You might already know that Google uses over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm…
But what the heck are they?
Well, you’re in for a treat because I’ve put together a complete list.
Some are proven.
Some are controversial.
Others are SEO nerd speculation.
But they’re all here.
And I recently updated this entire list for 2020.
Let’s dive right in.
1. Domain Age: In this video, Google’s Matt Cutts states that:
In other words, they do use domain age. But it’s not that important.
2. Keyword Appears in Top Level Domain: Having a keyword in your domain name doesn’t give you the SEO boost that it used to. But it still acts as a relevancy signal.
3. Keyword As First Word in Domain: A domain that starts with their target keyword 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. Domain registration length: A Google patent states:
5. Keyword in Subdomain: Moz’s expert panel agrees that a keyword appearing in the subdomain can boost rankings.
6. Domain History: A site with volatile ownership or several drops may tell Google to “reset” the site’s history, negating links pointing to the domain. Or, in certain cases, a penalized domain may carry the penalty over to the new owner.
7. Exact Match Domain: Exact Match Domains may still give you slight edge. But if your EMD happens to be a low-quality site, it’s vulnerable to the EMD update.
8. Public vs. Private WhoIs: Private WhoIs information may be a sign of “something to hide”. Googler Matt Cutts is quoted as stating:
9. Penalized WhoIs Owner: If Google identifies a particular person as a spammer it makes sense that they would scrutinize other sites owned by that person.
10. Country TLD extension: Having a Country Code Top Level Domain (.cn, .pt, .ca) can help the site rank for that particular country… but it can limit the site’s ability to rank globally.
11. Keyword in Title Tag: Although not as important as it once was, your title tag remains an important on-page SEO signal.
12. Title Tag Starts with Keyword: According to Moz , title tags that starts with a keyword tend to perform better than title tags with the keyword towards the end of the tag.
13. 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.
14. 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:
15. TF-IDF: A fancy way of saying: “How often does a certain word appear in a document?”. The more often that word appears on a page, the more likely it is that the page is about that word. Google likely uses a sophisticated version of TF-IDF.
16. 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 factors industry study found that content length correlated with SERP position.
17. Table of Contents: Using a linked table of contents can help Google better understand your page’s content. It can also result in sitelinks:
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. 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.
25. Entity Match: Does a page’s content match the “entity” that a user is searching for? If so, that page may get a rankings boost for that keyword.
26. Google Hummingbird: This “algorithm change” helped Google go beyond keywords. Thanks to Hummingbird, Google can now better understand the topic of a webpage.
27. Duplicate Content: Identical content on the same site (even slightly modified) can negatively influence a site’s search engine visibility.
28. Rel=Canonical: When used properly, use of this tag may prevent Google from penalizing your site for duplicate content.
29. Image Optimization: Images send search engines important relevancy signals through their file name, alt text, title, description and caption.
30. Content Recency: Google Caffeine update favors recently published or updated content, especially for time-sensitive searches. Highlighting this factor’s importance, Google shows the date of a page’s last update for certain pages:
31. Magnitude of Content Updates: The significance of edits and changes also serves as a freshness factor. Adding or removing entire sections is more significant than switching around the order of a few words or fixing a typo.
32. Historical Page Updates: How often has the page been updated over time? Daily, weekly, every 5 years? Frequency of page updates also play a role in freshness.
33. Keyword Prominence: Having a keyword appear in the first 100 words of a page’s content is correlated to first page Google rankings.
34. Keyword in H2, H3 Tags: Having your keyword appear as a subheading in H2 or H3 format may be another weak relevancy signal. In fact, Googler John Mueller states:
35. Outbound Link Quality: Many SEOs think that linking out to authority sites helps send trust signals to Google. And this is backed up by a recent industry study.
36. Outbound Link Theme: According to The Hillop Algorithm, Google may use the content of the pages you link to as a relevancy signal. For example, if you have a page about cars that links to movie-related pages, this may tell Google that your page is about the movie Cars, not the automobile.
37. 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.
38. 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.
39. Mobile-Friendly Update: Often referred to as “Mobilegeddon“, this update rewarded pages that were properly optimized for mobile devices.
