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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.

Written By

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.



  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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