at it, with version two of the list
now out. Some background about it
the list is here,
and some further observations by me are below.
There’s a lot to digest here. A lot. That’s why it’s particularly useful to
make use of the "Top 10 Positive Factors" section at the top of the report. In
fact, I wish the report had been organized this way, with an alternative list
showing everything and buried away from those new to SEO. Give them the most
important basics; don’t blind them with too much!
The most important factors based on expert voting are:
Use in Title Tag
Link Popularity of Site
Text of Inbound Links
Popularity within the Site’s Internal Link Structure
- Age of
Relevance of Inbound Links To Site
Popularity of Site in Topical Community
is Often Inaccessible to Bots
Use in Body Text
Link Popularity of Linking Site
Notice number one — that you have HTML title tags that reflect the key terms
you want your page to be found for. That’s been the advice since I first
starting writing about SEO back in 1996. Eleven years later — and even in the
age of it’s all about links — it remains the top ranked tip by so many experts.
Now let’s flip the list around into how hard it is to control these factors:
Use in Title Tag: Totally in your control. We continue to have sites that
get ranking boost just for making this change. Remember that
challenge where SEO already has gotten him a traffic increase of 21
percent? That’s almost
all down to title tag changes.
Popularity within the Site’s Internal Link Structure: This is easy in that
you can link to your own pages in however you’d like. So do think carefully
about how you link. Point to your own articles and describe them using the
terms you want them found for. That can contribute.
is Often Inaccessible to Bots: If you can’t be indexed, you can’t rank.
Keep your server online. But don’t freak. Being down on the odd occasion is
unlikely to wipe you out.
Use in Body Text: This is basic. Want a page to be found for certain
words? It continues to be good advice that you actually use those words on the
page. Not 100 times in a row. Not for any particular "density." Just use them
as it makes sense to use them.
- Age of
Site: Brand new site? Nothing you can do but get older, really, to control
this. Some like to buy domains, but search engines can also detect transferred
domains and count age from when the transfer happened. Google is the most
noted for this. One thing you can do is register your domain for a long time,
say five or ten years. That at least suggests you want to hold on to it more
than the average person, so it might help.
Link Popularity of Site: You can’t do much here easily beyond building up
good quality links. Get good links, and you should be helping your site
mature. Links take work, but they’re worth it. See our
linkbait sections for some articles and advice on this.
Text of Inbound Links: Hard in that you can’t control exactly how people
link. But doing things like thinking about how you name your pages or articles
(or site), or how you pitch a link request, can have an influence. Remember
that Google will now tell you the most popular anchor text used to point at
you. Google Now
Reporting Anchor Text Phrases explains this in more detail.
Relevance of Inbound Links To Site: Are the sites linking to you related
to what you are about? Hard to control, other than to make sure you are
requesting links from sites that cover similar topics to you. That’s just good
marketing, of course — but time consuming.
Popularity of Site in Topical Community: Pretty similar to the above.
Link Popularity of Linking Site: Is the site linking to you important?
Then it can transmit that importance to you more than other sites might. This
has been a known factor for years. It’s not about number of links. It’s about
the quality (importance) and context (link text or anchor text) of those
In the report, note that there are comments for each of the factors from many
of the experts that rated them (I was one of the 34 involved). These are great
to read. But you won’t see all the comments unless you use the "Show the rest of
the comments" links for each factor. So do it!