40. Mobile Usability: Websites that mobile users can easily use may have an edge in Google’s “Mobile-first Index”.
41. “Hidden” Content on Mobile: Hidden content on mobile devices may not get indexed (or may not be weighed as heavily) vs. fully visible content. However, a Googler recently stated that hidden content is OK. But also said that in the same video, “…if it’s critical content it should be visible…”.
42. Helpful “Supplementary Content”: According to a now-public Google Rater Guidelines Document, helpful supplementary content is an indicator of a page’s quality (and therefore, Google ranking). Examples include currency converters, loan interest calculators and interactive recipes.
43. Content Hidden Behind Tabs: Do users need to click on a tab to reveal some of the content on your page? If so, Google has said that this content “may not be indexed”.
44. Number of Outbound Links: Too many dofollow OBLs can “leak” PageRank, which can hurt that page’s rankings.
45. Multimedia: Images, videos and other multimedia elements may act as a content quality signal. For example, one industry study found a correlation between multimedia and rankings:
46. Number of Internal Links Pointing to Page: The number of internal links to a page indicates its importance relative to other pages on the site (more internal links=more important).
47. Quality of Internal Links Pointing to Page: Internal links from authoritative pages on domain have a stronger effect than pages with no or low PageRank.
48. Broken Links: Having too many broken links on a page may be a sign of a neglected or abandoned site. The Google Rater Guidelines Document uses broken links as one was to assess a homepage’s quality.
49. Reading Level: There’s no doubt that Google estimates the reading level of webpages. In fact, Google used to give you reading level stats:
But what they do with that information is up for debate. Some say that a basic reading level will help you rank better because it will appeal to the masses. But others associate a basic reading level with content mills like Ezine Articles.
50. Affiliate Links: Affiliate links themselves probably won’t hurt your rankings. But if you have too many, Google’s algorithm may pay closer attention to other quality signals to make sure you’re not a “thin affiliate site“.
51. HTML errors/W3C validation: Lots of HTML errors or sloppy coding may be a sign of a poor quality site. While controversial, many in SEO think that a well-coded page is used as a quality signal.
52. Domain Authority: All things being equal, a page on an authoritative domain will rank higher than a page on a domain with less authority.
53. Page’s PageRank: Not perfectly correlated. But pages with lots of authority tend to outrank pages without much link authority.
54. URL Length: Excessively long URLs may hurt a page’s search engine visibility. In fact, several industry studies have found that short URLs tend to have a slight edge in Google’s search results.
55. URL Path: A page closer to the homepage may get a slight authority boost vs. pages buried deep down in a site’s architecture.
56. Human Editors: Although never confirmed, Google has filed a patent for a system that allows human editors to influence the SERPs.
57. Page Category: The category the page appears on is a relevancy signal. A page that’s part of a closely related category may get a relevancy boost compared to a page that’s filed under an unrelated category.
58. WordPress Tags: Tags are WordPress-specific relevancy signal. According to Yoast.com:
59. Keyword in URL: Another relevancy signal. A Google rep recently called this a “a very small ranking factor“. But a ranking factor nontheless.
60. URL String: The categories in the URL string are read by Google and may provide a thematic signal to what a page is about:
61. References and Sources: Citing references and sources, like research papers do, may be a sign of quality. The Google Quality Guidelines states that reviewers should keep an eye out for sources when looking at certain pages: “This is a topic where expertise and/or authoritative sources are important…”. However, Google has denied that they use external links as a ranking signal.
62. 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.
63. Priority of Page in Sitemap: The priority a page is given via the sitemap.xml file may influence ranking.
64. Too Many Outbound Links: Straight from the aforementioned Quality rater document:
65. UX Signals From Other Keywords Page Ranks For: If the page ranks for several other keywords, it may give Google an internal sign of quality. In fact, Google’s recent “How Search Works” report states:
66. Page Age: Although Google prefers fresh content, an older page that’s regularly updated may outperform a newer page.
67. User Friendly Layout: Citing the Google Quality Guidelines Document yet again:
68. Parked Domains: A Google update in December of 2011 decreased search visibility of parked domains.
69. Useful Content: As pointed out by Backlinko reader Jared Carrizales, Google may distinguish between “quality” and “useful” content.
