The debate can be an endless one. If you’re interested in digital marketing (making your website more visible on the web and getting more visitors to your site) you’ve often asked yourself “what is the best method?”. In my humble opinion, it’s SEO (Search engine optimization) because it’s targeted, effective, relatively affordable and it’s a great investment that lasts. But if you’re interested in SEO, you’ve probably also asked yourself “What exactly are the factors that help my site rise to the top in the search engines?”
Well, since I’m not a Google engineer and nobody outside the labyrinth of the Google campus (Googleplex) is privy to that specific information, there is one good way for us to get a good idea of what criteria search engines use to rank websites higher or lower in the SERPs (Search engine results pages) and that is collaborative analysis. The concept is simple. By collecting a wide range of opinions and experiences, the truth will rise to the surface and the answers will become clear – or at least clearer. Actively working to increase your rankings in the search engines (commonly called Search engine optimization or SEO) is one of the most effective, yet least understood methods of internet marketing. It is confusing and time-consuming to learn and keep up with the search engines, but there are some solid factors that we know are very important by collectively compiling information and learning from each other over the years.
So, over at SEOMoz.com they have done exactly this regarding what factors affect rankings as of 2009. They’ve provided a simple list of where we should start when effective internet marketing and SEO is your goal. For the full scoop please visit their 2009 search engine ranking factors study.
What I take away from this can be summarized in two simple statements: High quality, relevant links to your site and within your own site are king. Search engines love fresh, keyword-rich content that is specifically on the topic regarding the user’s search query terms. This is SEO in a nutshell in 2009.
What’s good about this (at least for the person searching) is that these factors are not easily manipulated. Creating great content takes talent and time. Getting links to your site takes a lot of time – especially if they’re high-quality links. SEO and improved search engine rankings simply takes time. So, now we have our to-do list and our work cut out for us. We know what factors influence rankings, now we just have A LOT of work to do.
Top Ranking Factors: (A loose priority order)
- Keyword focused anchor text from external links (if the link to your site has your keywords in it)
- External link popularity (How many links you have pointing to your site)
- Diversity of link sources (How many different sites link to you)
- Keyword use anywhere in the title tag
- Existence of substantive, unique content on the page (all pages on your site should be unique)
- Recency (freshness) of page creation (Search engines like your site to be updated often)
- Iterative Algorithm-Based, Global Link Popularity (PageRank)
- Topic-Specificity/Focus of External Link Sources (whether external links to this page come from topically relevant pages/sites)
- Keyword-Focused Anchor Text from Internal Links (links on your site should use your top keywords to link to other relevant pages on your site)
Top Negative Ranking Factors:
- Cloaking with Malicious/Manipulative Intent
- Link Acquisition from Known Link Brokers/Sellers (search engines like things to be natural)
- Links from the Page to Web Spam Sites/Pages
- Cloaking by User-Agent
- Frequent Server Downtime & Site Inaccessibility
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