Search Engine Ranking Factors: 2011 Results and 2012 Predictions

Each year, SEO Moz sends out email surveys to gather data about trends in search engine ranking factors. SEOs often follow these trends and fine-tune their strategies based on the report. The 2012 surveys have just been sent out, but the 2011 results are still worth reviewing as the new report is being tallied.

Social Media and User Experience the Top Trends

In 2011, two trends in search engine ranking saw tremendous growth in importance. These were the site’s perceived value to users and the social media signals at both the page level and the domain level. As Google and the other search engines continue to fine-tune their result algorithms, page authority and domain level are expected to continue to grow in importance.

This report led to a strong focus on website redesigns to make the user experience more valuable. SEOs were partnering with web designers and focusing on all of the on-site features that encourage interaction and improve the user experience. This is likely to continue as the trend increases in 2012.

Social media marketing is also growing significantly. SEOs are adding entire departments of their businesses to social media. They are taking over social media campaigns for their clients, focusing on driving traffic from popular social sites to their pages and thus increasing their search engine ranking.

User Experience and Social Media Not the Final Solution

These trends are important to know and should change some of the strategies that website owners and SEOs use to increase search engine ranking, but they should not be the only factors driving a social media campaign. As with all things relating to Google, a well-rounded approach is typically the most successful. Some old-school strategies that are still vital include:

  • Domain names
  • Link profiles
  • Keywords

In spite of recent changes, some factors still have a strong impact on search engine ranking. Take domain names for instance. According to, having keywords in the domain name is still a factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. While this may or may not change; it’s still worth the effort to find and buy a domain name with keywords embedded. Combing through specialized domain sites like to find a domain that incorporates both a website’s brand and a potential keyword is still an important part of optimizing a site.

Keywords also still play a role, in spite of the changes brought on by Panda. While the days of stuffing a page with keywords to improve ranking are, thankfully, over, their presence in Web copy, as well as their placement and centrality, still greatly impacts a site’s ranking. Without proper keywords, the page will not rank well. This means that quality content with keywords throughout the page is still a vital component of a well-ranked site.

Link profiles still matter as well. The quality of the links to your domain is going to impact how well it ranks in the search engines. Natural links from authoritative sources with anchor text that incorporate a keyword are the most valuable for SEO purposes. In fact, the SEO Moz report ranked page level link metrics and domain level link authority features as the top two components of the search ranking algorithm in 2011. While social media and user experience are growing in importance, they have not overtaken these older strategies yet.

These facts show that a generalist SEO needs to continue to focus on many different strategies to help sites rank well. Abandoning traditional onsite and offsite strategies in favor of social media networking or website redesigns to improve user experience is not going to be a successful plan. Incorporating these new trends with the old is the best strategy for building a successfully ranked page.


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Published by

Thomas Stone

Thomas Stone is a content-manager and a frequent contributor at both SEO Desk & Technected.

One thought on “Search Engine Ranking Factors: 2011 Results and 2012 Predictions”

  1. Good read but its hard to make predictions in this game. Who would have though only 6 weeks ago that blog networks like build my rank would become ineffective almost overnight

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