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SEO Ranking Factors – 2009



SEO Ranking Survey - 2009 Every two years, one of the top SEO resource sites,, surveys some of the industry’s best to find out what they feel are the most important factors to consider when attempting to improve your Web site’s rankings.

This year, more than 70 participants from around the world responded, with opinions on more than 100 search ranking factors.   For those a bit less geeky, I’ve provided some highlights, along with a geek-to-english translation.

Top Five Ranking Factors

These are the five best things you can do to improve your search rankings:

  1. Anchor Text from External Links73% very high importance
    According to these SEOs, the most important thing you can do to achieve higher rankings is to ensure your incoming links use targeted anchor text.
    If you’re not sure what anchor text is, look at the analytics glossary.
  2. Keyword Use in Title Tag66% very high importance
    Includingyour keywords in your title – and not in a spammy way – is critically important.  Remember that not only do the search engines use it, your prospective readers see this in the results pages.  If the word(s) they are looking for appear very early in the title, research has shown they are more likely to click on it.
  3. Raw Link Popularity64% high importance
    Link popularity is a measure of how many links there are pointing to a given page, the more there are the better.
  4. Diversity of Linking Domains64% high importance
    This measures how many different domains link to a given page.  It is far better to have 1 link each from 100 sites, than to have 10 links each from 10 sites.
  5. Keyword Use in Root Domain60% high importance
    This one becomes more difficult every day as more and more sites go live , and as more squatters buy domain names.  If you sell brown widgets in Boston, if at all possible, your best bet for a domain name (for SEO purposes) would be  Of course, for real estate that may be a bit difficult in some areas of the country.

Top 5 Negative Ranking Factors

These are the five things that can do the worst harm to your search rankings:

  1. Cloaking with Malicious Intent68% very high importance
    “Cloaking” means to use sneaky, geeky methods to show the search-bots something other than what you show your readers.  More specifically, you try to hide something from the engines.
  2. Link Acquisition from Link Brokers66% very high importance
    That’s fancy-speak for “buying links from pages that rank well”.  Buying links is bad – don’t do it.
  3. Cloaking by User Agent51% moderate importance
    This is a variation on #1 above.  In this case, you show the search-bot what you think the engines will interpret as better content.
  4. Frequent Server Downtime51% moderate importance
    Having a site that is down a lot could mean a couple of different things – you have a bad host, or worse – your hosts keep shutting you down for having bad sites.  In either case, Google does not want to waste their users time by sending them to pages that have a good chance of being down.
  5. Linking Out to Spam48% moderate importance
    Mom always used to tell me “People will judge you by the crowd you run with.”  When it comes to search engines, she is right.
    Links from your site are treated as votes of confidence from you.  If you point to sites that are bad, Google will assume you are also bad.

There you have it – the top best and worst things you can do to affect your search rankings, as voted on by some of the world’s best Search Engine Optimizers.  In my opinion, the best part of this is that none of the five “good” things require any technical ability, just time and dedication.  So, without a huge amount of work, or money, you can make some serious progress if you concentrate on these best practices.  Good luck, and let me know how it goes for you.

Jack Leblond is a SEO/SEM professional working for a large corporation full time in Austin, TX. He is not a Realtor, he is our in-house SEO expert. Jack is the Director of Internet Strategy and Operations for TG ( In addition to managing the team that develops and maintains the company's multiple Web sites, he focuses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), e-marketing and Social Media. Jack's background ranges from Submarine Sonar Technician/Instructor for the United States Navy, technical writer, pioneer in internet/intranet creation for McGraw-Hill and Times Mirror Higher Education, former Adjunct Professor for two Universities teaching web-related courses, has served as a city council member and co-founded Net-Smart, a web design and hosting company, where he managed networks and oversaw the development of hundreds of Web sites. As a free-lance SEO consultant, Jack performs SEO Site Audits for small/medium businesses that want their web sites to perform better in the search engine listings.

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  1. Fred Romano

    August 28, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Jack, I always look forward to reading your posts. They help to educate and remind us of important SEO techniques we need and should be focused on. The Internet is not going away, and Realtors need to embrace it, I know I do. My business is run completely online.

