Prioritizing your SEO and SEM Activities

by Louellen Coker on June 24, 2008

Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing can be overwhelming. However, if you prioritize your efforts, you’ll realize better results while committing less time to your project.

Earlier this year, the Dallas Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association Board members (Rob Garner, Mark Jackson, Dan Sturdivant, John Cole, Bill Hartzer, Jeff Martin, Tony Wright) rated the effectiveness of search engine indicators on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the least effective and 5 being the most effective. Once again, I’d like to thank my ever-so-nice colleague, Heather Steele at Advanced Data Exchange, for sharing her meeting notes and these terms with me. Be sure to check out her article in the Summer 2008 edition of the Lone Star Community Newsletter, Technically Write.

For those of you who are new to SEO/SEM, we’ve added in the definition of each term that isn’t self-explanatory. (You’ll find the source links at the end of the article.)

Most Important SEO Indicators (average score of 5)

All of these indicators received a “Most Important” rating from the panel. In other words, they’re the non-negotiables if you want to do well in your search engine ratings

  • Inbound site links: A link from an external domain to a web site, bringing traffic to that site. Inbound links are used to measure link popularity.
  • Information architecture: the art and science of expressing a model or concept of information used in activities that require explicit details of complex systems. Among these activities are library systems, web development, user interactions, database development, programming, technical writing, enterprise architecture, and critical system software design.
  • Media links:
  • On-topic, off-site linking: These are good when used in moderation and use good quality anchor text to link to quality sites.
  • SEO friendly design: a user-friendly web site that can be easily found in the search engines.
  • Title element keywords: Page titles or title elements, are one of the most important factors when developing a search engine friendly web page. The <title> should contain your primary keyword phrase for that page and any secondary keyword phrases that you may be targeting.

Very Important SEO Indicators (average score of 4-4.9)

  • Depth of a site (4.9): File location is important and files that are located in the root directory or near it tend to rank better than files that are buried 5 or more levels below.
  • Internal site linkage (4.6): Named anchors (the target place of internal links) are useful for internal navigation but are also useful for SEO because you stress additionally that a particular page, paragraph or text is important.
  • HTML site map page (4.4): HTML site map will help improve the indexing of your webpages and allow bots to find webpages that they might otherwise have missed. (Found on
  • Age of domain (4.4): Site have noticed that newer domains have had a much tougher time making their way up the ranks than older ones. (Found in Gradiva Couzin’s book, Search Engine Optimization – An Hour a Day)
  • Keyword in first paragraph (4.4): You’ll want to use your keyword/s in your first paragraph. Remember when using tables that you may have your keyword in the second part of your table.
  • Uniqueness/originality/authority of document (4.4): Having more content (relevant content, which is different from the content on other sites both in wording and topics) is a real boost for your site’s rankings.
  • URL/redirection hygiene (4.4): When not applied properly, redirects can hurt a lot – the target page might not open, or worse – a redirect can be regarded as a black hat technique, when the visitor is immediately taken to a different page.
  • Anchor text (4.2): In HTML, text that is placed between the <a> and </a> tags. Commonly referred to as a text link.
  • Document located close to the domain root (4.2):
  • Length of domain registration (4.2): Similarly to wine, older sites are respected more. The idea is that an old, established site is more trustworthy (they have been around and are here to stay) than a new site that has just poped up and might soon disappear.
  • Quantity and quality of .edu and .gov links (4.2): These links are precious because .edu and .gov sites are more reputable than .com. .biz, .info, etc. domains. Additionally, such links are hard to obtain.
  • Steadiness of link growth (4.2): Generally the more, the better. But the reputation of the sites that link to you is more important than their number. Also important is their anchor text, is there a keyword in it, how old are they, etc. Getting too many links at a time suggests buying them.
  • Deep link ratio (4): The number of internal pages which are linked to by highly relevant incoming links from highly relevant established pages.
  • XML sitemap (4): XML site maps are considered the standard on most search engines. XML site maps allow for easy creation of advanced, automatically generated navigation for your website. You can even automatically generate links to related topics on other websites. It also allows for merging of metadata between different websites.
  • Use of blog/RSS feeds, Fresh content (4): Blogs and RSS feeds are great ways to get fresh content on your site.
  • Yahoo directory listing (4): is a web directory which rivals the Open Directory Project in size. The directory was Yahoo’s first offering. When Yahoo! changed to crawler-based listings for its main results in October 2002, the human-edited directory’s significance dropped, but it is still being updated.

