Search Engine Optimization 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 here; the list is here.

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:

  1. Keyword Use in Title Tag
  2. Global Link Popularity of Site
  3. Anchor Text of Inbound Links
  4. Link Popularity within the Site's Internal Link Structure
  5. Age of Site
  6. Topical Relevance of Inbound Links To Site
  7. Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community
  8. Server is Often Inaccessible to Bots
  9. Keyword Use in Body Text
  10. Global 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:


  • Keyword Use in Title Tag: Totally in your control. We continue to have sites that get ranking boost just for making this change. Remember that Jason Calacanis challenge where SEO already has gotten him a traffic increase of 21 percent? That's almost all down to title tag changes.
  • Link 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.
  • Server 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.
  • Keyword 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.


  • Global 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 link building and linkbait sections for some articles and advice on this.
  • Anchor 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.
  • Topical 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.
  • Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community: Pretty similar to the above.
  • Global 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 links.

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!


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