The 15 Most Important SEO Factors in 2011

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Bloggers and webmasters are constantly wondering why Google is such a bully to some websites and why they are so positive toward others. What are the keys to building a successful presence on the search engine results pages? What are the most important SEO factors for getting your site discovered by Google’s search bot and how can we get in on the action?

If you’ve been wondering these things then this article is exactly what you need. Listed below are the 15 most important SEO factors. Pay attention to these factors and you’ll see a drastic improvement in your listings on Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Always remember that your site doesn’t have to be a war between writing for your community and writing for search engines. When these SEO factors are used properly, these two seemingly opposing approaches to writing can coexist perfectly together.

The 15 Most Vital and Important SEO Factors

The 15 Most Vital & Important SEO Factors

Don’t just debate which factors are the most important. Make it your goal to be the best that you can be in each of these 30 SEO factors.

The 15 Most Vital and Important SEO Factors

The Runners Up: 5 Bonus SEO Factors

  • Bonus SEO Factor #1: A page that is HTML valid to W3C Standards.
    Some independent studies have shown that Google favors valid code. Although Google denies they use this as a factor, having a site that is semantically correct ensures that Google’s search bots are able to interpret your information correctly.
  • Bonus SEO Factor #2: Keyword repeated throughout the content.
    Have the same phrase repeated throughout an article makes it clear what the page is about. Too much of this and you’ll be partaking in a negative practice called keyword stuffing. Done well and it’s like sprinkling salt on a piece of meat.
  • Bonus SEO Factor #3: Links to trustworthy external pages on the domain.
    Search engines like it when our articles are filled with links to good, reliable resources. Links to spam sites or irrelevant sites can be a sign that your page is a spam site.
  • Bonus SEO Factor #4: The presence of an XML sitemap.
    By providing an XML sitemap and submitting it to Google’s webmaster tools, you ensure that Google will be able to find all of the important pages of your website with the least amount of hassle.
  • Bonus SEO Factor #5: Internal link popularity.
    Linking to a particular page from across your domain is a terrific way to let Google know which pages you think are the most important. An amazing tool for this is the SEO Smart Links plugin for WordPress.

Reflecting on these Important SEO factors

Traffic from search engines can be incredibly useful. After all, it’s those people who find your site through Google, Yahoo and Bing that are actually looking for the type of content that you’re providing. Think about it. That’s why they’re searching for it. So don’t dismiss these SEO factors.  They’re important.

Use these points as an overview. Examine them against your own efforts and work to improve the way that you present content at your website or blog. There has never been a better opportunity to start attracting those people who are actively searching for your content.


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  1. January 31, 2011

    Brankica said:

    Hey Nicholas, great round up. Totally agree with you cause this is all part of my strategy for niche websites (which is working).

    Just wanted to say that I really like that you are always mentioning META stuff (description in this case) cause people keep repeating that META’s are totally irrelevant.

    Well I don’t think they are. I thing they are very important and have the experience to prove it.

    You just keep rockin’ and we will learn 🙂

    • January 31, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      The description is especially important because that’s what the human reader sees on the search listing. I think that’s an invaluable way to let someone know what your article is about.

  2. January 31, 2011

    [email protected] said:

    Hi Nicholas

    Although I have a friend doing my SEO and all things techie for me; find this easy to read and understand. Thanks

    So many posts I have read make it sound so complicated! Will bookmark and have another read later.

    Patricia Perth Australia

    • January 31, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      It doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s like riding a bike. When you first start, it’s difficult but as you get the hang of it, it becomes a natural part of your routine. At least it was for me as a kid.

  3. January 31, 2011

    Shree said:

    Can you please explain SEO factor #11? How can Google find out the domain registration detail?

    • January 31, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Eric is correct. A lot of people attempt to spam Google and get listed quickly so Google often hesitates to list brand new sites from unknown sources. This is referred to as a sandbox.

      Those same spam sites are often labeled as spam rather quickly by Google so they are then abandoned for new sites. With this in mind, many spammers only register for the minimum 1 year knowing that it will be canceled and replaced.

      As a result, Google now assumes that authoritative, legitimate websites are those that have been around a good bit and are planning on being around a good bit.

  4. January 31, 2011

    Whiztechy said:

    Great list Nicholas, I totally agree with all factors. Many bloggers ignore interlinking and using keywords in images. Using images in keywords helps to drive good traffic to blog.

    • January 31, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      I’ve noticed a noticable improvement in my site’s performance when including more images in the posts. It helps make the post more enjoyable for your human readers and they provide more information for Google to crunch.

