Google’s Ranking Factors

Are there really 200+ Google Ranking Factors?

Are you curious about Google’s ranking factors in their search engine algorithm?

There are supposedly over 200 ranking factors that Google uses to rank sites in search results. Google does not specifically disclose what any of its internal ranking factors are.

Here are some SEO ranking factors that SEO professionals have speculated may be an influence on the search results, some are proven, some are controversial, and others are just fanciful SEO nerd speculation.

Some of these ranking factors below have been disproven and some are old and no longer valid.

We provide this list simply to illustrate the complexity of the mental gymnastics that some SEO companies will implement to try to figure out the “secret” keys and break the code.

Domain Factors
1. Domain Age
2. Keyword Appears in Top Level Domain
3. Keyword As First Word in Domain
4. Domain registration length
5. Keyword in Subdomain Name
6. Domain History
7. Exact Match Domain
8. Public vs. Private WhoIs Information
9. Penalized WhoIs Owner
10. Country TLD extension

On-Page Factors
11. Keyword in Title Tag
12. Title Tag Starts with Keyword
13. Keyword in Description Tag
14. Keyword Appears in H1 Tag
15. Keyword is Most Frequently Used Phrase in Document
16. Content-Length
17. Keyword Density
18. Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords in Content (LSI)
19. LSI Keywords in Title and Description Tags
20. Page Loading Speed via HTML
21. Duplicate Content
22. Rel=Canonical
23. Page Loading Speed via Chrome
24. Image Optimization
25. Recency of Content Updates
26. Magnitude of Content Updates
27. Historical Updates Page Updates
28. Keyword Prominence
29. Keyword in H2, H3 Tags
30. Keyword Word Order
31. Outbound Link Quality
32. Outbound Link Theme
33. Grammar and Spelling
34. Syndicated Content
35. Helpful Supplementary Content
36. Number of Outbound Links
37. Images, videos, and other multimedia
38. Number of Internal Links Pointing to Page
39. Quality of Internal Links Pointing to Page
40. Broken Links
41. Reading Level
42. Affiliate Links
43. HTML errors/W3C validation
44. Page Host’s Domain Authority
45. Page’s PageRank
46. URL Length
47. URL Path
48. Human Editors
49. Page Category
50. WordPress Tags
51. Keyword in URL
52. URL String
53. References and Sources
54. Bullets and Numbered Lists
55. Priority of Page in Sitemap
56. Too Many Outbound Links
57. Quantity of Other Keywords Page Ranks For
58. Page Age
59. User-Friendly Layout
60. Parked Domains
61. Useful Content

Site-Level Factors
62. Content Provides Value and Unique Insights: Google has stated that they’re on the hunt for sites that don’t bring anything new or useful to the table, especially thin affiliate sites.

63. Contact Us Page: The aforementioned Google Quality Document states that they prefer sites with an “appropriate amount of contact information”. Supposed bonus if your contact information matches your whois info.

64. Domain Trust/TrustRank: Site trust — measured by how many links away your site is from highly-trusted seed sites — is a massively important ranking factor. You can read more about TrustRank here.

65. Site Architecture: Proper site architecture (especially a silo structure) helps Google thematically organize your content.

66. Site Updates: How often a site is updated — and especially when new content is added to the site — is a site-wide freshness factor.

67. Number of Pages: The number of pages a site has is a weak sign of authority. At the very least a large site helps distinguish it from thin affiliate sites.

68. Presence of Sitemap: A sitemap helps search engines index your pages easier and more thoroughly, improving visibility.

69. Site Uptime: Lots of downtime from site maintenance or server issues may hurt your ranking (and can even result in deindexing if not corrected).

70. Server Location: Server location may influence where your site ranks in different geographical regions. Especially important for geo-specific searches.

71. SSL Certificate: Google has confirmed that they index SSL certificates and that they use HTTPS as a ranking signal.

72. Terms of Service and Privacy Pages: These two pages help tell Google that a site is a trustworthy member of the internet.

73. Duplicate Meta Information On-Site: Duplicate meta information across your site may bring down all of your page’s visibility.

74. Breadcrumb Navigation: This is a style of user-friendly site architecture that helps users (and search engines) know where they are on a site:

75. Mobile Optimized: Google’s official stance on mobile is to create a responsive site. It’s likely that responsive sites get an edge in searches from a mobile device. In fact, they now add “Mobile-friendly” tags to sites that display well on mobile devices. Google also started penalizing sites in Mobile search that aren’t mobile-friendly

76. YouTube: There’s no doubt that YouTube videos are given preferential treatment in the SERPs (probably because Google owns it ):

77. Site Usability: A site that’s difficult to use or to navigate can hurt ranking by reducing time on site, pages viewed, and bounce rate. This may be an independent algorithmic factor gleaned from massive amounts of user data.

