We know that there are more than 100 ranking factors that Google considers in its algorithm.
But what actually are they? Let’s have a close look at it.
1.Domain Age: Google looks at the domain age because it considers that if you’re up there for a long time, that must probably mean you’re publishing quality content. It also means that your site is up because of a reason and you’re not just any spam sites that go up and then disappear from the radar.
2.Keyword Appearing in Top Level Domain: Keywords play an important role when it comes to getting traffic to a website. Users type enter keywords into their search queries and they are more likely to click on domain names and links that contain those keywords.
3.Keyword Appearing As First Word in Domain: A domain having a relevant keyword at the star has an edge over sites that either don’t have that keyword in their domain or have the keyword in the middle or end of their domain.
4.Country TLD extension: Having a Country Code Top Level Domain (.in, .us, .ca) can help the site rank for that particular country, but it can limit the site’s ability to rank globally.
5.Keyword in Subdomain: Moz’s expert panel agrees that a keyword appearing in the subdomain can boost SERP rankings.
6Keyword in Title Tag: Although not as important as it once was, your title tag remains an important on-page SEO signal.
7. Title Tag Starts with Keyword: According to Moz, title tags that start with a keyword tend to perform better than title tags with the keyword towards the end of the tag.
8. Keyword in Description Tag: Google doesn’t use the meta description tag as a direct ranking signal. However, your description tag can impact click-through-rate, which is a key ranking factor.
9. Keyword Appears in H1 Tag: H1 tags are a “second title tag”. Along with your title tag, Google uses your H1 tag as a secondary relevancy signal, according to results from one correlation study:
10. Content-Length: Content with more words can cover a wider breadth and are likely preferable in the algorithm compared to shorter, superficial articles. Indeed, one recent ranking factor industry study found that content length correlated with the SERP position.
11. Table of Contents: Using a linked table of contents can help Google better understand your page’s content. It can also result in sitelinks:
12. Keyword Density: Although not as important as it once was, Google may use it to determine the topic of a webpage. But going overboard can hurt you.
13. Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords in Content (LSI): LSI keywords help search engines extract meaning from words that have more than one meaning (for example Apple the computer company vs. Apple the fruit). The presence/absence of LSI probably also acts as a content quality signal.
14. LSI Keywords in Title and Description Tags: As with webpage content, LSI keywords in page meta tags probably help Google discern between words with multiple potential meanings. May also act as a relevancy signal.
15.Page Covers Topic In-Depth: There’s a known correlation between depth of topic coverage and Google rankings. Therefore, pages that cover every angle likely have an edge vs. pages that only cover a topic partially.
16. Page Loading Speed via HTML: Both Google and Bing use page speed as a ranking factor. Search engine spiders can estimate your site speed fairly accurately based on your page’s HTML code.
17. Page Loading Speed via Chrome: Google also uses Chrome user data to get a better handle on a page’s loading time. That way, they can measure how quickly a page actually loads to users.
18. Use of AMP: While not a direct Google ranking factor, AMP may be a requirement to rank in the mobile version of the Google News Carousel, though it is not a direct Google ranking factor.
19. Duplicate Content: Identical content on the same site (even slightly modified) can negatively influence a site’s search engine visibility.
20. Rel=Canonical: When used properly, the use of this tag may prevent Google from penalizing your site for duplicate content or multiple URLs of the same page or content.
21. Image Optimization: Images send search engines important relevancy signals through their file name, alt text, title, description, and caption.
22. Keyword Prominence: Having a keyword appear in the first 100 words of a page’s content is correlated to first page Google rankings.
23. Outbound Link Quality: Linking out to authority sites helps send trust signals to Google. And this is backed up by a recent industry study.
24. Grammar and Spelling: Proper grammar and spelling is a quality signal, although Cutts gave mixed messages a few years back on whether or not this was important.
25. Syndicated Content: Is the content on the page original? If it’s scraped or copied from an indexed page it won’t rank as well, or may not get indexed at all.
26. Mobile-Friendly Update: Often referred to as “Mobilegeddon“, this update rewarded pages that were properly optimized for mobile devices.