  2. Jack Leblond

    August 28, 2009 at 10:12 am

    @Fred – You’ve made my morning. Sometimes I wonder if people really want to read this geek stuff here on AG

  3. Joe Loomer

    August 28, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Jack – believe me we certainly do want to read this content on AG – and MORE OF IT!

    There are those old folks out there (myself included) who are novices and apprentice SEO practitioners. We need to know what to stop doing just as much as we need to know what to do. You let us know that.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  4. Matt Stigliano

    August 28, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Jack – Oh, we do want it and we do read it. Sometimes I feel like a dolt reading your fancy computer-ese, but I know that if I apply some of it, I’ll be better off tomorrow. I saw @LaniAR mention it on Twitter and knew it had to be your article, so I flew on over here to read.

    Thanks for this one. SEO is such a mystical science to most of us. My goal is try to work it in, but never try too hard. I find once I try too hard, it comes of as “San Antonio real estate agent serving all of your San Antonio real estate needs in San Antonio.”

  5. Aria Kilpatrick - Austin TX

    August 28, 2009 at 11:12 am

    I’m glad to see that there are negative factors for SEO to try to weed out the junk now. Of course, a search for “Austin Real Estate” still throws a surprisingly low quality result… maybe 2 of 10 sites per page are quality websites. I’ve seen Google become less and less useful as clone sites and “search” sites become more and more popular to try to make a buck, and my search results become more and more saturated with them.

    I hope Google & the other search engines can win the war against spam for everyone’s sake!

  6. Matt Stigliano

    August 28, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Aria – Great point about the garbage that is output by search engines at times. Some keywords are so full of garbage it’s a wonder anyone types them.

  7. Missy Caulk

    August 28, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Good, I am tired of my content being stolen by sblogs.

  8. Barry Cunningham

    August 30, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    It’s a shame that probably 90% or more of those in the real estate business have no idea what you just wrote…which at the same time is totally terrific for the 10% or so who are willing to actually do something. If agents don’t get with it the chasm between those who have a substantial optimized presence and those who don’t will widen to the point that they will NEVER catch up.

  9. Brad Officer

    August 31, 2009 at 7:47 am

    In our industry there is a very noticeable divide happening right now. Those that understand what you just wrote and those that didn’t even bother to read it.

    Happy to say I’m in our minority and it’s paying off.

  10. Atlanta Real Estate

    August 31, 2009 at 5:58 pm


    Thanks for the update and summary. None of it is surprising or new, but this reinforces all the latest thinking and it’s nice to see it “officially.”

    “Keyword Use in Root Domain” is interesting because this one has been debated quite a bit in the past.

    Personally, I always thought it mattered quite a bit. Enough to purchase a URL at an auction and change a site URL once…ouch to both.

    Anyway, great article. Keep this stuff coming.


  11. Manitowoc Real Estate

    September 1, 2009 at 1:12 am

    Great seo article. I must say that in seo there is no silver bullet. A domain name in itself is not the key. For example. is proof in the Austin Real Estate market that seo is more than just a ton of links and keyword stuffing.

  12. sisena

    September 1, 2009 at 4:58 am

    Hi Jack,

    Great article.. ..This article has portrayed both the positive ranking factor and negative ranking factors of SEO, which is very important and helpful..I think Keyword used in Alt tags and Image titles,H1 tag,Body Text,in bold /strong tags and Meta description tag are also the important SEO factors.

    Thanks for the information

  13. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 1, 2009 at 9:50 am

    It’s not KW stuffing or URLs for sure. But it IS links.

    This one has 245 backlinks showing in Google, which is huge.

    It has 31,285 backlinks showing in Yahoo. 27,139 from outside it’s own domain.

    The proverbial (and actual) TON of links!



  14. Malisa Spivey

    September 9, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    This is great information, thank you for sharing.

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Business Finance

Will China’s new digital currency really compete with the US Dollar?

(BUSINESS FINANCE) It isn’t the first time that China has tried to compete with the dollar, but the release of a digital currency has lead some economists to raise red flags.



