There is quite a bit of contention regarding exactly what factors influence a site’s ranking in various search engines as well as the “weight” of each of these factors. This arises from the personal interpretation of search engine optimizers, the secrecy surrounding the various search engine companies’ methods and the constant evolution of those methods. Some of this is understandable; there is a vigorous industry of “Black Hat” search engine optimizers who spend considerable time and effort identifying way to take advantage of the search engine’s methods and employ those anomolies to articially provide a temporary but often substantial boost to the ranks of their clients (at a considerable “maintenance” fee).
All that debate aside, the following list of factors that are generally accepted as having the highest impact on SEO. Some may quibble about the order of importance, but most reputable, legitimate SEO specialists will probably agree on the list as a whole.
Simple put this is the “name” and brief description of your page. While not visible in the content of the page itself, you can see it across the very top portion of your web browser and, more importantly, it is shown prominently by most Search Engines in their search results page. It is vital that your Title tag contain three elements… your name/brand, a brief/concise description and the keywords of you wish to be affiliated with.
Inbound Link Text
Hopefully, everyone has an inkling that the more external links pointed at your site, the more relevant most Search Engines consider your site/page. What is often overlooked is how those links are presented. Advanced Search Engines use the LINKED TEXT to add context and relevance to those inbound links. Put simply… “click here” is very bad, while “Folding Two Child Baby Strollers” would be much better.
Global Link Popularity
This is sheer link popularity. While other factors examine the quality of links to your site/page, GLP examines the quantity. It is generally believed that Search Engines carefully balance GLP with other factors to prevent “link farms” from unduly influencing a page/site’s ranking.
Literally, the length of time a site has been online and, more importantly, visible to the Search Engine. Web sites have a very fast life cycle and Site Age appears to be a way for Search Engines to identify those sites that have staying power. The break-even point appears to be 1-2 years, which might explain why some people become frustrated with slow ranking results after just a few weeks and months. It is also important that Site Age is not about static content. A site that is 5 years old, but never grows or updates content isn’t a positive influence.
Internal Link Structure
This refers to the number and quality of links to a page/site from within the site itself. It is meant to identify good cross-referencing and navigation within a site. While not as powerful as quality external links, Internal Link Structure can have a subtantial cumulative effect as a site grows larger and more complicated. It should be used carefully, however, as some Search Engines frown upon “link spamming” (packing large numbers of links into a small or irrelevant amount of content) from a parent site.
Topical Linking Relevance
Very similar to Inbound Link Text, this factor examines the nature of the page/site from which links to your site originate. Simply put, even if an inbound link contains relevant text, if it originates from a page that has little or nothing to do with the keywords/topics of your site, it will carry less weight than pages that are similar topically. For example: Links about Laptop Repair from Dell are going to count much more than links about Laptop Repair from a PetSmart.
Inbound Link Site Popularity
Closely related to Topical Linking Relevance, this factor simply measures the sheer popularity of the site linking to your page/site, with less relevance to its topicality. A site that is highly ranked/visited that links to your site/page will have more impact that a lower ranking linker. This is not to say that you should only target high ranking pages, but that you should realize that that, just like for people, not all references are created equal.
Keyword Use in Content
Keywords, those vital terms that searchers are using to find your site. The identification and choice of keywords is almost a science to itself and probably deserves a long examination in its own right, but sufficit it to say that their appearance in the actual, human readable content of your site is vital. The biggest mistakes here are absence of keywords, too little content, weak keywords (chosen from client mindset rather than the searcher’s) and keyword stuffing (cramming obviously manipulative quantities of keywords into content in an attempt to fool search engines).