27. Mobile Usability: A very important factor in which Websites that mobile users can easily use may have an edge in Google’s “Mobile-first Index”.
28. Content Hidden Behind Tabs: if users need to click on a tab to reveal some of the content on your page then Google has said that this content “may not be indexed”.
29. Number of Outbound Links: Too many dofollow OBLs can “leak” PageRank, which can hurt that page’s rankings.
30. Multimedia: Images, videos, and other multimedia elements may act as a content quality signal.
31. Quality of Internal Links Pointing to Page: Internal links from authoritative pages on the domain have a stronger effect than pages with no or low PageRank.
32. Broken Links: Having too many broken links on a page may be a sign of a neglected or abandoned site affecting the site’s performance.
33.Domain Authority: All things being equal but a page that has an authoritative domain will rank higher than a page on a domain with less authority.
34.Page’s PageRank: pages with lots of authority tend to outrank pages without much link authority.
35. URL Length: Excessively long URLs may hurt a page’s search engine visibility. In fact, short URLs tend to have a slight edge in Google’s search results.
36.URL Path: A page closer to the homepage may get a slight authority boost vs. pages buried deep down in a site’s architecture.
37. Bullets and Numbered Lists: Bullets and numbered lists help break up your content for readers, making them more user friendly. Google likely agrees and may prefer content with bullets and numbers.
38. Priority of Page in Sitemap: The priority a page is given via the sitemap.xml file may influence ranking.
39. Page Age: Although Google prefers fresh content, an older page that’s regularly updated may outperform a newer page.
40. User-Friendly Layout: Citing the Google Quality Guidelines Document yet again
41. Contact Us Page: Google Quality Document states that they prefer sites with an “appropriate amount of contact information”. Make sure that your contact information matches your whois info.
42. Presence of Sitemap: A sitemap helps search engines index your pages easier and more thoroughly, improving visibility. However, Google recently stated that HTML sitemaps aren’t “useful” for SEO.
43. Server Location: Server location influences where your site ranks in different geographical regions. Especially important for geo-specific searches.
44. SSL Certificate: Google has confirmed that uses HTTPS as a minor ranking signal.
45. Terms of Service and Privacy Pages: These two pages help tell Google that a site is a trustworthy member of the internet. They may also help improve your site’s E-A-T.
46. Duplicate Meta Information On-Site: Duplicate meta information across your site may bring down all of your page’s visibility.
47. Mobile Optimized: With more than half of all searches done from mobile devices, Google wants to see that your site is optimized for mobile users. In fact, Google now penalizes websites that aren’t mobile-friendly.
48. Site Usability: A site that’s difficult to use or to navigate can hurt rankings indirectly by reducing time on site, pages viewed, and bounce rate.
49. Use of Google Analytics and Google Search Console: These two programs installed on your site can improve your page’s indexing. They may also directly influence rankings by giving Google more data to work with.
50. User reviews/Site reputation: A site’s reputation on sites like Yelp.com likely plays an important role in Google’s algorithm. Google even posted a rarely candid outline of how they use online reviews after one site was caught ripping off customers in an effort to get press and links.
51. Linking Domain Age: Backlinks from aged domains may be more powerful than new domains.
52. # 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 industry study of 1 million Google Search results.
53. # of Links from Separate C-Class IPs: Links from separate class-c IP addresses suggest a wider breadth of sites linking to you, which can help with rankings.
54. # of Linking Pages: The total number of linking pages — even from the same domain — has an impact on rankings.
55. Backlink Anchor Text: As noted in this description of Google’s original algorithm:
Obviously, anchor text is less important than before (and, when over-optimized, works as a webspam signal). But keyword-rich anchor text still sends a strong relevancy signal in small doses.
56. Alt Tag (for Image Links): Alt text acts as anchor text for images.
57. Links from .edu or .gov Domains: Matt Cutts has stated that TLD doesn’t factor into a site’s importance. And Google has said they “ignore” lots of Edu links. However, that doesn’t stop SEOs from thinking that there’s a special place in the algorithm for .gov and .edu TLDs.
