I might be the only SEO to not have written on this topic, so in honor of our upcoming SEM Six Pack, I felt I should do a full post on this topic (as opposed to leaving my answers in the comments of the previous post). The rankings for #2 – #5 are almost arbitrary and if you asked me the question next week, I might rank them differently.
1) Title Tag. The clear winner. If you want a page to rank for a particular keyword, make sure it’s in the title tag.
2) Age of Website. There is a saying in basketball that “You Can’t Teach Height”. Well, in SEO, having an older website is a huge inherent advtage for gaining top rankings and it is very difficult for a new site to rank well for a competitive keyword.
3) Inbound Link Authority. I fought Authority and Authority always wins…well, John Mellencamp is right…authority always wins in SEO. Getting powerful, authoritative websites in your niche to link to your website is extremely valuable for SEO and this factor is becoming more and more important.
4) Inbound Link Text. Perhaps, this should be higher…however, this is a factor that can be overdone to your website’s detriment. It is necessary that the keywords you wish to rank for be some of your inbound link text, but if it’s in all of them, that’s definitely a spam signal. There is an “optimum percentage” and that number is…now it would be cool if I could tell you, wouldn’t it?
5) On Page Keyword Factors. Like #4, this could be ranked higher. Over-optimizing for your keywords is detrimental to your SEO efforts since using your targeted keywords too often can be seen as a spam signal. The “SEO Copywriting” of a page should be done in an “enhanced natural” style, meaning you might want to use your targeted keyword in your website text instead of using terms like “that”, “those”, etc. Also, it’s important that you try to use more than one variant of your keyword and to use it in as many different contexts as possible. If I’m optimizing for “widgets”, I might use “widgets” 3 times in a page, “widget” 2 times, and also use “widgeting” and “widgetology”.
6) Website Theme. The keywords you wish to rank for must jive with the overall theme of the website. If they are outside of it, you will be hard pressed to succeed.
7) Internal Linking Structure. Your website has a certain amount of “link juice” assigned to it and the way you distribute throughout your website will definitely impact your search engine rankings. Smart webmasters will “no-follow” links to low value pages (such as “contact us”) and make sure that the most valuable pages are not only linked from the home page but get multiple links from deeper in the website as well. #7 includes having a site map with relevant link text.
8) Internal Link Text. Unlike #4, I’m not sure you can overdo internal link text (or at least the threshold is quite high). Internal link text should include the keywords you are trying to work for (as opposed to “click here”, “link”, etc).
9) Inbound Link Volume. Your site might get lots of irrelevant, non-authoritative inbound links from scraper sites…there is value here, though the value is a lot lower than it used to be and a lot less than most folks think.
10) Website / Web Page “Freshness”. When was the last time you updated your web page? Freshness is a factor for rankings…you can find examples of stale pages ranking well, but it is always a good idea to keep your pages current and up to date. If you don’t want to update your content often, run a PHP/ASP feed on your pages and the pages will stay fresh automatically.
I’m waiting on my fellow Board Members to chime in with their picks…
Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon’s Search Engine Marketing Association.