Important SEO Indicators (average score of 3-3.9)

  • Age of links (3.8): The older, the better. Getting many new links in a short time suggests buying them.
  • Mention of addresses and phone numbers (3.8): providing appropriate addresses and phone numbers on a website increases the credibility of the site.
  • Text weight of entire site (3.8): Spiders love large sites, so generally it is the bigger, the better. However, big sites become user-unfriendly and difficult to navigate, so sometimes it makes sense to separate a big site into a couple of smaller ones. On the other hand, there are hardly sites that are penalized because they are 10,000+ pages, so don’t split your size in pieces only because it is getting larger and larger.
  • Uptime of site (3.8): Hosting downtime is directly related to accessibility because if a site is frequently down, it can’t be indexed. But in practice this is a factor only if your hosting provider is really unreliable and has less than 97-98% uptime.
  • Text weight of page (3.4): Generally long pages are not favored, or at least you can achieve better rankings if you have 3 short rather than 1 long page on a given topic, so split long pages into multiple smaller ones.
  • Geography of hosting (3.2):
  • Cluster text (Keywords in page descriptors around link (3.2): You can define a cluster as a group of stemmed keywordsor a group of conceptually related keywords. This can give you an idea of the context in which your target audience is most interested in seeing those keywords.
  • DMOZ directory listing (3): Also known as The Open Directory Project, is a multilingual open content directory of World Wide Web links owned by Netscape that is constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors.
  • Freshness of links (3): The older, the better. Getting many new links in a short time suggests buying them.
  • Ranking history for a particular term or phrase (3): Using a term or phase that has a good ranking history will help your project.
  • Social media bookmarks (3): Ranking a Web site by users who like the content rather than by the total number of links to the site. Social bookmarking sites such as ( let users tag their favorite sites with key words and post them for others to see.

SEO Indicators (average score of 2-2.9)

  • listing (2.8): Not all Top Level Domains (TLD) are equal. There are TLDs that are better than others. For instance, the most popular TLD – .com – is much better than .ws, .biz, or .info domains but (all equal) nothing beats an old .edu or .org domain.
  • Age of document (2.6): Frequent changes are favored. It is great when you constantly add new content but it is not so great when you only make small updates to existing content.
  • Cleanliness or URL naming structure (2.6): Ideally, you would like your keywords to be included in your url. You should separate words with hyphens and limit the number of words to 10 or less. Static URLs are preferable to dynamic URLs.
  • Dedicated or shared hosting (2.6): Could matter only for shared hosting or when a site is hosted with a free hosting provider, when the IP or the whole C-class of IP addresses is blacklisted due to spamming or other illegal practices.
  • Limited on-topic reciprocal linking (2.6): In general, search engines do not like cross-linking. However when it done in a limited and topical manner, it can benefit you.
  • Number of domains registered (2.6):
  • Time on page (2.6):
  • Bounce rate (2.4): Bounce rates can be used to help determine the effectiveness or performance of an entry page. An entry page with a low bounce rate means that the page effectively causes visitors to view more pages and continue on deeper into the web site.
  • Click through rate (2.2): your click through rate has a direct bearing on where you land in search requests.
  • Paid search (2): Paid sarch is not related in any way to SEO ranking. Search engines will definitely not give you a ranking bonus because of paid searches. They might boost your income but this has nothing to do with your search rankings.

Definition Sources

We scoured the net to define the terms. Here is where the terms came from:

The definitions for the terms on this page were compiled by Louellen S. Coker and Sara Sherman.

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