70. Content Provides Value and Unique Insights: Google has stated that they’re happy to penalize sites that don’t bring anything new or useful to the table, especially thin affiliate sites.
71. Contact Us Page: The aforementioned 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.
72. Domain Trust/TrustRank: Many SEOs believe that “TrustRank” is a massively important ranking factor. And a Google Patent titled “Search result ranking based on trust”, seems to back this up.
73. Site Architecture: A well put-together site architecture (for example, a silo structure) helps Google thematically organize your content. It can also helps Googlebot access and index all of your site’s pages.
74. Site Updates: Many SEOs believe that website updates — and especially when new content is added to the site — works a site-wide freshness factor. Although Google has recently denied that they use “publishing frequency” in their algorithm.
75. 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.
76. Site Uptime: Lots of downtime from site maintenance or server issues may hurt your rankings (and can even result in deindexing if not corrected).
77. Server Location: Server location influences where your site ranks in different geographical regions (source). Especially important for geo-specific searches.
78. SSL Certificate: Google has confirmed that use HTTPS as a ranking signal.
According to Google, however, HTTPS only acts as a “tiebreaker“.
79. 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.
80. Duplicate Meta Information On-Site: Duplicate meta information across your site may bring down all of your page’s visibility.
81. Breadcrumb Navigation: This is a style of user-friendly site-architecture that helps users (and search engines) know where they are on a site:
Google states that: “Google Search uses breadcrumb markup in the body of a web page to categorize the information from the page in search results.”
82. 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
83. YouTube: There’s no doubt that YouTube videos are given preferential treatment in the SERPs (probably because Google owns it ):
In fact, Search Engine Land found that YouTube.com traffic increased significantly after Google Panda.
84. 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 (in other words, RankBrain ranking factors).
85. Use of Google Analytics and Google Search Console: Some think that having 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 (ie. more accurate bounce rate, whether or not you get referral traffic from your backlinks etc.). That said, Google has denied this as a myth.
86. User reviews/Site reputation: A site’s reputation on sites like Yelp.com likely play 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.
87. Linking Domain Age: Backlinks from aged domains may be more powerful than new domains.
88. # 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.
89. # 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.
90. # of Linking Pages: The total number of linking pages — even from the same domain — has an impact on rankings.
91. 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, work as a webspam signal). But keyword-rich anchor text still sends a strong relevancy signal in small doses.
92. Alt Tag (for Image Links): Alt text acts as anchor text for images.
93. 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.
94. 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.
95. Authority of Linking Domain: The referring domain’s authority may play an independent role in a link’s value.
96. 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.
97. 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.
98. Links from Bad Neighborhoods: Links from so-called “bad neighborhoods” may hurt your site.
99. 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).
100. 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.
101. Homepage Authority: Links to a referring page’s homepage may play special importance in evaluating a site’s — and therefore a link’s — weight.
102. Nofollow Links: This is one of the most controversial topics in SEO. Google’s official word on the matter is:
Which suggests that they do… at least in certain cases. Having a certain % of nofollow links may also indicate a natural vs. unnatural link profile.
103. Diversity of Link Types: Having an unnaturally large percentage of your links coming from a single source (ie. forum profiles, blog comments) may be a sign of webspam. On the other hand, links from diverse sources is a sign of a natural link profile.
104. “Sponsored” or “UGC” Tags: Links tagged as “rel=sponsored” or “rel=UGC” are treated differently than normal “followed” or rel=nofollow links.
105. 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.
106. Excessive 301 Redirects to Page: Backlinks coming from 301 redirects dilute some PageRank, according to a Webmaster Help Video.
107. 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.
108. 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.
109. 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.
110. Link Location In Content: Links in the beginning of a piece of content may carry slightly more weight than links placed at the end of the content.
111. 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.
112. Linking Domain Relevancy: A link from a site in a similar niche is significantly more powerful than a link from a completely unrelated site.
113. Page-Level Relevancy: A link from a relevant page also passes more value.
114. Keyword in Title: Google gives extra love to links from pages that contain your page’s keyword in the title (“Experts linking to experts”.)