Man holding phone in one hand and credit card in other hand, handling digital currency.

For decades the US has been the world standard for foreign trade. As of 2019, 88% of all trades were being backed by that almighty dollar, making it the backbone of the world economy. However, China may be sneaking in something new for digital currency. 

In the last few months, over 100k people were “airdropped” cold hard digital currency. This currency came from People’s Bank of China (PBOC), who has created a digital manifestation of the Chinese yuan. This is planned to run concurrently with its paper and coin playmates. Upon initial inspection, they resemble the same structure as Bitcoin and Ethereum. But there’s a major difference here: The Chinese government is the one fronting the money.

The suspected plan behind this is that the government plans to tightly control the value of the digital yuan, which they are known to do with the paper one as well. This would create a unique item within the world of cryptocurrency. Personally, I don’t think that any of this is going to go anywhere soon. Too many people still need hard currency but it does open up a unique aspect of currency that has only just started since debit and credit cards. It gives the government the ability to spy on its cryptocurrency users. Being able to monitor transaction flows can reveal things like tax evasion and spending habits. There is even the possibility of experimenting with expiring cash.

But how does this affect the US? There’s a method that has been used by Americans since WWII called dollar weaponization.  The exchange domination allows the US government to monitor how the dollars move across the border. Along with that monitoring they are actually able to freeze people out of global financial products as well. It’s a phenomenal amount of power to hold. 

The concern for economists is that the price fixing capabilities of this new currency as well as its backer being an entire countries government could affect everything about the global financial system. Only time will tell how true that turns out to be.

There are a number of possibilities that could come up honestly and they could fall flat on their face unless they put their entire monetary worth behind it. Only time will tell but some economists are already calling for DigiDollars from the American government. Another step into the future.

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Social Media

New Pinterest code of conduct pushes for mindful posting

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media sites have struggled with harmful content, but Pinterest is using their new code of conduct to encourage better, not just reprimands.



Pinterest icon on phone with 2 notifications, indicating new code of conduct.

It appears that at least one social media site has made a decision on how to move forward with the basis of their platform. Pinterest has created a brand-new code of conduct for their users. Giving them a set of rules to follow which to some may be a little restricting, but I’m not mad about it. In a public statement, they told the world their message:

“We’re on a journey to build a globally inclusive platform where Pinners around the world can discover ideas that feel personalized, relevant, and reflective of who they are.”

The revamp of their system includes 3 separate changes revolving around the rules of the platform. All of them are complete with examples and full sets of rules. The list is summed up as:

  • Pinterest Creator Code
  • Pinterest Comment Moderation Tools
  • Pinterest Creator Fund

For the Creator Code, Pinterest had this to say: “The Creator Code is a mandatory set of guidelines that lives within our product intended to educate and build community around making inclusive and compassionate content”. The rules are as follows:

  • Be Kind
  • Check my Facts
  • Be aware of triggers
  • Practice Inclusion
  • Do no harm

The list of rules provides some details on the pop-up as well, with notes like “make sure content doesn’t insult,” “make sure information is accurate,” etc. The main goal of this ‘agreement’, according to Pinterest, is not to reprimand offending people but to practice a proactive and empowering social environment. Other social websites have been shoe-horned into reprimanding instead of being proactive against abuse, and it has been met with mixed results. Facebook itself is getting a great deal of flack about their new algorithm that picks out individual words and bans people for progressively longer periods without any form of context.

Comment Moderation is a new set of tools that Pinterest is hoping will encourage a more positive experience between users and content creators. It’s just like putting the carrot before the donkey to get him to move the cart.

  • Positivity Reminders
  • Moderation Tools
  • Featured Comments
  • New Spam Prevention Signals

Sticking to the positivity considerations here seems to be the goal. They seem to be focusing on reminding people to be good and encouraging them to stay that way. Again, proactive, not reactive.

