SEOmoz Search Engine Ranking Factors Version 2

About a year and a half ago when I was first beginning to understand what search engines looked at when deciding where to rank web pages I came across the article Search Engine Ranking Factors on SEOmoz. In fact I think it was the article that led to my discovery of SEOmoz in general and the great resources on the site including one of the best blogs in the industry.

If you haven’t seen it before Rand gathered some heavyweights in the seo community and asked them to rank on a scale of 1 to 5 various search engine ranking factors. Along with the rankings were comments on why each was or wasn’t considered to be important. Reading the article a few times was a valuable learning experience for me and was perhaps one of the seminal moments in my seo education.

Yesterday SEOmoz released an improved version 2 of the list of ranking factors. The link above takes you to version 2. This time around the number of contributors has grown from 12 to 35 while the list of factors has been reduced to 55 from the original 100, though quite a few of the 55 really encompass more than one specific factor for ranking. Also this time around the focus is on Google instead of all the major search engines. Rand explains the changes in more depth in his latest blog post.

One of the nice additions in the new version is the summary information at the top. For example here’s the list of the top 10 positive factors.

  1. Keyword Use in Title Tag
  2. Global Link Popularity of Site
  3. Anchor Text of Inbound Link
  4. Link Popularity within the Site’s Internal Link Structure
  5. Age of Site
  6. Topical Relevance of Inbound Links To Site
  7. Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community
  8. Server is Often Inaccessible to Bots
  9. Keyword Use in Body Text
  10. Global Link Popularity of Linking Site

It’s interesting that after all this time and all the usual focus on links that many community leaders still give the most importance to keywords in your title tag.

The summary information also includes the top 5 negative factors and one of the nice touches this time around was a bit of statistical analysis so each factor could be looked at in terms of the agreement among the contributors. The analysis led to being able to show a consensus score for each factor and a list of the top 10 most controversial factors.

Danny Sullivan, one of the 35 contributors gives his own review along with some addition thoughts in Ranking The SEO Ranking Factors at Search Engine Land.

If you’re new to seo and have never encountered the list I highly recommend taking a look. I promise you’ll want to bookmark the page and come back often. If you have seen the list before you’ll still want to come back for the new version. It’s an improvement over what was previously there and let’s face it search engines have changed since August of 2005 when the article first came out.

Rand will you be updating the Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization next?

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.


  1. This is a fascinating read that I have yet to finish. It’s especially interesting to see what people agree and don’t agree on.

    One thing I’ve been bad about, and got “yelled at” over in this article, is repeating the title across multiple pages. The logic these people suggest makes a great deal of sense, especially seeing how well that particular tag ranks among possible optimizations. But after looking through my logs, I want to point out this doesn’t seem to be something you get penalized for … more something you should take advantage of.

    White Horse Falls campground is about the least competitive phrase you could imagine, but people are searching for it, and this is showing up in Awstats as part of this month’s top ten. I just tried the query, and my site ranks first and second for the term, showing two pages with identical titles, from the same campground. I’m planning to reword one of the titles to diversify a little, but it seems like dupe titles is in a whole different ballpark from actual spam.

  2. It is a great read Forrest. The whole SEOmoz site is filled with very useful resources and if you’re not reading it you should definitely check it out.

    Unique titles are better and I think the reason you’re seeing the results you are is because the phrase is uncompetitive. If you put quotes around the phrase for an exact search you’ll see only you and one other site are using that phrase. You wouldn’t see the same thing if the phrase was competitive. What might happen in that case is you’d be competing against yourself in a sense.

    You’re right that this isn’t a penalty thing. It is more about taking advantage of the emphasis placed on page titles. Most things seo related aren’t about penalties. It’s just that it can be so hard to rank for certain phrases that you want to make sure you do what you can.

  3. I don’t know why I’m so hung up on the idea that you can be penalized for honest mistakes … I must have got some bad SEO advice initially.

    ( For the record, I’m glad the phrase isn’t very competitive, it’s a beautiful place, and while there are five camp sites, we were there most of a week, and had the place to ourselves. I wouldn’t want to ruin the solace you can find there, and in a lot of other places. )

  4. I think you can get penalized for some things, but not for most honest mistakes. Think of it in the sense that most people don’t even realize what half of this stuff means or that it even exists. I think you have to really do something manipulative to be penalized in most cases.

    I know places like that myself. I’m always torn about telling anyone about them. Part of me wants to share, but I know that the more popular some of those places get the less special they are.

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