Things that search engines look for

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France
47° 34' 54.6528" N, 2° 39' 31.2876" E

People in other professions perhaps wouldn’t put up with this, but we should remember that this is how it has to be: the day someone knew what Google, for example, was really looking for, would be a day when the rest of us would be at a disadvantage!

People in other professions perhaps wouldn’t put up with this, but we should remember that this is how it has to be: the day someone knew what Google, for example, was really looking for, would be a day when the rest of us would be at a disadvantage!

So in this spirit of ‘informed ignorance’, here’s a list of what we think we know about the deep desires of search engines. Some of this relates to Google, some of it doesn’t. Some of it is in our control (how a page is written and put together), some of it is way beyond our control (the content of sites that link to our own).

(I’m deliberately not ranking or weighting these factors. I’m not sure than any two consecutive attempts to do this would yield the same result.)

A. ‘On-page’ keyword factors

  • keyword use in title tag
  • keyword use in body text
  • relationship of body text content to keywords
  • keyword use in h1 tag
  • keyword use in domain name
  • keyword use in page url
  • keyword use in h2, h3, h(x) tags
  • keyword use in alt tags and image titles
  • keyword use in bold/strong tags
  • keyword use in meta description tag

B. Other ‘on-page’ factors

  • html validation of document (to W3C standards)
  • link popularity within the site’s internal link structure
  • quality/relevance of links to external sites/pages
  • age of document
  • quality of the document content (as measured algorithmically)
  • organization/hierarchy of document flow (i.e. broad > narrow)
  • number of trailing slashes (/) in url

C. ‘Off-page’ site/domain factors

  • global link popularity of site
  • age of site
  • topical relevance of inbound links to site
  • link popularity of site in topical community
  • rate of new inbound links to site
  • relevance of site’s primary subject matter to query
  • historical performance of site as measured by time spent on page, clickthroughs from SERPs, direct visits, bookmarks, etc.
  • manual authority/weight given to site by Google
  • TLD extension of site (edu, gov, us, ca, com, etc)
  • rate of new pages added to site
  • number of queries for site/domain over time
  • verification of site with Google Webmaster Central

D. ‘Off-page’ inbound link factors

  • anchor text of inbound link
  • global link popularity of linking site
  • topical relationship of linking page
  • link popularity of site in topical community
  • age of link
  • topical relationship of linking site
  • internal link popularity of linking page
  • temporal link attributes (when in time the link was created/updated)
  • domain extension of linking site
  • pagerank (as measured by the Google toolbar) of linking page

E. Miscellaneous, negative crawling/ranking factors

  • server is often inaccessible to bots
  • content very similar or duplicate of existing content in the index
  • external links to low quality/spam sites
  • duplicate title/meta tags on many pages
  • overuse of targeted keywords (stuffing/spamming)
  • participation in link schemes or actively selling links
  • very slow server response times
  • inbound links from spam sites
  • low levels of visitors to the site (measured via toolbar, clicks in SERPs, etc.)

So which of these factors are under your (or your website developer’s) control? A and B are 100% (save for the quality and age of the content). A couple of C factors are too. In D, you have limited control over a couple of factors, but you should be able to control most of E.

As a minimum, you should be asking your website developer to attend to the A and B factors - although the quality and age of the content is quite properly down to you.