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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 cash still be king after COVID-19?

(EDITORIAL) Physical cash has been a preferred mode of payment for many, but will COVID-19 push us to a cashless future at an even faster rate?



No more Cash

Say goodbye to the almighty dollar, at least the paper version. Cashless is where it’s at, and COVID-19 is at least partially to thank–or blame, depending on your perspective.

Let’s face it, we were already headed that direction. Apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Apple Pay making cashless transactions painless enough that even stubborn luddites were beginning to migrate to these convenient payment methods. Then COVID-19 hit the world and suddenly, handling cash is a potential danger.

In 2020, the era of COVID-19, the thought of all the possible contaminants, traveling around on an old dollar bill makes most of us cringe. Keep your nasty sock money, boob money, and even your pocket money to yourself, sir or madam, because I’ll have none of it! Nobody knows or wants to know where your money has been. We like the idea of taking your money, sure, but not the idea of actually touching it…ewww, David. Just ewww.

There is no hard evidence that cash can transmit COVID-19 from one person to the other, but perception is a powerful agent for changing our behavior. It seems plausible, considering the alarming rate this awful disease is moving through the world. Nobody has proven it can’t move with money.

There was a time when cash was King. Everyone took cash; everyone preferred it. Of course, credit cards have been around forever, but they’ve always been just as problematic as they are convenient. Like GrubHub and similar third party food delivery apps, banks end up charging both the business and the consumer with credit cards. It’s a trap. Cash cut out the (greedy) middle man.

Plus, paying with a credit card could be a pain. Try paying a taxi driver with a credit card prior to, oh, about 2014 when Uber hit the scene big time. Most drivers refused to take cash, because credit cards take a percentage off the top. Enter rideshare companies like Uber. Then in walks Square. Next PayPal, Venmo, and Apple Pay enter the scene. Suddenly, cabbies would like you to know they now take alternate forms of payment, and with a smile.

It’s good in a way, but it may end up hurting small businesses even more in the long run. The harsh reality of this current moment is that you shouldn’t be handling cash. No less an authority than the CDC recommends contactless forms of payment whenever possible. However, those cabbies weren’t wrong.

The banking industry has been pushing for a reduced reliance on cash since the 1950s, when they came up with the idea of credit cards. It was a stroke of evil genius to come up with more ways to expedite our lifelong journey into crushing debt.

The financial titans are very, very good at what they do, at the expense of all the rest of us. The New York Times reported on the trend, noting:

“In Britain alone, retailers paid 1.3 billion pounds (about $1.7 billion) in third-party fees in 2018, up £70 million from the year before, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Payment and processing companies such as PayPal (whose stock is up about 55 percent this year) and Adyen, based in the Netherlands (up 72 percent), also stand to gain.”

All kinds of related banking-related industries stand to benefit as well. Maybe we’ll go back to spending physical cash one day, but I don’t think there’s any hurry. Fewer old grandpas are hiding their cash in their proverbial mattresses, and the younger, most tech-savvy generation seems perfectly content to use their smart phones for everything.

We get it. Convenience plus cleanliness is a sweet combo. I only wish it weren’t such a racket.

If this trend towards a cashless future continues, there may be a possibility that travelers in the future may not experience what it’s like to fumble with foreign currency, to smile and shrug and hand over a handful of bills because they have no idea how many baht, pesos, or rand those snacks are. They may not experience the realization that other countries’ bills come in different shapes and sizes, and they may not come home with the most affordable souvenirs (coins and bills).

We shall see what the future holds. Odds are, it may not be cash money, at least in the U.S. I hope the cashless movement makes room for everyone to participate without being penalized. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, people. We need to find more ways to ease the path for people, not callously profit off of them.

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Tech News

Google Maps will soon display traffic lights

(TECH NEWS) The addition of traffic light positions to Google Maps promises to boost navigation accuracy. Now you won’t run a light while looking at navigation.



google maps traffic lights

At over 150 million monthly users, Google Maps’ value is not to be understated. With a new feature that shows traffic light positions rolling out to select devices and locations soon, one can expect that trend to continue.

A common issue with navigation via an app–especially when navigating solo–is a lack of precision that can lead to confusion, missed exits, potentially dangerous driving, and, worst of all, spilled coffee. By adding the location of traffic lights, Google Maps will improve both landmark recognition and automated navigation by providing drivers with more accessible information.