58. Authority of Linking Page: The authority (PageRank) of the referring page has been an extremely important ranking factor since Google’s early days and still is.
59. Authority of Linking Domain: The referring domain’s authority may play an independent role in a link’s value.
60. Links From Competitors: Links from other pages ranking in the same SERP may be more valuable to a page’s ranking for that particular keyword.
61. Links from “Expected” Websites: Although speculative, some SEOs believe that Google won’t fully trust your website until you get linked to from a set of “expected” sites in your industry.
62. Guest Posts: Although links from guest posts still pass value, they likely aren’t as powerful as true editorial links (plus, “large-scale” guest posting can get your site into trouble).
63. Links From Ads: According to Google, links from ads should be Nofollowed. However, it’s likely that Google is able to identify and filter out followed links from ads.
64. Homepage Authority: Links to a referring page’s homepage may play special importance in evaluating a site’s — and therefore a link’s — weight.
65. 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.
66. Excessive 301 Redirects to Page: Backlinks coming from 301 redirects dilute some PageRank, according to Webmaster.
67. Internal Link Anchor Text: Internal link anchor text is another relevancy signal. That said, internal links likely have much less weight than anchor text coming from external sites.
68. Link Title Attribution: The link title (the text that appears when you hover over a link) may also be used as a weak relevancy signal.
69. 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.
70. Link Location In Content: Links at the beginning of a piece of content may carry slightly more weight than links placed at the end of the content.
71. Link Location on Page: Where a link appears on a page is important. Generally, a link embedded in a page’s content is more powerful than a link in the footer or sidebar area.
72. Linking Domain Relevancy: A link from a site in a similar niche is significantly more powerful than a link from a completely unrelated site.
73. Page-Level Relevancy: A link from a relevant page also passes more value.
74. Keyword in Title: Google gives extra love to links from pages that contain your page’s keyword in the title (“Experts linking to experts”.)
75. Positive Link Velocity: A site with positive link velocity usually gets a SERP boost as it shows your site is increasing in popularity.
76. Negative Link Velocity: On the flip side, a negative link velocity can significantly reduce rankings as it’s a signal of decreasing popularity.
77. Link from Authority Sites: A link from a site considered an “authority site” likely to pass more juice than a link from a small, relatively unknown site.
78. Backlink Age: According to a Google patent, older links have more ranking power than newly minted backlinks.
79. Reciprocal Links: Google’s Link Schemes page lists “Excessive link exchanging” as a link scheme to avoid.
80. Links from 301: Links from 301 redirects may lose a little bit of juice compared to a direct link.
81. A number of Outbound Links on Page: PageRank is finite. A link on a page with hundreds of external links passes less PageRank than a page with a handful of outbound links.
82. Forum Links: Because of industrial-level spamming, Google may significantly devalue links from forums.
83. Word Count of Linking Content: A link from a 1000-word post is usually more valuable than a link inside of a 25-word snippet.
84. Quality of Linking Content: Links from poorly written or spun content don’t pass as much value as links from well-written, content.
85. RankBrain: RankBrain is Google’s AI algorithm. Many believe that its main purpose is to measure how users interact with the search results (and rank the results accordingly).
86. Organic Click Through Rate for a Keyword: According to Google, pages that get clicked more in CTR may get a SERP boost for that particular keyword.
87. Organic CTR for All Keywords: A site’s organic CTR for all keywords it ranks for may be a human-based, user interaction signal (in other words, a “Quality Score” for the organic results).
88. Bounce Rate: Not everyone in SEO agrees on bounce rate matters, but it may be a way for Google to use their users as quality testers (after all, pages with a high bounce rate probably aren’t a great result for that keyword). Also, a recent study by SEMRush found a correlation between bounce rate and Google rankings.
89. Direct Traffic: It’s confirmed that Google uses data from Google Chrome to determine how many people visit site (and how often). Sites with lots of direct traffic are likely higher quality sites vs. sites that get very little direct traffic. In fact, the SEMRush study I just cited found a significant correlation between direct traffic and Google rankings.
90. Chrome Bookmarks: We know that Google collects Chrome browser usage data. Pages that get bookmarked in Chrome might get a boost.
