On Sunday, SEOmoz released its biennial search engine ranking factors report. In case you aren’t a regular reader of SEOmoz and haven’t seen this report in years past, I’ll let Rand explain the format to you:
“Every two years, we survey 100 of the industry’s top SEO minds. In 2009, 72 SEOs participated in the data gathering process, answering survey questions that consumed hours of time. The resulting document is an amazing aggregation of data about how search engines rank documents and, at least in my opinion, should be read by anyone serious about practicing search engine optimization.”
As you can see, this is an impressive collection of knowledge from the top minds in the SEO world. As Rand recommends, you should take the time to read and analyze the entire report. However, since it is probably going to take some time for you to get through and digest all five sections (Overview, Ranking Factors, Link Building, Additional SEO Data and Contributors), I thought I would highlight the ten most useful takeaways I have found in the report so far (although they’re numbered 1 to 10, I consider to be all equally important pieces of knowledge):
1. You Currently Can’t Beat Trusted, Keyword Rich, External Links – In 2007, this factor was number three on the list, so the fact that it has moved up to number one shows that even though the web is growing, trusted links are currently still the best way to judge relevance.
2. Don’t Forget the Basics – Although they may seem like mundane details, don’t forget to put your keywords in your title tags! It’s even better if you can write compelling title tags that begin with your keywords and also attract users’ attention.
3. Generic Domain Names are Powerful – While they may cost a little more, having a generic domain name can not only help you with branding, but also with your search engine rankings.
4. Meta Tags are Meaningless – I shouldn’t have to mention this one, but there are still far too many “SEOs” who are still charging clients to add neta tags to their websites (which gives the entire SEO industry a bad reputation when those clients don’t get any results for their money).
5. Negative Factors Depend on Intent – To quote Tom Critchlow, “A lot of these factors depend on intent. For example, cloaking by user agent can be fine so long as the intent is pure and many large sites get away with it and have done for years. Also, a fair number of the link factors (such as manipulative bait and switch campaigns) are more likely to have 0 value than negative value.”
6. Quite Wasting Your Time on DoFollow Blog Comments – Simply put, there are much better uses for your time that will give you more significant results.
7. You Can Take Off the Tinfoil Hat – When asked, “To what extent do you believe Google Web Search employs data gathered from Google Analytics to influence their search rankings?,” only six percent said that Google Analytics data can influence specific websites in a negative way.
8. Keep Social Media in Perspective – Although social media can be great for building relationships and driving traffic, it’s not the place to spend the bulk of your link building time.
9. If You’re Not Blogging, Start! (this one speaks for itself)
10. It’s All About Context – I want to end this post with a great quote from Lisa Ditlefsen, “A link within content of a page is far juicier than a link from a footer or sidebar, the relevancy of the content around the link, latent semantic indexing, is extensively used to determine the relevancy and power the link should be given. A link from a trusted site with highly relevant content to your site will always have more power.”