I just sat through a session here at SMX Advanced titled "SEO Ranking Factors for 2009", which was led by a couple of industry heavyweights: Rand Fishkin (CEO of SEOMoz), Laura Lippay (Director of Technical Marketing at Yahoo), Marty Weintraub (President of aimClear) and moderated by none other than Danny Sullivan.

Rand started off the presentation by showing us some very interesting, yet not too surprising, survey results. SEOMoz sent out a survey to 100 industry experts, 70 of whom responded. The data suggested that not much has changed w/ respect to on-page ranking factors and their correlation to high-ranking websites. These data points are NOT to suggest that these factors alone are the sole cause of good rankings; these data simply show that high ranking sites have a certain correlation to the factors in the survey. Below is a summary of some of the more interesting data points.

  • Very high correlation of the targeted keywords appearing in the url string – This was voted as the number one item (of on-page factors) for high ranking sites. It’s much better to have keywords in the url than in the text of the page.
  • Keywords in the title tag have a high correlation. Also, having the targeted keyword as the first words of the title tag have a high correlation.
  • Images w/ alt text have a high correlation to high ranking sites.
  • The META Keywords tag has a very low correlation to high ranking sites. This means that most people don’t feel this tag is important and is largely ignored by the search engines.
  • The number of domains linking to a site is more important than the quantity of links.  It’s great to have 10,000 links, but if 9,500 of those are from the same site, then it’s nearly pointless and doesn’t affect the rankings. It’s better to have 500 links all from different domains.
  • Subdomains are likely not inheriting all of the ranking factors of the root domain….HOWEVER, there is evidence that subdomains are not completely separated and DO inherit some of the root domain’s ranking factors.
  • Links will continue to be the most important factor of ranking. But, links will continue to decline in importance in favor of more social channels, social buzz, usage data, and user generated content.

Rand also stated that "Google is out to please its users, not destroy SEOs (and the sites they work on)." As Rand was stating this, Matt Cutts was nodding his head in the affirmative. What does this mean?  Well, it means if you build a site that is relevant and useful to your target audience, that generates a natural following and buzz, then you will be rewarded. Easier said than done, right?? 🙂

After Rand spoke, we were treated to a very lively, and entertaining presentation by Marty Weintraub. If you’ve never seen Marty speak, then it’s definitely an experience worth my recommendation. Marty talked a lot about how to evaluate which ranking factors ARE really important vs. just taking the advice of others. He discussed ways to test all of your sites by developing spreadsheets of data points. This seemed to be a somewhat cumbersome process, but definitely valuable if you can afford to dedicate the time to it.

Laura Lippay from Yahoo talked last and really harped on the fact that Yahoo is looking for sites that generate social buzz….sites that have content that goes viral are the sites that will be rewarded. She stated that "the more you have of these (social buzz and viral content), the less you’ll need of technical seo (on-page factors)". In that same breath she talked about the fact that TECHNICAL SEO ISN’T OPTIONAL NOWADAYS….IT’S MANDATORY FOR ANY SITE THAT WANTS TO RANK WELL!!!!  However, technical SEO alone is not enough…you have to offer a great product and generate natural buzz.

Laura also made an interesting point: "SEO is not a band-aid for a run-of-the-mill product".  I thought this was very insightful…clients come to us all the time looking for SEO to turn their business around, yet they don’t have a great product or an innovative idea for us to build upon.  We can build a site that shows their product in a different light, but that requires much more than just your standard SEO campaign…it requires more than the SEO basics.  

Overall this was a really good session and eye-opening in many ways. Please feel free to shoot me any questions.


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Bob • 9 years ago

Matt, Very helpful information. Was there any discussion about the impact of having video on your website for better rankings? Bob

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Matt Walker • 9 years ago

Hi Bob,

No, there wasn't much discussion about video in this session. However, there was a lot of discussion about video throughout the conference. Videos are one of the hottest mediums in the online space. Google owns YouTube, so they are partial to YouTube's content and display it favorably in search results.  Also, YouTube is now the #2 search engine in the world (behind Google) w/ respect to the shear number of searches performed.

I imagine that if a relevant video is on a page/website, and it's tagged properly, then it should help the overall ranking of the site.


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