  5. January 31, 2011

    Robert said:

    I will ignore most of your SEO factor except SEO Factor #4: Genuinely high-quality, unique content. This SEO factor is vital. The key to success at your blog is to create awesome content that people enjoy. Until we master the art of really treating each visitor with gratitude like I walked in a nice restaurant. you will not see banners here for this, for that, you can not even see prices on the menu. If the visitor can spot the SEO on yoursite, the defense is up. My focus on people needs, desires, and wants than figuring out how to please google. At the end of the day google is trying to please the user. Know more about your audience than google knows. There are more websites brings more traffic than google.

    • January 31, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      If feel bad that you think the rest of the points will negate your efforts on the fourth one.

      The truth is that most posts only receive referral traffic for the first few days. That organic traffic degrades like half-lives each day.

      After that, it will likely never be seen again unless you focus on search engine marketing in which case you will then be able to bring people to it who are specifically interested in that topic. In my opinion, that is focusing on connecting with readers.

  6. January 31, 2011

    Eric Bonnici said:

    Nice SEO checklist you have here.

    @Whiztechy Google can access databases to find out information about a domain. I assume they use the whois database.

    You can find out information about domains by going here

    All of this plays a role in your SEO and search engine rankings.

    Hope this helps

    • January 31, 2011

      Eric Bonnici said:

      @Whiztechy sorry my last comment wasn’t directed at you. My mistake.

      It was meant to be directed @Shree

      Talk soon
      Eric B

  7. January 31, 2011

    Ryan Critchett said:

    Nice list my friend. I definitely agree with all of it.

    I used to think keyword density was this “huge deal,” turns out, it isn’t as crazy as people make it out to be.

    I worked professionally as an SEO for about 9 months and I gotta say, this is about as close as it gets. Great post.

    • January 31, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Thanks, Ryan. I’m no expert, but I know what’s been working for me here at Site Sketch 101 and on my other sites.

  8. January 31, 2011

    Elena said:

    Great Tips Nick. I feel as though you can never get enough tips with SEO because it’s so tricky. I need to get a sitemap implemented on a site I’ll be implementing soon. It’s interesting to see how important keywords are in making your site seo-friendly. Thanks for the useful information.

    • February 1, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      As you grow in your experience with it, I think you’ll find it’s less tricky than it once was. If you put these to practice, they can eventually become a natural part of your routine as you publish new posts. I like posting these every once in a while as a reminder to help us all keep implementing them.

    • April 23, 2011

      Genie @ HealthyLivingNow said:

      Elena, it’s amazing how important reading other people’s blogs and comments are, reading your comment has just triggered my memory to add a sitemap to my newest site. Thank you – I totally forgot!

      “If we all treat each other like we treat ourselves – what a wonderful place earth would be.”

  9. January 31, 2011

    x-tra said:

    Nice post Nicholas.
    Not much knowledge that I didn’t already had, but always nice to get a summary of the most important stuff. I already try to follow these advises, but I guess it can always be a little bit better.

    • February 1, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Hopefully it was just a friendly reminder of the concepts that are still important when trying to get listed in Google.

  10. January 31, 2011

    tushar said:

    well, to be very honest, i am still a newbie when it come to SEO and needs some easy-to-understand stuff that can help me in basic terminologies..
    can you tell me some resources.

    P.S.- is 15 your favorite number?

    • February 1, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      It’s my favorite number for this year. It’s easy to create a consistent number of new posts using it in 2011. I actually have about 20 more ideas that I plan to keep using throughout the year.

      Honestly, you don’t need a lot of resources to get good at search engine optimization. If you do need more, check out

  11. January 31, 2011

    mark said:

    Great list post & an interesting variety of comments too.

    Personally, I have had a fair amount of success working for both readers and search engines on a few small niche sites. It really is not hard once you get the hang of it.

    Really, with alt tags and meta data added to the other things (most of which is fairly natural – of course your keyword is in your title, right?), this is a pretty easy thing to get right.

    My current weakness is standards compliant code….will get to it one of these days… 😉

    Have a good day!

    • February 1, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      My code isn’t quite perfect either, but at least it’s semantically correct. The structure is solid and I’m using the HTML5 markup also which some argue is excellent for sites trying to rank due to the clear structure that it uses which allows sites to be seen clearly for what they are about.

  12. January 31, 2011

    Seth Waite said:

    SEO is simple and I’m glad you laid out these points in a way that readers don’t make it more complicated than it really is.

