SEOmoz has released its 2009 Search Engine ranking factors – a conglomeration of the opinions of a number of professional search marketers. (Take it all with a pinch of salt of course, would you give everyone the answers if you knew them?)
Of course, SEO is a mix of science and art – you guess a bit, you test a bit, you combine and see how things come out. No one except the magicians at the search engine algorithm departments know exactly how your site is ranked, but these experts all gave their opinions and there were a few things they agreed on…
The number 1 most important thing for ranking, according to 73% of those surveyed, was external links with keyword anchor text .
Most of the top 5 were link related, with Title tag being the only on-site factor listed.
The worst things for SEO, included link farming, cloaking and having a lot of downtime for your website.
In fact, it seems that the 2009 survey listed a lot of the same things as the 2007 survey, indicating that the ‘dynamic’ world of SEO isn’t changing as much or as fast as we sometimes think.
Nobody seemed to be going out on a limb with their opinions or predictions. In particular, I found it really strange that for the question:
Which of the following statements best represents your opinion of how Google will treat links as part of their ranking algorithm over the next 5 years?
Nobody at all chose the answer
Links will become largely obsolete, much the way keyword stuffing fell by the wayside in the late 1990’s.
The most popular answer – that the importance will decline, but they will remain powerful , seems to make sense, but I just find it odd that in a ‘cutting edge’ profession like internet marketing, no one could conceive that links would become obsolete.
No one chose it because the current idea of ‘recommendation’ and PageRank makes so much sense. But have we become so insititutionalised by this system that we can’t imagine another way? Will we be blindsided by Google if/when they come up with an alternative?
With link farming, link buying and the proliferation of sites which are practically pointless except in the business of placing links on them, I can definitely imagine a clean-up of some kind coming along. Perhaps there will be umbrella groups of sites, or you will need sponsorship, or you will need authentication, or you will have to BUY your way in (would you put this past Google?).
Would Google rule out the possibility of getting rid of links? I wouldn’t think they would rule out anything, and so thats why I don’t like to either.
Alice laughed: "There’s no use trying," she said; "one can’t believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven’t had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Alice in Wonderland.