SEOmoz just released their biennial ranking factors 2009 report. Every two years they survey 100 of the top SEOs to gain insight on what they feel are the most important factors that go into ranking a website. I highly recommend checking out the report!
Anyways, this inspired me to give my two cents about what I felt were some of the main factors that went into good search engine rankings.
Overall I agree with the SEOmoz report. Here is just a high level view of the main factors I feel are the most important.
Domain Trust/Authority: The most important factor that goes into ranking sites is your domain trust. A website that has been around for 5-10 years will almost always be seen as a more authoritative site, if compared to a brand new site. A lot of people are under the impression that if you create a site with good architecture, unique content, some relevant links…that you will be able to surpass all of your competitors with ease. Keep in mind that domain trust is extremely important and that just because you have SEO’ed a site, that it will not necessary rank above sites that have been building trust with search engines for years.
Link Popularity: It is one thing for you to tell the search engines that you are a credible website, it is another thing for another website to say that you are credible. That is why inbound link acquisition is #2 on the list. Link building does tie directly into domain authority. Gaining links from websites that are relevant and have high domain trust will provide more value to your site, than a non-relevant directly link.
On-Page Optimization: Having good on-page optimization is still essential for ranking well in search engines. Some elements are more important than others. The most important aspect and has been for years is having your keywords in your title tag. Search engines still hold the title tag as the most important, however that is not to discredit the value of good site architecture, internal linking, keyword rich urls & anchor text, etc…
Fresh Content: Just because you added a few pages of new content to the site, that doesn’t necessary increase search rankings. Content development needs to be long term, not a one and done tactic. Blogs, forums, discussion boards, whitepapers, social content sharing, are all great ways of generating new content on your site. Most importantly though is that your content is newsworthy and interesting. If you just rewrite an article someone already wrote or write a piece of content just to try and get better rankings, you will not see the results you are hoping for. Fresh content needs to be interesting, create buzz, link worthy, and/or provides value to a certain industry or topic. This type of content is what search engines are looking for and will reward a site for producing this type of content.