    All SEO is, is telling search engines what your website is all about. This is done by making sure your website accurately describes it’s content (Nick’s tips) and other’s second this categorization (links).

    Running an SEO company I try to make it this simple for my clients to understand. It’s not complicated, it just might be worth having someone else do it for you.

    Thanks for keeping SEO real.

    • February 1, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      I agree, Seth. Most folks make it so much more complicated than it needs to be. It’s always my intention to make it as simple as possible.

      • February 1, 2011

        Peter said:

        SEO in that sense is simple, but for most companies the bottom line is making money. Hence it’s not enough to tell search engines what the site is about – for businesses anyway. For them it’s about making SEO profitable, and beating the competition. That’s the trouble (I think) for so many people.

  13. February 1, 2011

    sheldon smith said:

    Yeah these all factors are the key features and each SEO should remember all these points

  14. February 1, 2011

    Vivek Parmar said:

    that’s a great round-up of seo. You have collected each and every aspect of SEO and it helps everyone who wants to know SEO.
    thanks for the round-up

  15. February 1, 2011

    Peter said:

    Great list. I find though that the success you can expect depends a lot on the niche you occupy. Talk about hot topics (SEO for instance) and you can expect a good response. Talk about ink cartridges (for instance) and it’s much harder to get people to engage.

    • February 2, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Yeah. It’s very true. Some topics are much easier to rally people around because they already have a large number of people online discussing those issues.

  16. February 2, 2011

    Justine said:

    What a comprehensive post you have there Nicholas. I’m just a newbie in this SEO job and just learned some terminologies and stuff. Your list enables me to understand those terms and their functions even better. However, SEO should not only be focused on ranking the site but in giving the readers the information that they need which means providing them a good content.

    • February 2, 2011

      Albin Stoop said:

      No Justine. SEO is ALL about ranking the site, nothing else.

      SEO = Search Energine Optimize 🙂

      • February 14, 2011

        Nicholas Cardot said:

        I completely disagree, Albin. Good optimization definitely includes creating content that is so good and so engaging that people will want to organically link to your content which in turn will continue to to improve your search optimization results.

  17. February 2, 2011

    Albin Stoop said:

    I really doubt that these two factors are included in their algorithm;

    “SEO Factor #11: Length of the remaining domain registration.”
    In Sweden, we generally only register a domain for one year at the time and then each year we pay to keep the domain one more year. That would mean that whole sweden gets disadvantage in Google. Sweden = spammers?

    “SEO Factor #14: The existence of a meta description for your page.”
    Well it’s good to have a visible description in Google so that the potential visitors can read a summary about your site before they enter. But Google don’t care of the existence, I doub’t that.

    Really good list in general – bookmarked! 🙂

    • February 14, 2011

      CHarlie Kalech said:

      You are absolutely correct. Sorry Nicholas. Here is Google’s Matt Cutts totally denying your number 11.

      There is a lot of misinformation or half-truths in SEO. I’m sorry to say that this post has some.

      Before making some claims, cite case studies and examples to prove your points.

      Not everything in this list is true and following some of these items blindly can actually lead to penalties. (keyword stuffing)

    • February 14, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Actually, Albin, that demonstrates that you didn’t actually read point number 14 since I specifically explained that the point of creating a good description is to entice the human eyeballs that will see the listing on the search results page.

  18. February 2, 2011

    Tom Durkin said:

    Great information. thanks for sharing! I employ most of these already, and agree that social networking links are important despite most of them being ‘nofollow’


  19. February 2, 2011

    Natalie Sisson said:

    Hey Nicholas

    Thanks for providing a ton of value in this post in simple non techie terms. I generally get a lot of this right but I know I should be far better at having my definitive keyword list and using it more often within my content and title tags.

    Great reminder. I think it’s also totally doable to have quality and remarkable content plus make it SEO optimized.


  20. February 3, 2011

    Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing said:

    Factor #2: very important, yet very difficult to get consistently from natural linkers…..any tips on how to keep your keywords on the minds of other bloggers that may or may not link to you from time to time naturally?

    • February 14, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      My biggest strategy here is to educate others to do it and to try to do it some myself so that others see how it’s done. There’s really not an effective way to get people to link to you with a particular keyword without telling them or using a black hat technique.

      • February 15, 2011

        Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing said:

        I agree, and defini9tely see a need for another “club”.

  21. February 4, 2011

    Greg said:

    Thanks for the insightful post Nicholas, I definately think some people spend far too long on the tech side of seo, and while it is important to get your title and keywords right, surely good content, design and usability are more important than trying to get up the rankings.

