The Top 5 Factors
The top five most important factors in search engine rankings are as follows, according to SEOmoz, which provides a search marketing platform and tips:
1. Keyword-focused anchor text from external links.
2. External link popularity.
3. A diversity of link sources.
4. Keyword use anywhere in the title tag.
5. The trustworthiness of the domain based on its "link distance" from trusted domains.
Looking at this list--particularly the first, second and fifth items--you can see why that link from the New York Times's N.F.L. blog was so valuable to DecorMyEyes.
Top negative factors for a site's search engine ranking, on the other hand, include link acquisition from known link brokers and sellers, according to SEOmoz, among many others.
So what does this all mean for an SMB trying its best to rank well on Google's search engine? Here are a few suggestions.
Go for the Biggest Effect
First, assuming you haven't been attempting unscrupulous gaming tactics like DecorMyEyes has, my advice is to stick with the solid SEO tactics that are already out there, making use of lists like those on SEOmoz to exert as much influence as you can on what are widely believed to be the most important ranking factors.
Those, after all, are the ones generally understood to have the biggest impact on your page rankings. My PCWorld colleague James Martin offers some good suggestions in his article, "Five SEO Secrets to Make Your Site More Visible."
Steer Clear of Negative Tactics
In light of Google's changes, it's more important now than it ever has been before to avoid any Black Hat or other dubious techniques such as those employed by DecorMyEyes. Google's got an especially sharp eye focused on this area now, and you don't want to be penalized or even get kicked out of the index altogether for attempting some of these ill-advised tricks.
Pay Close Attention to Reviews
If I'm correct and Google is actively incorporating customer reviews into its newly tweaked ranking algorithm, you're going to want to pay more attention to these than you may have in the past. Take a proactive approach and keep careful tabs on both positive and negative reviews from around the Web so that you can learn from them and address them quickly and appropriately.
Focus on Customer Service
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you treat customers fairly and well--meeting or surpassing their expectations almost every time--you'll have fewer negative reviews to worry about.
This is particularly critical when customers are dissatisfied. Research has shown, in fact, that a customer whose dissatisfaction is resolved quickly and completely ends up being more loyal than one who never experienced that dissatisfaction in the first place.
There's a very good lesson in that. Do good, as the old saying goes, and good will come to you.
Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.