A while back I wrote about on-site SEO tactics. In that piece, I promised to continue the exploration of search engine optimization with a solid look at off-site SEO and how these factors impact search optimization. By search optimization, I mean the position of your web site in the major search engines on a specific keyword phrase. Well, the time has come for us to dive into this often controversial topic and see what we can learn.
The first point is to recognize the relative importance of off-site tactics. There is wide agreement that the number and quality of links to your site is the single more important factor in your search optimization strategy. After all, it is a publicly stated tenant at Google that a link is a vote. Therefore, it should not be surprising that their process for determining what web sites to show (often called their algorithm or rank calculation) is built around this notion. And to be clear, this entry is in no way an attempt to reverse engineer what's happening at Google. Rather, I am simply trying to summarize what the leading SEO folks are saying about what factors are most important for search optimization.
And after spending quite a bit of time looking around, one of the best sources I found was at SEOmoz. Here is what they came up with after completing an extensive survey of experts in the search optimization field:
1) Keyword use in the Title tag
2) Anchor text of inbound links
3) Global link popularity of linking site
4) The age of your site
5) Linking within your site (in-site linking)
6) Relevance of inbound links to your site
7) Link popularity of site in specific topic
8) Keyword use in the body of the page
9) Global link popularity linking site
10) Topical relationship of linking site
Again. This list was developed by polling huge number of experts in search optimization to try and develop a consensus of what off-site tactics are simply most important for ranking. But remember, this is not science. These are opinions. And when you read through some of the comments you can clearly see how funny the results can sometimes be. There is one story of how a site went from ranking 419 to 1 in Google based on a single link changing. There is another about a site that got to page 1 rankings with onsite links only. To be sure, search optimization is a really complicated thing. As such, the calculations that are made by the major search engines are likely to remain somewhat mysterious.
Also keep in mind that there are about 45 million active web sites currently (I think - citation needed). I also read that the average number of pages per site is like 1,500. If each page has an average of 4 outbound links (that's a pure guesstimate), you can do the math to determine how many links are out there. It's in the billions for sure. And somehow you wanted to come here and read how simple search optimization would be? Fat chance. But at least you can follow the top 10 list above to make certain that your off-site search optimization and link building strategies are focused correctly.