seoSearch Engine Optimization is always changing. Thankfully, Rand Fishkin and SEOmoz perform a survey every two years. They poll up to 100 of the SEO industry’s top minds. In 2009 they had 72 experts participate. They recently published the results as the Search Engine Ranking Factors 2009 Survey.

This chart summarizes the five most important factors which they identified:

Search Engine Ranking Factors-SEOmoz

What does this mean for you and your website?

Build the trust and authority of your site by sticking to your main message. Laser like focus on your basic message— whether it’s your brand’s USP, your charities mission, or your personal dharma—is the key to building your readership.
Links to your site from well ranked, trusted sites, embedded in content directly related to your site, are especially valuable. In other words, it’s a network, and meaningful connections with partners, peers, and others in your field create value… and the more the better.

Keywords count: the language you use needs to be consistent and focused. Repeating a few words over and over again won’t work. What works is good, useful content that makes intelligent use of keywords that have been identified as representing your focus. And here’s a very concrete tip: using keywords in the page title is very important.

The survey ranks negative factors as well. They can be summarized concisely: don’t try to trick anyone, and keep your site up. Cloaking, buying links, or linking to web spam sites just hurts your ranking in the long run. Server downtime and pages that aren’t available will hurt your page ranking as well.

When Developing a Site…

What if you are in the development stages, and don’t yet have a site? Or are renovating a site?

Here are my top tips:

  1. Content is still king. Articles, stories, products and other memes that interest people, and focused on your message will attract visitors. Keep it fresh, well organized, and continually growing and your visitors, and the search engines, will reward you.
  2. Research keywords as part of the development process, not as an afterthought. Keywords are so important in SEO it will cost more to integrate them later.
  3. Keep the Flash and rich media (like audio, video and animation) to a minimum. HTML is the lingua franca of the search engines, so text content is king, and even the most beautiful and richly produced videos won’t get the attention that good, focused text does. At least provide summaries and transcripts when you do use rich media.
  4. Plan the site structure with keywords in mind. Again, it’s much easier than retrofitting or reworking.
  5. Don’t use text instead of images; when you have to use images make sure they are labelled properly.
  6. Use internal links (within your content). Besides making your site more accessible and easier to navigate, it adds to the richness of your content. Every link, internal or external, is a chance to add SEO value.
  7. Don’t duplicate content… link to it, instead. Visitors and search engines see duplicated content as sloppy at best, and dishonest at worst.
  8. They used to call it the “million dollar click”: what is the goal of your site? Is it to sell a product, idea or philosophy? Encouraging your visitor to take the next step and make that purchase, download a file, or take positive action is important, so consider the big picture, or you’ll just have traffic.

This list was inspired by this blog entry, found via LinkedIn.