  22. February 4, 2011

    Magnus Andersson said:

    Thanks for some great advice. I thought I knew the basics of SEO, but there were some new things here. Thanks

  23. February 6, 2011

    Melvin said:

    Well ironically I used to not care at all about search engines. I mean I came from the performance marketing world with PPC and advertising so when I created melvinblog I was more into branding more than search. In fact I really never cared about search traffic or any organic rankings.

    I could say its different now this year. Why? Because SEOing a site doesn’t really mean relying on SEO. And the main reason why I don’t do much SEO is because I want to show that I don’t rely to search for traffic. That’s what pride and stupidity can do I guess. 😉

    So yeah, SEO your site and always be updated with the search engines algorithm.

  24. February 7, 2011

    Ben said:

    I think the title tag and the back link anchors are most important, too.
    Great article.

  25. February 8, 2011

    Arad said:

    Great tips Nicholas. I have a question regarding page titles: if my title is like: “kw1 kw2 kw3 kw4 kw5” and my site ranks ok for searching “kw1 kw2” I will improve my rankings for the previous search phrase removing the last 3 keywords for the title (having the title “kw1 kw2”)? Thank you.

  26. February 8, 2011

    Steph E Oxford said:

    SEO # 4 is so true and highly ignored by some people imo. #8 is something I’ve never considered before, however I see how it can make an improvement!

  27. February 10, 2011

    Davina K. Brewer said:

    Nicholas, This is a good list, great advice for anyone doing their own SEO. One thing I’d add is to look into plugins for SEO and sitemaps, there are tools out there that can help. And to @Robert’s point about #4 being his main objective, I agree about good content. But the best article in the world won’t really be that without any readers, if they can’t find the post. FWIW.

  28. February 15, 2011

    AllieRambles said:

    This is definitely a list I am going to always reference. I read it once but will need to read it numerous times til it sinks in.

    I think I have most covered but I will check again.

    Bookmarked AND IntaPaper’d it!

  29. February 16, 2011

    ah hong said:

    Love the part where sprinkling salt all over the meat for the repeated keyword technique. May I know what is the best % of keyword density in SEO? Overall it’s a good post on SEO. Thanks Nick for sharing.

  30. February 18, 2011

    Kavya Hari said:

    Hi, i would like to thank Nicholas for written a great article on here. From here, all these 15 SEO points would be useful for article writer because it has the worth full information and so on.

  31. February 24, 2011

    Ashish said:

    really awesome post. Really helpful

  32. February 27, 2011

    Kirsty said:

    Thanks Nicolas for sharing this. I will use this as my SEO 2011 guide to drive traffic on my sites and have a wonderful results that will convert to dollars 😀 I agree so much on the “existence of a meta description for your page”

  33. March 10, 2011

    James Hobson said:

    You have shared nice information about website optimization. it’s for on page optimization. can u shared us off page optimization factor also?

  34. March 20, 2011

    Tips for technology said:

    this post has almost all the seo factors I was looking for..I learned a lot today and this will help in popularizing by blog

  35. March 20, 2011

    Nasif said:

    Keyword in images can bring decent traffic but I always forget to add alt tag in images…

  36. April 9, 2011

    Jenny said:

    Hi Nicholas,

    I agree with having keywords in domain name will be a benefit.

    But I still don’t find an answer about how long a domain name should be?

    is two sentences of domain better than three?

    Thank you


    • April 9, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      The shorter the better. People will have a difficult time remembering your site if it’s too long.

    • April 10, 2011

      Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing said:

      Nicholas is correct Jenny. Word-of-mouth advertising will always be #1 and domain names can be tricky…never go past 3 unless you must add a word like, “coach”, “tips”, “blog”, “online”, etc.

  37. April 16, 2011

    Pavel Stoev said:

    I truly enjoyed reading your post. All very important tips, particularly the one about keywords being part of anchor text of backlinks. The more backlinks from popular and credible websites the easier it is to get good rankings from search engines.

    My Lastest Blog Post: Easy and fast way to do cross-browser testing

  38. April 23, 2011

    Genie @ HealthyLivingNow said:

    Great SEO list you have here Nicholas! SEO is an ongoing, never ending process. I was not aware that factor numbers 3 and 11 played any role in SEO. Thanks for sharing!

    @ Elena, it’s amazing how important reading other people’s blogs and comments are, reading your comment has just triggered my memory to add a sitemap to my newest site. Thank you – I totally forgot!