78. Use of Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools: Some think that having these two programs installed on your site can improve your page’s indexing. They may also directly influence rank by giving Google more data to work with (ie. more accurate bounce rate, whether or not you get referral traffic from your backlinks etc.).

79. User reviews/Site reputation: A site’s presence on review sites like Yelp.com and RipOffReport.com likely plays an important role in the algorithm. Google even posted a rarely candid outline of their approach to user reviews after an eyeglass site was caught ripping off customers in an effort to get backlinks.

Backlink Factors
80. Linking Domain Age: Backlinks from aged domains may be more powerful than new domains.

81. The # of Linking Root Domains: The number of referring domains is one of the most important ranking factors in Google’s algorithm, as you can see from this chart from Moz (bottom axis is SERP position):

Linking Root Domains
82. # of Links from Separate C-Class IPs: Links from separate class-c IP addresses suggest a wider breadth of sites linking to you.

83. # of Linking Pages: The total number of linking pages — even if some are on the same domain — is a ranking factor.

84. Alt Tag (for Image Links): Alt text is an image’s version of anchor text.

85. Links from .edu or .gov Domains: Matt Cutts has stated that TLD doesn’t factor into a site’s importance. However, that doesn’t stop SEOs from thinking that there’s a special place in the algorithm for .gov and .edu TLDs.

86. Authority of Linking Page: The authority (PageRank) of the referring page is an extremely important ranking factor.

87. Authority of Linking Domain: The referring domain’s authority may play an independent role in a link’s importance (ie. a PR2 page link from a site with a homepage PR3 may be worth less than a PR2 page link from PR8 Yale.edu).

88. Links From Competitors: Links from other pages ranking in the same SERP may be more valuable for a page’s rank for that particular keyword.

89. Social Shares of Referring Page: The amount of page-level social shares may influence the link’s value.

90. Links from Bad Neighborhoods: Links from “bad neighborhoods” may hurt your site.

91. Guest Posts: Although guest posting can be part of a white hat SEO campaign, links coming from guest posts — especially in an author bio area — may not be as valuable as a contextual link on the same page.

92. Links to Homepage Domain that Page Sits On: Links to a referring page’s homepage may play special importance in evaluating a site’s — and therefore a link’s — weight.

93. Nofollow Links: One of the most controversial topics in SEO. Google’s official word on the matter is: “In general, we don’t follow them.” This suggests that they do…at least in certain cases, having a certain % of no-follow links may also indicate a natural vs. unnatural link profile.

94. Diversity of Link Types: Having an unnaturally large percentage of your links come from a single source (ie. forum profiles, blog comments) may be a sign of webspam. On the other hand, links from diverse sources are a sign of a natural link profile.

95. “Sponsored Links” Or Other Words Around Link: Words like “sponsors”, “link partners” and “sponsored links” may decrease a link’s value.

96. Contextual Links: Links embedded inside a page’s content are considered more powerful than links on an empty page or found elsewhere on the page.

97. Excessive 301 Redirects to Page: Links coming from 301 redirects dilute some (or even all) PR, according to a Webmaster Help Video.

98. Backlink Anchor Text: As noted in this description of Google’s original algorithm. “First, anchors often provide more accurate descriptions of web pages than the pages themselves.” Obviously, anchor text is less important than before (and likely a webspam signal). But it still sends a strong relevancy signal in small doses.

99. Internal Link Anchor Text: Internal link anchor text is another relevancy signal, although probably weighed differently than backlink anchor text.

100. Link Title Attribution: The link title (the text that appears when you hover over a link) is also used as a weak relevancy signal.

101. Country TLD of Referring Domain: Getting links from country-specific top-level domain extensions (.de, .cn, .co .uk) may help you rank better in that country.

102. Link Location In Content: Links at the beginning of a piece of content carry slightly more weight than links placed at the end of the content.

103. Link Location on Page: Where a link appears on a page is important. Generally, links embedded in a page’s content are more powerful than links in the footer or sidebar area.

104. Linking Domain Relevancy: A link from a site in a similar niche is significantly more powerful than a link from a completely unrelated site. That’s why any effective SEO strategy today focuses on obtaining relevant links.