The social platform’s last change is to create a Pinterest Creator Fund. Their aim is to provide training, create strategy consulting, and financial support. Pinterest has also stated that they are going to be aiming these funds specifically at underrepresented communities. They even claim to be committing themselves to a quota of 50% of their Creators. While I find this commendable, it also comes off a little heavy handed. I would personally wait to see how they go about this. If they are ignoring good and decent Creators based purely on them being in a represented group, then I would find this a bad use of their time. However, if they are actively going out and looking for underrepresented Creators while still bringing in good Creators that are in represented groups, then I’m all for this.

Being the change you want to see in the world is something I personally feel we should all strive towards. Whether or not you produced positive change depends on your own goals… so on and so forth. In my own opinion, Pinterest and their new code of conduct is creating a better positive experience here and striving to remind people to be better than they were with each post. It’s a bold move and ultimately could be a spectacular outcome. Only time will tell how their creators and users will respond. Best of luck to them.

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Tech News

Chatbots: Are they still useful, or ready to be retired?

(TECH NEWS) Chatbots have proven themselves to be equally problematic as they are helpful – is it time to let them go the way of the floppy disk?



Man texting chatbots leaning against a brick wall.

All chatbots must die. I’d like to say it was fun while it lasted, but was it really?

I understand the appeal, truly. It’s a well established 21st century business mantra for all the side hustlers and serial entrepreneurs out there: “Automation is the key to scaling.” If we can save time, labor, and therefore money by automating systems, that means we have more time to build our brands and sell our goods and services.

Automation makes sense in many ways, but not all automation tools were created equal. While many tools for automation are extremely effective and useful, chatbots have been problematic from the start. Tools for email marketing, social media, internal team communication, and project management are a few examples of automation that have helped many a startup or other small business kick things into high gear quickly, so that they can spend time wooing clients and raising capital. They definitely have their place in the world of business.

However promising or intriguing chatbots seemed when they were shiny and new, they have lost their luster. If we have seen any life lesson in 2020, it is that humans are uniquely adept at finding ways to make a mess of things.

The artificial intelligence of most chatbots has to be loaded, over time, into the system, by humans. We try to come up with every possible customer-business interaction to respond to with the aim of being helpful. However, language is dynamic, interactive, with near infinite combinations, not to mention dialects, misspellings, and slang.

It would take an unrealistic amount of time to be able to program a chatbot to compute, much less reply to, all possible interactions. If you don’t believe me, consider your voice-activated phone bot or autocorrect spelling. It doesn’t take a whole lot to run those trains off the rails, at least temporarily. There will always be someone trying to confuse the bots, to get a terse, funny, or nonsensical answer, too.

Chatbots can work well when you are asking straightforward questions about a single topic. Even then, they can fall short. A report by AI Multiple showed that some chatbots were manipulated into expressing agreement with racist, violent, or unpatriotic (to China, where they were created) ideas. Others, like CNN and WSJ, had problems helping people unsubscribe from their messages.

Funny, shocking, or simply unhelpful answers abound in the world of chatbot fails. People are bound to make it messy, either accidentally or on purpose.

In general, it feels like the time has come to put chatbots out to pasture. Here are some helpful questions from to help you decide when it’s worth keeping yours.

  1. Is the case simple enough to work on chatbot? Chatbots are good with direct and short statements and requests, generally. However, considering that Comcast’s research shows at least 1,700 ways to say “I want to pay my bill,” according to Netomi, the definition of “simple enough” is not so simple.
  2. Is your Natural Language Processor capable and sophisticated enough? Pre-scripted chatbots are often the ones to fail more quickly than chatbots built with an NLP. It will take a solid NLP to deal with the intricacies of conversational human language.
  3. Are your users in chat based environments? If so, then it could be useful, as you are meeting your customers where they are. Otherwise, if chatbots pop up whenever someone visits your website or Facebook page, it can really stress them out or turn them off.

I personally treat most chatbots like moles in a digital whack-a-mole game. The race is on to close every popup as quickly as possible, including chatbots. I understand that from time to time, in certain, clearly defined and specific scenarios, having a chatbot field the first few questions can help direct the customer to the correct person to resolve their problems or direct them to FAQs.

They are difficult to program within the expansiveness of the human mind and human language, though, and a lot of people find them terribly annoying. It’s time to move on.

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