It’s worth noting a couple of arguing points, the first of which is the assertion that Google is starting from scratch on this feature. They aren’t. In fact, Japan-based Google Maps users have had access to traffic light positioning for years; Google is simply expanding the feature to include a larger number of cities and population density.

In a similar vein, Google also isn’t the first company to implement an ease-of-access feature such as this. Apple Maps has incorporated traffic light recognition since the release of iOS 13, and while its use is hit-or-miss (my iPhone 11 fails to pick up most traffic lights in my admittedly rural town of residence), the option to have Siri direct users to the nearest traffic light rather than saying “in 213.7 feet, turn left” is helpful.

That said, Apple Maps is a service which sees a little over 20 million monthly users–a far cry from Google Maps’ monthly base. For Google, accuracy and speed of updates will be paramount for a successful, routinely helpful launch.

At the time of this writing, Google plans to release the traffic light feature in New York, San Francisco, and a few other United States cities. The feature will be available on Android devices–sorry for now, Apple users–and will ideally expand to encompass most of the country if the initial release is successful.

It will be interesting to see how comprehensive Google’s coverage is and how quick the company is to adjust positioning of lights as cities do what cities do best. For now, if you have an Android device, keep an eye on your Maps app–good things are coming your way.

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Business News

Plastic bags are making a comeback, thanks to COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) Plastic bags are back, whether you like it or not – at least for now.



Plastic bags

Single use plastic bags are rising like a phoenix from the ashes of illegality all over the country, from California to New York. Reusable bags are falling out of favor in an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. It’s a logical step: the less something is handled, generally, the safer it is going to be. And porous paper bags are thought to have a higher potential to spread the virus through contact.

It’s worth mentioning that single use plastic bags are considerably more
environmentally efficient to manufacture compared to paper, cloth, and reusable plastic bags. Per unit, they require very little material to make and are easily mass produced. It also goes without saying that they have a very short lifespan, after which they end up sitting in landfills, littering streets, or drifting through oceans.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to deny that single use plastics have the potential to be as dangerous to humans as COVID-19. Coronavirus is a very immediate existential threat to us in the United States, but the scale of the global crises that stem from the irresponsible consumption of cheap disposable goods, also cannot be overstated. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t going anywhere. (And did you know that it’s just one of many huge garbage patches around the world?)

So… what exactly are we going to do about the comeback of plastic bags? Because to be honest, I used to work in grocery retail, and it is difficult and often unrewarding. So, I wouldn’t exactly love handling potentially contaminated tote bags all day in the midst of a pandemic if I were still a supermarket employee. You couldn’t pay me enough to feel comfortable with that – forget minimum wage!

I used to have a plastic bag stuffed full of other plastic bags sitting in my kitchen, like American nesting dolls, before disposable plastics fell from grace. (I’m sure some of y’all know exactly what I’m talking about.) This bag of bags was never a point of pride. It got really annoying because it just kept growing. There are only so many practical home uses for the standard throw-away plastic shopping bag. Very small trash can liners; holding snarls of unused cables, another thing I accumulate for no reason; extremely low-budget packing material; one could get crafty and somehow weave them into a horrible sweater, I guess.

I don’t miss my bag of bags. I don’t want to have to deal with another. Hey, Silicon Valley? Got any disruptive ideas for this one?

Even if we concede that disposable plastics are a necessary evil in the fight against COVID-19, the fact remains that they stick around long after you’re done with them. That’s true whether you throw them out or not.

I’m not trying to direct blame anywhere. Of course businesses should do their best to keep their customers and staff safe, and if that means using plastic bags, so be it. Without clear guidance from our federal government, every part of society has been fumbling and figuring out how to keep one another healthy with the tools they’ve got at hand. (…Well, almost every part.)

The changes to the state bag bans have been cautious and temporary so far, which is a small relief. But nobody really knows how much longer the pandemic will rage on and necessitate the relaxations.

I won’t pretend that I have a sure solution. All I can really ask is that we all be extra mindful of our usage of these disposable plastic products. Let’s think creatively about what we might otherwise throw away. We must not trade one apocalypse for another.

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