105. Page Level Relevancy: The Hilltop Algorithm states that a link from a page that’s closely tied to the page’s content is more powerful than a link from an unrelated page.

106. Text Around Link Sentiment: Google has probably figured out whether or not a link to your site is a recommendation or part of a negative review. Links with positive sentiments around them likely carry more weight.

107. Keyword in Title: Google gives extra love to links on pages that contain your page’s keyword in the title (“Experts linking to experts”.)

108. Positive Link Velocity: A site with positive link velocity usually gets a SERP boost.

109. Negative Link Velocity: Negative link velocity can significantly reduce rankings as it’s a signal of decreasing popularity.

110. Links from “Hub” Pages: The Hilltop Algorithm also suggests that getting links from pages that are considered top resources (or hubs) on a certain topic are given special treatment.

111. Link from Authority Sites: A link from a site considered an “authority site” likely passes more juice than a link from a small, microniche site.

112. Linked to as Wikipedia Source: Although the links are no-followed, many think that getting a link from Wikipedia gives you a little added trust and authority in the eyes of search engines.

113. Co-Occurrences: The words that tend to appear around your backlinks help tell Google what that page is about.

114. Backlink Age: According to a Google patent, older links have more ranking power than newly minted backlinks.

115. Links from Real Sites vs. Splogs: Due to the proliferation of blog networks, Google probably gives more weight to links coming from “real sites” than from fake blogs. They likely use brand and user-interaction signals to distinguish between the two.

116. Natural Link Profile: A site with a “natural” link profile is going to rank highly and be more durable to updates.

117. Reciprocal Links: Google’s Link Schemes page lists “Excessive link exchanging” as a link scheme to avoid.

118. User-Generated Content Links: Google is able to identify links generated from UGC vs. the actual site owner. For example, they know that a link from the official WordPress.com blog at en.blog.wordpress.com is very different than a link from besttoasterreviews.wordpress.com.

119. Links from 301: Links from 301 redirects may lose a little bit of juice compared to a direct link. However, Matt Cutts says that a 301 is similar to a direct link.

120. Schema.org Microformats: Pages that support microformats may rank above pages without it. This may be a direct boost or the fact that pages with micro formatting have a higher SERP CTR:

121. DMOZ Listed: Many believe that Google gives DMOZ-listed sites a little extra trust.

122. TrustRank of Linking Site: The trustworthiness of the site linking to you determines how much “TrustRank” gets passed onto you.

123. The number of Outbound Links on Page: PageRank is finite. A link on a page with hundreds of OBLs passes less PR than a page with only a few OBLs.

124. Forum Profile Links: Because of industrial-level spamming, Google may significantly devalue links from forum profiles.

125. Word Count of Linking Content: A link from a 1000-word post is more valuable than a link inside of a 25-word snippet.

126. Quality of Linking Content: Links from poorly written or spun content don’t pass as much value as links from well-written, multimedia-enhanced content.

127. Sitewide Links: Matt Cutts has confirmed that sitewide links are “compressed” to count as a single link.

User Interaction
128. Organic Click Through Rate for a Keyword: Pages that get clicked more in CTR may get a SERP boost for that particular keyword.

129. Organic CTR for All Keywords: A page’s (or site’s) organic CTR for all keywords it ranks for may be a human-based, user interaction signal.

130. Bounce Rate: Not everyone in SEO agrees that bounce rate matters, but it may be a way for Google to use their users as quality testers (pages where people quickly bounce is probably not very good).

131. Direct Traffic: It’s confirmed that Google uses data from Google Chrome to determine whether or not people visit a site (and how often). Sites with lots of direct traffic are likely higher quality than sites that get very little direct traffic.

132. Repeat Traffic: They may also look at whether or not users go back to a page or site after visiting. Sites with repeat visitors may get a Google ranking boost.

133. Blocked Sites: Google has discontinued this feature in Chrome. However, Panda used this feature as a quality signal.

134. Chrome Bookmarks: We know that Google collects Chrome browser usage data. Pages that get bookmarked in Chrome might get a boost.

135. Google Toolbar Data: Search Engine Watch’s Danny Goodwin reports that Google uses toolbar data as a ranking signal. However, besides page loading speed and malware, it’s not known what kind of data they glean from the toolbar.

136. Number of Comments: Pages with lots of comments may be a signal of user interaction and quality.

137. Dwell Time: Google pays very close attention to “dwell time”: how long people spend on your page when coming from a Google search. This is also sometimes referred to as “long clicks vs short clicks”. If people spend a lot of time on your site, that may be used as a quality signal.