    “If we all treat each other like we treat ourselves – what a wonderful place earth would be.”

  39. May 19, 2011

    Abhishek said:

    I have a wordpress based website/blog. Can you please guide me whether a CMS is better or an HTML website regarding SEO factors and PR?

  40. June 2, 2011

    MP said:

    Anyone else noticed that #5 (keyword in domain) can outweigh any other factors? Great example is this site that ranks #5 coincidentally for (Burton snowboards sale) but has ZERO content and Zero link juice. Basically it has great ranking purely on domain name!

  41. June 21, 2011

    car said:

    I always was interested in this topic and still am, thanks for posting .

  42. July 6, 2011

    Ron's SEO Copywriting Blog said:

    Sometimes, it helps to see the whole tricky art of SEO being explained in such clear detail. Keep up the great work, Nic!

  43. July 28, 2011

    Brandi Starr said:

    Great post! It is important for business owners to choose their web designer wisely and have the conversations to make sure these things are being done.

  44. August 18, 2011

    Dan said:

    Very interesting article, but i would like to point out an additional factor that has played a tremendous role in search engine optimization this year, specifically this summer. After the panda update i noticed many of my clients sites that were engaging there visitors using social networking sites decrease rankings. This may play a role in further algo updates during the 2012.

    • August 20, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      You’re claiming that folks who have conversations on Twitter will have lower website rankings on Google?

  45. September 7, 2011

    Krishan said:

    Pretty basic stuff, but important as we might overlook many things here just for the same of knowing them… Good work

  46. September 11, 2011

    kevin said:

    You forgot one: SPEED. Massively important.

  47. September 15, 2011

    Stealth Media Agency said:

    The bounce rate is now a factor which correlates with user experience, design, and content of the website.

    • September 15, 2011

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      I couldn’t agree more. Folks have no idea how important these elements are to the success of their blogs and websites. Although content is king, and we hear that shouted from every blog, the truth is that if folks are clicking away before seeing your content, why would Google and other search engines want to send people your direction?

      • September 15, 2011

        Stealth Media Agency said:

        Thanks Nicholas. This blog is a perfect example of how a killer web design with great content keeps people on and reading. I found this post searching “seo ranking factors 2011” and if it was on a crappy website I wouldn’t have stayed on. My first impression was you had a killer WordPress website and the design gave it instant credibility to read further.

        • September 24, 2011

          peter babaian said:

          Thanks For Sharing I like It.

          • September 24, 2011

            Best South Indian restaurant In Australia said:

            I found this post entitled "SEO ranking factors 2011," and if it was a site of shit, I would not have stayed on. My first impression was that you had a killer website design Word Press and gave instant credibility to read more.

  48. October 10, 2011

    Rajesh Namase said:

    I’ll follow this tips on my blog. thanks for knowing such good tips.

  49. October 11, 2011

    Web Designer said:

    There is some good stuff in there, although I would have expected the authority, relevance and anchor text of incoming links to be at the top of this list!?

  50. October 25, 2011

    Akash Kumar said:

    A nice compilation of all the resources Nick, its good to find everything under one place.

  51. December 25, 2011

    emonline24.blogspot said:

    You have talked about some great factor. It is very important for doing SEO. If anyone want to do SEO he or she should learn these thing. Thanks for your sharing.

  52. January 29, 2012

    Sagar said:

    Thanks a lot for these tips Nicholas, will implement these in my next post. 🙂

  53. March 30, 2012

    MelodyBoniao said:

    Quality Used Engines is all about solving a simple little conundrum that, sooner or later, always becomes a big problem. That problem is the problem of an engine that goes bad. It’s not something that you’re going to pay special attention to, and it’s not something that you’re exactly looking out fo…

  54. March 30, 2012

    Mark Hoult said:

    Still really good to read a year on Nicholas.

    It would be interesting to see an author’s postscript to this noting what changed the most during 2011.

  55. April 24, 2012

    Lycan Bd said:

    Love this article so much. These are the true basics of seo.

    *Naming the images really helped me to grab lots of visitors.

    now I have a question…How can i know that i am spamming in my site?

    Thank you!

  56. October 14, 2012

    internet marketing search engine optimization said:

    This excellent website really has all of the information I wanted concerning this subject and didn�t know who to ask.

  57. July 20, 2016

    Matrimo said:

    Thanks for your advices.

    Anyway, I am afraid to use any SEO technics now because Google is a better detective then most of us.

    There is no magical key, sometimes site who do not make SEO get a better rank. Strange.