In its 2009 biennial Search Engine Ranking Factors study seomoz.org gathered information from 72 experts in the field. The study results were just recently released.
The experts rated 149 factors contributing to search engine rankings such as keyword and non-keyword data, links, social media, usage data and negative factors. The research presented the following conclusions about the top five most important factors impacting a website’s search engine ranking.
1. Keyword-Focused Anchor Text from External Links: The most important factor agreed upon by the experts was external links using keywords in the anchor text. Right now, a diversity of link sources that use your keywords in the link is the single most important area of focus to increase page ranking.
2. External Link Popularity (quantity/quality of external links): Coming a close second for importance is the quantity and quality of the links. Cultivate good links and get rid of the bad ones continually and be on the lookout for new quality websites for inbound links.
3. Diversity of Link Sources: Make sure links come from a variety of sources and unique domains. The more diverse your sources, the higher you’ll be ranked, as long as the links are relevant to your site. Diversity means the types of sources, but also being linked from a sites that do not share domain registration. In other words, each is independent from the other sites.
4. Domain Trust and Authority: Trust and authority factors associated with your site as well as the sites where you have inbound links has become an important ranking metric. Trust relates to who links to you, who you link to, registration information and user data signals. Linking, of course, means avoiding spam sites and focusing only on quality. Rankings also take into consideration the trust built by the domain owner. A trusted company will benefit with higher rankings when launching new, related sites, while lesser quality domain owners will have to virtually start from the bottom and build their rankings the old-fashioned way—with lots of hard work. User data signals crawlers that a particular site is being used naturally or organically, the way search engines hope people will use the web. A site built for natural usage will benefit by increasing its trust metric.
Authority is measured by link popularity, link diversity as pointed out in #4, links added over time and link distribution throughout your site. Links coming from popular domains (not just a popular web page) adds more juice to your authority as does the diversity of domain sources. Temporal analysis means how many new links are added over time. When a tremendous spike occurs in new links added, there is some suspicion from the crawlers. Unless the crawlers can find a credible reason for the spike, it may be assumed the links were purchased and, therefore, not high quality. Distribution analysis looks at whether links are assembled on only one or two pages or throughout your entire site. The latter contributes to a higher authority score.
5. Keyword use in title tag: Taking the time to use keywords in the title tag will generally have a very good payoff.
What ever happen to the days when you could just put up a website and somehow people would visit it? Search engine optimization to boost organic search rankings is getting increasingly complex. Chunk it down and dig in or hire a qualified SEO consultant as a guide.