As you know, we follow SEOMoz fairly closely. We generally feel that they are a thought leader in the SEO space. As such, we try to stay up-to-date on what they are talking about. Secondarily, we often get questions from our SEO resellers about what is HOT in the SEO industry. Another reason to pay attention and stay on top of this stuff. If you are an SEO reseller, you should be familiar even if you don't deliver SEO services.
SEOMoz has released another of their surveys of leading SEO's. We love these. They offer meta-data about what the SEO community is thinking, at the aggregate level. It is a wonderful way to validate your thinking about SEO as well as dispel some myths. Anyone who is serious about search engine optimization, including our SEO resellers who face customer questions every day, should take a look.
So what were the highlights for me from the most recent SEO factors survey? Nothing too earth shattering. I saw many of the same items listed, for both on-site SEO and off-site SEO, as I did the last time around. The way I read these results is to look for those ranking factors that have the highest agreement among the search engine optimization community. I figure that there is probably truth in the averages when you ask a few hundred of the leading SEO thinkers. I tend not to make conclusions about items that don't have strong agreement or are not ranked as too important. The SEO services business is confusing enough as it is - why clutter the issue further.
So the big SEO factors are again:
Keyword-focused anchor text from external links. No surprise here. Rated as very high importance.
External Link Popularity. Again, not something new. Link building is about quality in addition to quantity. I don't know any SEO that doesn't inherently understand this. Authority is a well-discussed topic and this result reinforces it. See Link building: How many links do I need from a while ago for more.
Diversity of link sources. This is something we talk a ton about at Hubshout. One of the reasons we favor widgets and badges is the large domain name footprint it creates in your inbound link constellation. Go here for more on the impact of link diversity on rankings.
Domain trust. Again, something we've written about a bunch. This got a High Importance rating, and we agree. One day I went nuts on this topic, see my take on trust for your website.
Substantive, unique content. Do we need to say it again. Content is king. If you have not understood this by now, hearing again probably won't help. But there it is in the data for you. Very High Importance. We can't stress this enough. We believe it is at the heart of the search engine algorithms as a mechanism for sorting out source websites from those that simply regurgitate the words of others. See more here.
Keyword use in the title tag. Duh. This is now in every NetworkSolutions seminar and every blog post ever written on SEO.
Keyword use as the first words of the title tag. This has always been my preference. Browse my blog posts.
Keyword use in the root domain name. I stand corrected on this one. Jay once argued with me that it was important about 4 months ago. I didn't believe him and ran a few experiments myself. Turns out my data suggests it is quite important, especially for exact match searches. The SEOMoz data supports this thesis - and Jay's instincts. Sorry man. I'm not always right, but I'm always willing to admit when I am wrong.
From here, the importance rating drops from the 60% to the 40's. In my opinion you can probably stop here if you need to know the most critical stuff. If you want to make sure you do everything possible under the sun to attract search engine attention, you should read the entire list.