SEO Search Ranking Factors: The 2011 Survey

by on June 28, 2011

in Search Engine Optimization

SEO Compass: The 2011 SEOMoz Ranking Factors SurveySearch Engine Optimization is an inexact science. Since the ranking algorithms of the major search engines are closely held secrets, deciphering the primary components of the search puzzle is often dependent upon the experience of SEOs across the world. Therefore, industry heavy weight SEOMoz assembles a biennial survey of the biggest names in Search Engine Optimization to get their opinions on the factors that mean the most. Well, the 2011 version is out and in this post I’ll touch on the basics of the survey and point out several of the most interesting changes in the SEO ranking factors.

SEO Factor Brake Down

This year SEOMoz took the Search Ranking Factor Survey a step beyond by breaking down the factors into a variety of elements as well as evaluating statistic correlation. In short, this survey is about as exhaustive as one can get and provides substantial insight into what 132 of the world’s top SEOs think matters most in search engine algorithms. Here’s a bit more detail on how the survey is broken down.

Primary SEO Factors

As normal the SEOMoz survey focused on a wide range of ranking factors, but this year it was broken down into eight categories separated by the primary separation being domain level versus page level. Here’s a brief summary of each factor:

Domain Level

Keyword Usage – How Keywords Are Used in the Domain Name
Link Authority Features – External Linking Domains
Keyword Agnostic Features – Elements Not Related to Links or Keywords
Brand Metrics – Impact of Brand Mentions Across the Web

Page Level

Social Metrics – Third Party Metrics from Social Media Sources
Link Metrics – External Linking Metrics
Keyword Usage – Keyword Use in HTML Elements
Traffic Data – User and Usage Data About the Page
Keyword Agnostic Features – Elements Not Related to Links or Keywords

Ranking Correlation

In addition to performing the survey regarding the SEO Factors That Matter, SEOMoz also performed a correlation analysis (where possible) to determine the degree to which a SEO Factor could be related to that page’s search engine ranking. Therefore a significant correlation could be a strong predictor of rankings, but not necessarily the cause.

Quick & Dirty Summation

This survey is among the most respected informational sources on Search Engine Optimization and its findings are sure to be debated for some time. Regardless, the breadth and expertise of the contributors cannot be argued. Rather than diving into the minutia, let’s look at what are perhaps the biggest changes in ranking factors since the last survey in 2009.

Usage Data- Although evident for some time, search engines are now looking beyond the click to better understand whether a webpage satisfies the user’s need. Metrics like CTR (Click Through Rate) and Bounce Rate are only two examples used to assess the quality of a page.

Social Media - Interaction with content through social media is believed to be an important component in ranking. Moreover it also appears that it’s not simply the quantity of social media activity, but the authority of those participants.

Brand – The existence of a significant brand seems to help sites and pages in ranking well. Online brand mentions and citations among other things seem to support a website’s authority.

Increasing Importance of On-Page Content – Unique, high quality content has always been important but it’s especially important now. Ecommerce sites that use manufacturer descriptions and recycled content are now definitely at a disadvantage.

The SEOMoz survey provides an incredible amount of information, but these are some of the most significant changes from the 2009 report. Clearly, the search engines are looking for better ways to determine quality and these appear to be 2011’s vanguard of indicators.

What it Means for Smaller Business

The changes in SEO ranking factors should not concern those businesses that are actively pursuing optimization, since the basics still hold true. Consistent creation of unique content, creating connections with people and the active management of the online presence will provide businesses with a strong base from which to work. For those that do not actively pursue a SEO strategy, these changes offer an opportunity to hit the ground running to start an efficient campaign that can create a dramatic impact.

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