Special Algorithm Rules
138. Query Deserves Freshness: Google gives newer pages a boost for certain searches.

139. Query Deserves Diversity: Google may add diversity to a SERP for ambiguous keywords, such as “Ted”, “WWF” or “ruby”.

140. User Browsing History: Sites that you frequently visit while signed into Google get a SERP bump for your searches.

141. User Search History: The search chain influences search results for later searches. For example, if you search for “reviews” then search for “toasters”, Google is more likely to show toaster review sites higher in the SERPs.

142. Geo-Targeting: Google gives preference to sites with a local server IP and country-specific domain name extension.

143. Safe Search: Search results with curse words or adult content won’t appear for people with Safe Search turned on.

144. Google+ Circles: Google shows higher results for authors and sites that you’ve added to your Google Plus Circles

145. DMCA Complaints: Google “downranks” pages with DMCA complaints.

146. Domain Diversity: The so-called “Bigfoot Update” supposedly added more domains to each SERP page.

147. Transactional Searches: Google sometimes displays different results for shopping-related keywords, like flight searches.

148. Local Searches: Google often places Google+ Local results above the “normal” organic SERPs.

149. Google News Box: Certain keywords trigger a Google News box:

150. Big Brand Preference: After the Vince Update, Google began giving big brands a boost for certain short-tail searches.

151. Shopping Results: Google sometimes displays Google Shopping results in organic SERPs:

Google Shopping
152. Image Results: Google elbows our organic listings for image results for searches commonly used on Google Image Search.

153. Easter Egg Results: Google has a dozen or so Easter Egg results. For example, when you search for “Atari Breakout” in Google image search, the search results turn into a playable game (!). Shout out to Victor Pan for this one.

154. Single Site Results for Brands: Domain or brand-oriented keywords bring up several results from the same site.

Social Signals
155. Number of Tweets: Like links, the tweets a page has may influence its rank in Google.

156. Authority of Twitter Users Accounts: It’s likely that Tweets coming from aged, authority Twitter profiles with a ton of followers (like Justin Bieber) have more of an effect than tweets from new, low-influence accounts.

157. Number of Facebook Likes: Although Google can’t see most Facebook accounts, it’s likely they consider the number of Facebook likes a page receives as a weak ranking signal.

158. Facebook Shares: Facebook shares — because they’re more similar to a backlink — may have a stronger influence than Facebook likes.

159. Authority of Facebook User Accounts: As with Twitter, Facebook shares and likes coming from popular Facebook pages may pass more weight.

160. Pinterest Pins: Pinterest is an insanely popular social media account with lots of public data. It’s probably that Google considers Pinterest Pins a social signal.

161. Votes on Social Sharing Sites: It’s possible that Google uses shares at sites like Reddit, Stumbleupon, and Digg as another type of social signal.

162. The number of Google+1’s: Although Matt Cutts has gone on the record as saying Google+ has “no direct effect” on rankings, it’s hard to believe that they’d ignore their own social network.

163. Authority of Google+ User Accounts: It’s logical that Google would weigh +1’s coming from authoritative accounts more than from accounts without many followers.

164. Known Authorship: In February 2013, Google CEO Eric Schmidt famously claimed: “Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results.” Although the Google+ authorship program has been shut down, it’s likely Google uses some form of authorship to determine influential content producers online (and give them a boost in rankings).

165. Social Signal Relevancy: Google probably uses relevancy information from the account sharing the content and the text surrounding the link.

166. Site Level Social Signals: Site-wide social signals may increase a site’s overall authority, which will increase search visibility for all of its pages.

Brand Signals
167. Brand Name Anchor Text: Branded anchor text is a simple — but strong — brand signal.

168. Branded Searches: It’s simple: people search for brands. If people search for your site in Google (ie. “Backlinko Twitter”, Backlinko + “ranking factors”), Google likely takes this into consideration when determining a brand.

169. The site Has Facebook Page and Likes: Brands tend to have Facebook pages with lots of likes.

170. The site has Twitter Profile with Followers: Twitter profiles with a lot of followers signal a popular brand.

171. Official Linkedin Company Page: Most real businesses have company Linkedin pages.

172. Employees Listed at Linkedin: Rand Fishkin thinks that having Linkedin profiles that say they work for your company is a brand signal.

