Well-known search engine optimisation tool provider SEOmoz has published the 2011 edition of the Search Engine Ranking Factors survey, which is about as good an idea as any of us are going to get when it comes to working out what Google wants from a good website. Nobody (including, I suspect, the people at Google) really knows the weighting of all the factors Google takes into account when ranking web pages, or how the factors interact with each other. However, lots of “industry experts” out there have gained some good insights, from working on many sites, so polling them is a good way to accumulate all that experience. But it’s a lot better than that. Not only have they combined the opinions of 132 SEO consultants around the world, they’ve correlated the data with over 10,000 results in Google.
One of the first findings is that while the links to a page (and indeed a site) are still the most important factor in a page’s ranking, the importance may have fallen a bit over the past couple of years. But don’t get carried away with this finding: it’s still the case that nothing counts more than external links. It’s just that other factors continue to rise in importance. And it’s the diversity of links, rather than the sheer quantity, which helps the most – so get links from as many different sites as you can.
On the page itself, the survey suggests that longer pages tend to fare better than short ones; long titles and URLs are bad; and getting those keywords in at the start of documents or tags is a great help. “Exact match domains”, where the domain name is the same as the search term (e.g “bluewidget.com”) are becoming less significant (thank goodness); and links from social media sites (especially Facebook shares, and links from authoritative Twitter accounts) seem to be increasingly important. Overall, there are are lot of interesting findings for those of us who deal in this sort of thing on a daily basis, but as a siteowner, I’d say the takeaways reinforce what you’ve known all along: write good length pages for real humans, and get plenty of external links to them, including from “social” sites.