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Links Top List of Search Engine Ranking Factors

lewis-sage
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I always look forward to the Search Engine Ranking Factors report SEOMoz puts out.

They write:

Every two years, SEOmoz surveys top SEO experts in the field worldwide on their opinions of the algorithmic elements that comprise search engine rankings. This year features contributors from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, the Ukraine, the Dominican Republic and many more.

Each participant was asked to rate more than 100 search ranking factors along with specific questions about hot issues in the SEO field. This document, representing the collective wisdom of expert practitioners, is, in opinion, one of the most useful resources for SEO practitioners of all varieties, helping to provide transparency into what matters (and doesn't) for best practices in search engine optimization. This ongoing document has also spun off a related research project relating to Local Search Ranking Factors.

So much of what is done in SEO is reverse engineering. Search engines won't confirm or deny much of anything. They tell you things like:

  • Write unique, compelling content.
  • Get a blog.
  • Write descriptive titles.

Any information after this tends to get hazy and indirect. SEOs are left to their own devices to figure things out. That's the way it's always been. And that's probably the way it will always be.

Naturally, you'll often get different opinions on strategies. And sometimes you'll get outright disparity. The issue of buying links is a good example of people being in different camps, telling people distinctly different things.

So, the Search Engine Ranking Factors report serves as a good survey of respected industry people. It helps us isolate specific techniques and then see how the professionals feel about them.

I bring up this report because of the incredible weight links were given.

Of the five top ranking factors, four were link related. The fourth top ranking factor was "Keyword Use Anywhere in the Title Tag." All others were related to getting links and formatting links.

Using the keyword in the title tag was the most important factor in the 2007 edition of this report. It was now beaten by:

  • Keyword Focused Anchor Text from External Links
  • External Link Popularity (quantity/quality of external links)
  • Diversity of Link Sources (links from many unique root domains)

I wanted to spend a little time clarifying these top points just to make sure we all understand what's being recommended.

Keyword Focused Anchor Text from External Links

For our examples, let's say our target phrase is "jay z tickets." As of this writing, it was ranked 57 on Google's Hot Trends list.

Keep in mind that uppercase and lowercase letters have no bearing on this. These variations will all give you the same results:

  • jay z tickets
  • Jay Z tickets
  • Jay Z Tickets
  • jAy Z tIcKeTs

However, these phrases are different:

  • Tickets for Jay Z
  • Jay Z Ticket

So, in your desire to rank for "jay z tickets," you want to ask people to link to your site with the phrase: Jay Z Tickets (or some capitalization variation of that). The easiest way to make sure this is done is to give people the HTML code exactly as you would like to see it.

Your e-mail to a potential external linker would look something like this:

Thanks so much for wanting to link to us! You can link anyway you would like, but it would be totally awesome if you would link to our site with the phrase: Jay Z Tickets. Here's some HTML code for you, to give you an example:

Jay Z Tickets

And, if it's easier, here's a complete html snippet that you can just copy and paste into your site and be done with it:

Check out the greatest Jay Z fan site on the Internet! No one loves Jay Z more than these guys. Plus, you can get all your Jay Z Tickets right at the site. It's your one stop Jay Z shop.

External Link Popularity

This is simply the total number and quality of links pointing to your site. You can track how many links are coming into your site using Yahoo Site Explorer or Google's Webmaster Tools.

One of the easiest ways to measure quality is to keep an eye on Google's PageRank. You can see that in the Google Toolbar of your browser, if you've downloaded it.

Diversity of Link Sources

That's probably pretty self-explanatory. Ten links from one site isn't as good as one link from 10 sites.

Links may not always be the most important factor when it comes to ranking well in the search engines. But today, it appears links are the dominating force.


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