The excellent SEOmoz bi-annual search engine ranking factors has been updated and is provoking some interesting debate amongst the online marketing community about what really make a difference in the mystical world of SEO.

We are big fans of SEOmoz and have nothing but respect for the organisation and this report is a superb piece of research that makes for very interesting reading for anyone involved with search engine marketing. If you haven’t read it, do so now.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the latest report is that a lot of the factors that are cited as being important have been at the top of the list for a long time and it doesn’t really seem to be changing.

Why is it, then, that SEO has such a reputation for fast paced change?

Without wishing to blow our own trumpet (too loud), we have been saying for several years that SEO hasn’t actually changed dramatically and it certainly shouldn’t have the reputation that it does for being so technical and mysterious. Whilst it would appear that we are often talking our way out of lucrative work, we are firm believers in encouraging people to recognise that successful SEO is a process rather than a black art and a process that all organisations can, and should, learn.

In a nutshell, there are two aspects to SEO:

  • Doing the right things on your site (on-page optimisation)
  • Getting other sites to talk about you and confirm what you are saying about yourselves (off-page optimisation)

On-page optimisation is where we believe that organisations can make the best use of SEO experts – whilst it isn’t very difficult to produce an optimised website, it does required a blend of technical and marketing know-how that is still fairly rare to find (beware of the SEO cowboys!). There are best practice techniques that do make a difference to your search engine rankings and our SEO review approach has always proven to be a very popular way to ensure that you are getting the easy bit right.

Off-page optimisation becomes more interesting as there are no guarantees that other sites will respond to your site in the way that you would hope and you cannot always guarantee that you will obtain links to your site.

It is, however, absolutely vital and the latest top 3 factors on the SEOmoz report all relate to the quality of the links pointing to a website. Where several websites are all optimised (on-page) for the same keywords, it is almost always the off-page profile that will make the difference to the success in achieving high search engine rankings.

We don’t believe in SEO secrets and it is certainly no secret that links are important. We are often asked what is the key to obtaining good links – our response is always to focus on the quality of the site (e.g. good quality content and usability) and to adopt a PR led approach to raising the profile of the site on other sites rather than falling for a black hat or short term link spam approach.

Force yourself to question why a site should link to yours and, if there aren’t any strong reasons to do so, create them! Interesting content or useful functionality (e.g. Park Let’s parking space price guide) is always the best long term strategy for obtaining long term links.

PR gurus are amazing at thinking of ‘the story’ and can usually create a hook from what may appear to be the dullest of subjects – this is often needed for a website that doesn’t really have any strong USP. Think hard about what the hook is and links will usually follow…

Search engine marketing is often extremely competitive and it does require a disciplined approach to achieve success (contact us today if you want to achieve such success) but it is not a black art and it isn’t as difficult as some people like to make out.

As the SEOmoz report shows, the key factors haven’t changed radically over the past few years and we do not believe that the fundamentals are likely to change for some time. The tools will change (e.g. how to make the best use of the opportunities offered by social media?) but the underlying principles are going nowhere.