Code, content, connections and conversations are the four critical components of SEO, according to one SMX East speaker.

At this week’s SMX East conference in New York, Tony Wright, CEO and founder of Wright IMC, spoke during a session on SEO correlation and causation factors. Wright told attendees that his idea of SEO is less about studying for correlations and more about focusing on the “four Cs” – code, content, connections and conversations.

As Brafton reported, other attendees in the session spoke at length about how marketers can monitor their search visibility and traffic to determine whether elements such as interaction metrics, content length or social data impact their SEO. Wright quickly identified himself as the session’s curmudgeon, indicating that he had the “magic” recipe for SEO – but he never said the recipe was a short order…

His four Cs to SEO include:

1. Code.

Although on-page SEO seems to be a less a prominent part of the industry conversations around search engine optimization than other factors, Wright emphasized that the right markup for your site is key to ranking.

Brafton has reported on – a new way to markup sites to indicate the nuances of different keywords to search engines. Microdata like this – which essentially translates into code – is an example of how on-page SEO is evolving in such a way that businesses need to remember it’s still vital to overall SEO. This type of contextual information will also prove helpful in light of personalized search, including Bing’s Adaptive Search, which aims to deliver the most relevant results to users.

2. Content.

Wright made clear that content is key to ranking in his mind. His belief seems validated by Google’s SEO Starter Guide, which indicates that, “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed.”

Content for SEO was a major topic at SMX East, with an entire session devoted to Panda-proofing your content, and experts in attendance agree that original content is core to search visibility.

3. Connections

Links (aka connections) are still essential to SEO in Wright’s mind. He reminded marketers that content is key to catching links online.

Other SMX attendees supported his belief – in Danny Sullivan’s final session of day one at SMX, the Search Engine Land editor posed the question, “Is linkbuilding still important to SEO?” The majority of the marketers in the room raised their hands to indicate it is. (And a recent MarketingSherpa Search Benchmark report indicates that external link building is one of the most effective SEO strategies.) Of course, many SMX attendees sitting in on Sullivan’s session indicated that social is now more important than link building for SEO – which brings us to Wright’s final “C” of SEO.

4. Conversations.

The conversations happening around site content and a brand are key to search visibility, says Wright.

In light of developments such as Google’s confirmation of +1 as a potential ranking signal, Bing’s Facebook friend effect that gives preferential ranking to content logged in searchers’ friends Like and evolving personalized search features, the social currency of a site is increasingly intertwined with SEO.

At a separate session at the conference, Sullivan seemed to validate the need for marketers to focus on social as a correlate (or causal?) SEO factor. As Brafton tweeted, Sullivan suggested, “Social media marketing is the new, democratic link building style.”

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.