173. The legitimacy of Social Media Accounts: A social media account with 10,000 followers and 2 posts are probably interpreted a lot differently than another 10,000-follower strong account with lots of interaction.

174. Brand Mentions on News Sites: Really big brands get mentioned on Google News sites all the time. In fact, some brands even have their own Google News feed on the first page:

175. Co-Citations: Brands get mentioned without getting linked to. Google likely looks at non-hyperlinked brand mentions as a brand signal.

176. The number of RSS Subscribers: Considering that Google owns the popular Feedburner RSS service, it makes sense that they would look at RSS Subscriber data as a popularity/brand signal.

177. Brick and Mortar Location With Google+ Local Listing: Real businesses have offices. It’s possible that Google fishes for location data to determine whether or not a site is a big brand.

178. Website is Tax Paying Business: Moz reports that Google may look at whether or not a site is associated with a tax-paying business.

On-Site Webspam Factors
179. Panda Penalty: Sites with low-quality content (particularly content farms) are less visible in search after getting hit by a Panda penalty.

180. Links to Bad Neighborhoods: Linking out to “bad neighborhoods” — like pharmacy or payday loan sites — may hurt your search visibility.

181. Redirects: Sneaky redirects are a big no-no. If caught, it can get a site not just penalized, but de-indexed.

182. Popups or Distracting Ads: The official Google Rater Guidelines Document says that popups and distracting ads are a sign of a low-quality site.

183. Site Over-Optimization: Includes on-page factors like keyword stuffing, header tag stuffing, excessive keyword decoration.

184. Page Over-Optimization: Many people report that — unlike Panda — Penguin targets individual pages (and even then just for certain keywords).

185. Ads Above the Fold: The “Page Layout Algorithm” penalizes sites with lots of ads (and not much content) above the fold.

186. Hiding Affiliate Links: Going too far when trying to hide affiliate links (especially with cloaking) can bring on a penalty.

187. Affiliate Sites: It’s no secret that Google isn’t the biggest fan of affiliates. And many think that sites that monetize with affiliate links are put under extra scrutiny.

188. Autogenerated Content: Google isn’t a big fan of autogenerated content. If they suspect that your site’s pumping out computer-generated content, it could result in a penalty or de-indexing.

189. Excess PageRank Sculpting: Going too far with PageRank sculpting — by no-following, all outbound links, or most internal links — may be a sign of gaming the system.

190. IP Address Flagged as Spam: If your server’s IP address is flagged for spam, it may hurt all of the sites on that server.

191. Meta Tag Spamming: Keyword stuffing can also happen in meta tags. If Google thinks you’re adding keywords to your meta tags to game the algorithm, they may hit your site with a penalty.

Off-Page Webwspam
192. Unnatural Influx of Links: A sudden (and unnatural) influx of links is a sure-fire sign of phony links.

193. Penguin Penalty: Sites that were hit by Google Penguin are significantly less visible in search.

194. Link Profile with High % of Low-Quality Links: Lots of links from sources commonly used by black hat SEOs (like blog comments and forum profiles) may be a sign of gaming the system.

195. Linking Domain Relevancy: The famous analysis by MicroSiteMasters.com found that sites with an unnaturally high amount of links from unrelated sites were more susceptible to Penguin.

Penguin LDR
196. Unnatural Links Warning: Google sent out thousands of “Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links” messages. This usually precedes a ranking drop, although not 100% of the time.

197. Links from the Same Class C IP: Getting an unnatural amount of links from sites on the same server IP may be a sign of blog network link building.

198. “Poison” Anchor Text: Having “poison” anchor text (especially pharmacy keywords) pointed to your site may be a sign of spam or a hacked site. Either way, it can hurt your site’s ranking.

199. Manual Penalty: Google has been known to hand out manual penalties, like in the well-publicized Interflora fiasco.

200. Selling Links: Selling links can definitely impact the toolbar PageRank and may hurt your search visibility.

201. Google Sandbox: New sites that get a sudden influx of links are sometimes put in the Google Sandbox, which temporarily limits search visibility.

202. Google Dance: The Google Dance can temporarily shake up rankings. According to a Google Patent, this may be a way for them to determine whether or not a site is trying to game the algorithm.

203. Disavow Tool: Use of the Disavow Tool may remove a manual or algorithmic penalty for sites that were the victims of negative SEO.

204. Reconsideration Request: A successful reconsideration request can lift a penalty.

205. Temporary Link Schemes: Google has (apparently) caught onto people that create — and quickly remove — spammy links. Also known as a temporary link scheme.