This infographic put together by Search Engine Land provides a great reference for the most important ranking factors for SEO which has been recently updated for 2012.
You can also view the large version online at http://searchengineland.com/download/seotable/SearchEngineLand-Periodic-Table-of-SEO-large.png
Quality content +3
Making sure that your pages have substantial quality content has become important following the Panda update that aimed to punish low quality content. A lot of sites make the mistake of having too little useful content on their pages. For example many eCommerce sites copy and paste the manufacturer’s product description for their own product pages. This is not unique content and search engines may not consider your content original enough to rank highly for the keywords associated with the product. It is much better to write your own product descriptions that are useful and interesting. You can also include a video review if you want to go the extra mile and this will help increase your visibility in search results due to the growth in universal search which highlights rich content like video.
Site Speed +1
Increased site speed doesn’t necessarily lead to a strong boost in rankings but there are several benefits to ensuring your pages load quickly. A fast load time will decrease bounce rate and usually leads to more page views and a better user experience. If you have a lot of images on your site, I’ve heard recommendations of using CSS sprites. You can also use a tool like SmushIt to reduce your image file size.
Paid links -3
Google is getting more aggressive at penalizing sites that show evidence of paid links. They made a statement earlier this year by removing several major blog networks from their index because they were selling links. iAcquire was recently removed from Google because they were outed by a blogger for attempting to buy links for their clients.
Crafting your content and page titles around your target customer’s common searches is still important. Google is improving it’s ability to perform semantic search, but for now it is still important to use the same keywords in your site copy that customers are searching for. Ubersuggest is a great tool that will suggest related keyword phrases based on data scraped from Google suggest.
Social shares +1
It is still not a huge factor although social media has become a major way people now share content. It does have a significant impact on personalized search results if one of your social connections has shared something, but it still seems to be much less significant overall compared to inbound links.
Link quality +3
In Danny Dover’s book Search Engine Optimization Secrets he talks about how almost any SEO issue can be solved by getting more quality links. Getting a lot of high quality links over time will improve your authority and result in higher rankings in most cases. Earning quality links to your site can be challenging and it requires creativity and hard work. Often times creating great content is not enough to earn links. You have to effectively promote that content to build links.
In the book, Outsmarting Google, the author suggests that Google dampens the amount of trust it has in a site based on how long it has been around. As more time passes, this dampening factor is reduced until it is removed completely after several years of established history. While this hypothesis has not been proven, having a long history appears to be important. One tactic that doesn’t seem to work is buying up expired domains and trying to revive the site with new content. Once the domain expires and transfers owners, it appears to lose all of its link juice and trust.
Charles Sipe is an SEO Specialist at Sparkplug Digital and enjoys helping companies with their SEO through content development and link building. If you have any questions, he can be reached at csipe84(at)gmail.com or on Twitter @charlessipe.