Working the SEO Mojo

My title is an oxymoron, but I couldn’t resist because it sounded kinda cool and it rhymes (double bonus!). In actuality, there are no magical spells or powers (mojo) involved with SEO, just a lot of hard work and a willingness to continually learn and test the methods. On Monday, SEOMoz witchunveiled 2009’s Search Engine Ranking Factors which is an absolute must read for anyone who is serious about search engine optimization.

SEOMoz surveyed 100 top SEO experts in the field and aggregated their responses regarding how they believe search engines rank documents. The survey covers a lot of information, but I am going to highlight a few of the points that I found interesting.

Links, Links, Links

It’s all about the links, folks. There were many different categories of ranking factors in the survey, but the first three of the overall top 5 ranking factors are about having links on other websites linking back to your site.

Keyword focused anchor text from external links, external link popularity, and diversity of link sources are the most important elements in whether or not a site ranks well in a search engine, according to these experts. I know that having these links are very important, but it really hit home when I saw these results. Time to work harder on my link building campaigns. And if you don’t have one or have been neglecting yours for awhile, you might want to do the same.

Title Tag

It’s no surprise that the title tag is at the top of the list as the most important factor in on-page keyword specific elements. However, the experts surveyed deemed that “keyword use anywhere in the title tag” was slightly more important than “keyword use as the first words of the title tag”. It has been my practice to put the most important words first, as they were given slightly more weight than the rest of the title. I’ll definitely be putting this to the test to see if keyword order in the title tag really doesn’t make a difference.

Meta Description Tag

Another surprise for me was that only 19% of the respondents felt it was important to use keywords in the meta description tag. Wow! I always use the keywords of a page in the description tag, because tweaks that I have made to these tags in the past have always seemed to help in terms of positioning. And since the description tag is most often used as the snippet describing the web page in the SERPs, I want to reinforce to the searcher that this page is what they are looking for in relation to their query. Even if it is thought that using keywords in the description tag isn’t important in terms of ranking, it still helps in click-through.

Length of Domain Registration

I always thought that “the older, the better” in terms of the length of time your domain has been registered really helped when it came to search engine ranking, as this instilled a sense of trust and showed the search engines that you’re not a spammy site and that you are hear to stay. However, only 37% of the SEO professionals saw this as an important site-wide search engine ranking factor. I didn’t think that this was the most important factor, but thought it might rank a bit higher than that. But this doesn’t mean you should ditch your current domain in favor of something else, as this would be detrimental to all the current work you’ve put into your site. Stick with what you’ve got.

Social Media Factors

It was made extremely clear that the experts in the SEO field who took the survey do not think that social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace that have information about a web page or domain are currently important from a search engine ranking standpoint. However, when asked “Which of the following statements best represents your opinion of how Google will treat links as part of their ranking algorithm over the next 5 years?”, almost half of them believed that links will decline in importance as social data, usage graphs, and other sources replace them. I feel that social media strategies should already be supplementing your SEO efforts, as social signals are only going to increase in importance and integrate into search as time goes on.

What do you think?

If you haven’t checked out the 2009 Ranking Factors Survey for yourself, I highly suggest you do so. Did anything come as a surprise to you? Or if all this stuff seems confusing and you’re interested in knowing what some of the SEO best practices are, register for my upcoming webinar.