91. Number of Comments: Pages with lots of comments may be a signal of user-interaction and quality. In fact, comments can help “a lot” with rankings.
92. 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”. In short: Google measures how long Google searchers spend on your page. The longer time spent, the better.
93. Brand Name Anchor Text: Branded anchor text is a simple — but strong — brand signal.
94. Site Has Facebook Page and Likes: Brands tend to have Facebook pages with lots of likes.
95. The site has Twitter profiles with Followers: Twitter profiles with a lot of followers signals a popular brand.
On-Site Webspam Factors
96. Panda Penalty: Sites with low-quality content (particularly content farms) are less visible in search after getting hit by a Panda penalty.
97. Links to Bad Neighborhoods: Linking out to “bad neighborhoods” — like spammy pharmacy or payday loan sites — may hurt your search visibility.
98. Redirects: Sneaky redirect is a big no-no. If caught, it can get a site not just penalized, but de-indexed.
99. Popups or “Distracting Ads”: The official Google Rater Guidelines Document says that popups and distracting ads are a sign of a low-quality site.
100. Site Over-Optimization: Yes, Google does penalize people for over-optimizing their site. This includes keyword stuffing, header tag stuffing, excessive keyword decoration.
101. Gibberish Content: A Google Patent outlines how Google can identify “gibberish” content, which is helpful for filtering out spun or auto-generated content from their index.
102. Doorway Pages: Google wants the page you show to Google to be the page that user ultimately sees. If your page redirects people to another page, that’s a “Doorway Page”. Needless to say, Google doesn’t like sites that use Doorway Pages.
103. Hiding Affiliate Links: Going too far when trying to hide affiliate links (especially with cloaking) can bring on a penalty.
104. Autogenerated Content: Google understandably hates autogenerated content. If they suspect that your site’s pumping out computer-generated content, it could result in a penalty or de-indexing.
105. Meta Tag Spamming: Keyword stuffing can also happen in meta tags. If Google thinks you’re adding keywords to your title and description tags in an effort to game the algo, they may hit your site with a penalty.
Off-Site Webspam Factors
106. Hacked Site: If your site gets hacked it can get dropped from the search results. In fact, Search Engine Land was completed deindexed after Google thought it had been hacked.
107. Unnatural Influx of Links: A sudden (and unnatural) influx of links is a sure-fire sign of phony links.
108. Penguin Penalty: Sites that were hit by Google Penguin are significantly less visible in search. Although, apparently, Penguin now focuses more on filtering out bad links vs. penalizing entire websites.
109. 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.
110. Links From Unrelated Websites: A high-percentage of backlinks from topically-unrelated sites can increase the odds of a manual penalty.
111. Unnatural Links Warning: Google has sent out thousands of “Google Search Console notice of detected unnatural links” messages. This usually precedes a ranking drop, although not 100% of the time.
112. Low-Quality Directory Links: According to Google, backlinks from low-quality directories can lead to a penalty.
113. Widget Links: Google frowns on links that are automatically generated when user embeds a “widget” on their site.
114. Links from the Same Class C IP: Getting an unnatural amount of links from sites on the same server IP may help Google determine that your links are coming from a blog network.
115. “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.
116. Unnatural Link Spike: A 2013 Google Patent describes how Google can identify whether or not an influx of links to a page is legitimate. Those unnatural links may become devalued.
117. Links From Articles and Press Releases: Articles directories and press releases have been abused to the point that Google now considers these two link building strategies a “link scheme” in many cases.
118. Selling Links: Getting caught selling links can hurt your search visibility.
119. Google Sandbox: New sites that get a sudden influx of links are sometimes put in the Google Sandbox, which temporarily limits search visibility.
120. Temporary Link Schemes: Google has caught onto people that create — and quickly remove — spammy links. Also, know as a temporary link scheme.
To summarize, here are the most important Google ranking factors in 2021:
- Referring domains
- Organic click-through-rate
- Domain authority
- Mobile usability
- Dwell time
- Total number of backlinks
- Content quality
- On-page SEO
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