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Top Ten List Of Search Ranking Factors

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Earlier I posted about Rand Fiskin's list of search ranking factors and how I wished they could be rated in order of importance. As I later wrote, Rand invited some people to take a stab at doing that. Today, he's posted the revised list, as he explains more here. Below is the top ten list and average scores (5.0 would be the highest you could get, meaning it was deemed super important).

  1. Title Tag - 4.57
  2. Anchor Text of Links - 4.46
  3. Keyword Use in Document Text - 4.38
  4. Accessibility of Document - 4.31
  5. Links to Document from Site-Internal Pages - 4.15
  6. Primary Subject Matter of Site - 4.00
  7. External Links to Linking Pages - 3.92
  8. Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community - 3.77
  9. Global Link Popularity of Site - 3.69
  10. Keyword Spamming - 3.69

Overall, I had a few problems with some of the things even included on the list and how they were defined. There were some factors I didn't think were well explained or unclear on how to vote. But the good news is that what emerged is an excellent starting list of factors for anyone to consider.

Using this view, you can go through and see the factors with contributor comments. Here's a recap from me just on the top ten list above:

  1. Title Tag: Plenty of people still find just having the right terms in your title tags can make all the difference. Every page in your web site should have a unique title tag making use of the two or three most important words/phrases you hope the page will be found for.
  2. Anchor Text of Links: It's never been about just getting links but getting links to you that say the words in the links (or near them) that you want a page to be found for. See the Link Building section of Search Topics for articles and resources with more advice on this.
  3. Keyword Use in Document Text: A bedrock of success has always been to be making use of the terms you want to be found for in an appropriate manner within your copy. See the SEO: Writing & Body Copy section of Search Topics for articles and resources with more advice on this and the Search Engine Optimization Articles page for resources from before Sept. 2004.
  4. Accessibility of Document: If a search engine can't reach your pages, they can't get them in the index, and you obviously can't rank well.
  5. Links to Document from Site-Internal Pages: At Rand's site, you'll see I'm a lone voice disagreeing this is an important ranking factor. Why? I think it's an indexing factor. Link often to a particular page in your site, and that should help get that page indexed. But the category wasn't about linking with anchor text, which is one reason why I disagreed.

    If you want to RANK better, then yes, link to your own pages in a descriptive fashion using the words you hope they'll be found for. But also understand that if you link to the same page in your site always with the same words (such as in navigational elements), many feel the search engines will now discount this. IE, it won't hurt you, but link 100 times, and that might count as if it were a single link.
  6. Primary Subject Matter of Site: I totally disagree that if your site is all about one particular topic, you'll rank well for that topic. Search engines still do not seem to be analyzing sites in this way. If they did, Amazon would never rank for anything. However, build a nice focused site, and there's a good chance lots of people will link to your HOME PAGE using descriptive words, helping the HOME PAGE rank well.
  7. External Links to Linking Pages: Some swear that linking out -- and linking out to important pages -- will help you rank better. I think search engines do consider pages more "normal" if they link out, because normal pages do often link out. But other pages don't, and I think they also look at a variety of factors to determine if a non-linking out page is somehow normal in other ways.

    Short answer from me? Link out because you think it makes sense for your human visitors to point them at related content, and I think you'll do right by the search engines.
  8. Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community: Yes, I think search engines try to understand the nature of how various sites link to each other and whether a site may be doing well among a group of site.
  9. Global Link Popularity of Site: To date, Yahoo is the only search engine that has ever said that all the links pointing to any page in your web site might also be used to determine if the site as a whole somehow should get a boost assigned to different pages.
  10. Keyword Spamming: Obviously, a NEGATIVE ranking factor. Use the same word too often in a blatant fashion, and you might find yourself banned.

For more advice about SEO issues, be sure to see the SEO category of Search Topics for past articles going back for years.

Want to comment or discuss? Visit our Search Engine Watch Forums thread, Top Ten SEO Factors.


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