Friday, August 17, 2007

The Top Ten Factors in Your Google Ranking

Over at SEOMoz, someone ran a survey of some of the best-respected SEO experts in the country. They asked them to say what are the most important factors in getting your page to rank well. The answers both surprised me, and didn’t surprise me.

What didn’t surprise me was the items on the list. These are the verses to the song that SEO experts (including myself) have been singing for a very long time. Remember: Second verse, same as the first?

What surprised me was the order that some of the items ranked. Things I had assumed were vital, were not as critical, and things that I had discounted as secondary turned out to be up at the top. But for your entertainment and benefit, here’s the list:

  1. Keyword Use in Title Tag – A major factor in ranking on a given keyword is to have that keyword (or phrase) in the title tag that appears at the top of the web browser when the site is live. This was one of the surprises. I’d known this was valuable, but not #1. So, I’ve gone back and adapted my site.
  1. Overall Inbound Link Popularity of Site – This refers to how many other sites, and how many other important sites link to you. You can’t go wrong with lots of sites linking to you. Your site appears to be valuable and authoritative. You do have to be careful just what other sites link to you and how, though.
  1. Inbound linking text (on other site) – When another site links to you, they put some text into the actual link. What they put there can have a big impact. If the words they use in the link refer to what your site is all about, that helps. If the link text has the keywords other people are searching for, even better. This is difficult to control, since it deals with what other people do. Still, sometimes when you request a link, you can send them the HTML code you’d like to have used for the link.
  1. Link Popularity within the Site's own Internal Link Structure – Pages within your site can link back and forth to each other. Having a text-based navigation bar and small text links on the bottom can help immensely, but more important is to include links to other internal pages within the body text of your other pages.
  1. Age of Site – This is simple. Old pages and older sites rank better. How can you fix that in your site? Simple. Outlast everyone else.
  1. Topical Relevance of Inbound Links To Site – Getting links from everyone and their dog’s websites is not the way to go. Getting inbound links from other relevant sites is the way to the top of the rankings. Pick and choose who you contact for linking. You want lots of links, but quality is more important than quantity.
  1. Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community – If you have a niche in your market, a smaller corner of the world, and you’re well-linked in that community, that will go a long way to establishing your authority in that community, and your ranking as well.
  1. Server Uptime – Is your site down when the spiders come out to re-index you? If it happens once in a while, that’s OK, since that’s kinda what happens to all servers. But if it’s consistent, you could get ranked lower, or even dropped from the database.
  1. Keyword Use in Body Text – OK, I was surprised how low on this list this item was. I’d always known that using the right keywords in the right places in your body text was important. And it is. It’s just not so critical as linking and these other factors.
  1. Global Link Popularity of Linking Site – It’s important to have your own site be popular and valued in the linking community. Also, if the sites that are linking to you are themselves well-linked, they benefit your ranking even more.

So, what does all this mean to you and me? Well, there are a few of these things that you can’t immediately impact. Or, at least, that are difficult to impact. There are, however several that you can do right away, like put keywords in your titles, and in your body text. You can easily set up your internal page links, and aggressively seek out links from within your own topical community on the ‘net. With some creativity, you can impact many of the other factors more and more as well.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

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