115. Positive Link Velocity: A site with positive link velocity usually gets a SERP boost as it shows your site is increasing in popularity.
116. Negative Link Velocity: On the flip side, a negative link velocity can significantly reduce rankings as it’s a signal of decreasing popularity.
117. Links from “Hub” Pages:The Hilltop Algorithm suggests that getting links from pages that are considered top resources (or hubs) on a certain topic are given special treatment.
118. Link from Authority Sites: A link from a site considered an “authority site” likely pass more juice than a link from a small, relatively unknown site.
119. Linked to as Wikipedia Source: Although the links are nofollow, many think that getting a link from Wikipedia gives you a little added trust and authority in the eyes of search engines.
120. Co-Occurrences: The words that tend to appear around your backlinks helps tell Google what that page is about.
121. Backlink Age: According to a Google patent, older links have more ranking power than newly minted backlinks.
122. 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.
123. Natural Link Profile: A site with a “natural” link profile is going to rank highly and be more durable to updates than one that has obviously used black hat strategies to build links.
124. Reciprocal Links: Google’s Link Schemes page lists “Excessive link exchanging” as a link scheme to avoid.
125. User Generated Content Links: Google can identify UGC vs. content published by the actual site owner. For example, they know that a link from the official WordPress.com blog is very different than a link from besttoasterreviews.wordpress.com.
126. 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 301s are similar to direct links
127. Schema.org Usage: Pages that support microformats may rank above pages without it. This may be a direct boost or the fact that pages with microformatting have a higher SERP CTR:
128. TrustRank of Linking Site: The trustworthiness of the site linking to you determines how much “TrustRank” gets passed on to you.
129. 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.
130. Forum Links: Because of industrial-level spamming, Google may significantly devalue links from forums.
131. 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.
132. Quality of Linking Content: Links from poorly written or spun content don’t pass as much value as links from well-written, content.
133. Sitewide Links: Matt Cutts has confirmed that sitewide links are “compressed” to count as a single link.
134. 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).
135. 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.
136. 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).
137. Bounce Rate: Not everyone in SEO agrees bounce rate matters, but it may be a way of 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.
138. 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.
139. Repeat Traffic: Sites with repeat visitors may get a Google ranking boost.
140. Pogosticking: “Pogosticking” is a special type of bounce. In this case, the user clicks on other search results in an attempt to find the answer to their query.
Results that people Pogostick from may get a significantly rankings drop.
141. Blocked Sites: Google has discontinued this feature in Chrome. However, Panda used this feature as a quality signal. So Google may still use a variation of it.
142. Chrome Bookmarks: We know that Google collects Chrome browser usage data. Pages that get bookmarked in Chrome might get a boost.
143. Number of Comments: Pages with lots of comments may be a signal of user-interaction and quality. In fact, one Googler said comments can help “a lot” with rankings.
144. 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.
Special Google Algorithm Rules
145. Query Deserves Freshness: Google gives newer pages a boost for certain searches.
146. Query Deserves Diversity: Google may add diversity to a SERP for ambiguous keywords, such as “Ted”, “WWF” or “ruby”.
147. User Browsing History: You’ve probably noticed this yourself: websites that you visit frequently get a SERP boost for your searches.
148. User Search History: Search chain influence search results for later searches. For example, if you search for “reviews” then search for “toasters”, Google is more likely to rank toaster review sites higher in the SERPs.
149. Featured Snippets: According to an SEMRush study, Google chooses Featured Snippets content based on a combination of content length, formatting, page authority and HTTPs usage.
150. Geo Targeting: Google gives preference to sites with a local server IP and country-specific domain name extension.
151. Safe Search: Search results with curse words or adult content won’t appear for people with Safe Search turned on.
152. Google+ Circles: Even though Google+ is soon to be dead, Google still shows higher results for authors and sites that you’ve added to your Google Plus Circles.
153. “YMYL” Keywords: Google has higher content quality standards for “Your Money or Your Life” keywords.
154. DMCA Complaints: Google “downranks” pages with legitimate DMCA complaints.
155. Domain Diversity: The so-called “Bigfoot Update” supposedly added more domains to each SERP page.
156. Transactional Searches
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