Recently a group of SEO marketing experts met to discuss the current ranking factors affecting search engine optimisation. They meet every couple of years, and this year the results of their discussion reveals much about how the current SEO factors stack up against each other, as well as revealing a good deal about what the future of SEO could look like in a couple of years’ time.

Of the many factors which affect search engine ranking, 9 main issues were selected, and these were ranked in order of their current importance. You can see in the diagram below how these factors compared. It is interesting to note that the top three factors which are considered by the experts to be the most critical in 2011 include page level metrics, domain level link authority and page level keyword usage. Let’s just cover those three areas to make absolutely sure we’re clear on what those are, and how best to integrate them into your search engine optimisation strategy.

Page Level Metrics

This refers to the number of unique, quality domains which include a link to your site pages. This can be broken down further by considering those domains which link to yours (least important), those domains which include your keyword or keywords as part of their anchor link to your site (moderate importance) and those domains which include a link to your site which includes the exact keyword in the anchor text.

Of course, it should also be understood that by ‘least’ and ‘moderate’ importance, this is entirely relative, and having any link back to your site from a unique, quality domain will be hugely beneficial to your SEO campaign.

But of course it’s also vital that the two words ‘unique’ and ‘quality’ are also considered. Submitting an SEO article to 1,000 mediocre article directories will do far less than submitting quality, original content to just a handful of the highest ranking directories. It’s also better to have links spread across a number of different domains, rather than all piled into one place.

Domain Level Link Authority

This includes the number of unique domains which link to the root domain of your website, as well as the basic importance of those domains themselves. Various factors will be used to influence this, from the number of quality external links which link to that domain, aspects such as MozRank, PageRank and such like, as well as many other factors. Crucially you should appreciate that this again is about choosing quality. Spending time generating links, paid or otherwise, from poor quality domains or link farms will do little or nothing for your online marketing campaign. In fact such practices could very well now count against you since the latest Google Panda update.

Page Level Keyword Usage

It’s well known that including relevant keywords within each of the pages on your website is important, but it’s interesting to see that this approach makes it to third place out of the nine most influential factors. Specifically the search engine marketing experts agreed that this included making sure that the relevant keyword or keywords appear in the title tag, especially if the keyword was the first word of the title tag, and that the keyword or keyphrase should also appear in the anchor text of an internal link.

This is worth considering if at the moment you tend to rely on fancy graphical menus. Sometimes just having a plain text link is a better option, or at least having this as an alternative. Don’t forget also that it is essential to make sure that each of your web pages has a different, unique title tag, and it’s also very helpful if each web page focuses on a slightly different variations or aspects of your primary keyword or topic.

In one of our next blog posts we’ll be looking at some of the predictions made by the SEM experts as to what the future of online marketing may have in store for us over the next year or two… watch this space!

You can read the full report here; www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors