It is widely known that Google utilizes more than 200 ranking factors in their algorithm…
But what are they, exactly?
Some views are proven, while others remain controversial. Certain viewpoints are based on SEO nerd speculation. However, all of them are included here. Additionally, I have recently updated this entire list for 2023.
Let’s dive right in.
- Domain Factors
- Page-Level Factors
- Site-Level Factors
- Backlink Factors
- User Interaction
- Special Google Algorithm Rules
- Brand Signals
- On-Site Webspam Factors
- Off-Site Webspam Factors
1. Domain Age: In the field of SEO, there is a common belief among many professionals that older domains are naturally “trusted” by Google. Google’s John Mueller has said “domain age helps nothing“.
2. Having a keyword in your domain name no longer provides the same SEO boost as before. However, it still serves as a relevancy signal.
3. Domain registration length has been addressed in a Google patent.
“Valuable (legitimate) domains are often paid for several years in advance, while doorway (illegitimate) domains rarely are used for more than a year. Therefore, the date when a domain expires in the future can be used as a factor in predicting the legitimacy of a domain.”
4. According to Moz’s expert panel, incorporating a keyword in the subdomain can enhance rankings.
5. Domain History: A website with frequent ownership changes or multiple instances of being dropped may prompt Google to “reset” the site’s history, thereby nullifying any links pointing to the domain. Additionally, in specific scenarios, a domain that has been penalized may transfer the penalty to the new owner.
7. Public vs. Private WhoIs: Private WhoIs information may raise suspicions of concealing information. Matt Cutts, a Googler, shared his perspective on this matter:
“…When I checked the whois on them, they all had “whois privacy protection service” on them. That’s relatively unusual. …Having whois privacy turned on isn’t automatically bad, but once you get several of these factors all together, you’re often talking about a very different type of webmaster than the fellow who just has a single site or so.”
8. If Google penalizes a WhoIs owner, it is logical for them to examine other websites owned by that individual, especially if they are identified as a spammer.
9. A Country Code Top Level Domain (TLD) extension, such as .cn, .pt, or .ca, can be beneficial for improving a website’s ranking within that specific country. However, it’s important to note that this choice may limit the site’s ability to rank globally.
10. The title tag, while not as crucial as before, still holds significance as an on-page SEO signal.
11. Title tags that start with a keyword are known to perform better, as stated by Moz. When the keyword is placed at the beginning of the tag, the performance tends to be stronger compared to when it is placed at the end.
12. The meta description tag is not directly used by Google as a ranking signal, but it does influence the click-through-rate, which is an important ranking factor.
13. The H1 tag, also known as a “second title tag,” acts as a secondary relevancy signal for Google, in addition to the title tag. This information is backed by the findings from a correlation study.
14. TF-IDF is a metric that determines the frequency of a specific word in a document. It gauges the relevance of a page to that word based on its frequency. It is widely believed that Google utilizes an advanced version of TF-IDF.
15. Longer content has the potential to cover a wider range and may be favored over shorter, shallow articles in the algorithm. Notably, a recent study on ranking factors in the industry revealed that the average word count for Google’s first-page results is approximately 1400 words.
16. Table of Contents: A linked table of contents is an effective way to enhance Google’s comprehension of your page’s content. Additionally, it can lead to the creation of sitelinks, further improving the user experience.
17. LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords aid search engines in deciphering the intended meaning of words with multiple interpretations, such as “Apple” (the computer company) versus “Apple” (the fruit). The inclusion or omission of LSI keywords is believed to serve as a content quality indicator.
18. LSI Keywords in Title and Description Tags: Similar to webpage content, incorporating LSI keywords in page meta tags likely assists Google in distinguishing between words with various possible meanings. Additionally, it may serve as a relevancy signal.
19. In-depth page coverage is associated with higher Google rankings. Pages that thoroughly address a topic are more likely to outperform those with incomplete coverage.
21. AMP: The use of AMP is not a direct Google ranking factor. However, it may be necessary to rank in the mobile version of the Google News Carousel.
22. Entity Match refers to the alignment between a page’s content and the specific “entity” that a user is searching for. If there is a match, that page may receive a rankings boost for the associated keyword.
23. Google Hummingbird, an algorithm change, has allowed Google to surpass the limitation of keywords. With Hummingbird, Google is now able to comprehensively comprehend the subject matter of webpages.
24. Duplicate Content: Identical content on the same site (even if slightly modified) can have a detrimental impact on a website’s search engine visibility.
25. The “rel=canonical” tag, when used correctly, can help prevent Google from penalizing your site due to duplicate content.
26. Image Optimization: Images play a crucial role in search engine optimization (SEO) through their file name, alt text, title, description, and caption.
27. Content Recency: Google Caffeine update prioritizes recently published or updated content, particularly for time-sensitive searches. It is worth noting that Google displays the date of a page’s last update for specific pages, underlining the significance of this factor.
28. The importance of edits and changes also contributes to the freshness factor of content updates. It is worth noting that adding or removing entire sections carries more significance than simply rearranging a few words or correcting a typo.
29. Frequency of page updates also influences its freshness and can be measured by the number of views over time.
30. Keyword prominence is an important factor for achieving higher Google rankings. Specifically, having a keyword appear within the first 100 words of a page’s content has a strong correlation with first page rankings.
31. According to Googler John Mueller, having your keyword as a subheading in H2 or H3 format may act as a weak relevancy signal.
These heading tags in HTML help us to understand the structure of the page.
32. Outbound Link Quality: It is widely believed among SEOs that linking out to authority sites can contribute to sending trust signals to Google. This belief is supported by a recent industry study.
33. According to The Hilltop Algorithm, Google considers the content of the pages you link to as a relevancy signal. For instance, if you have a page about cars that links to movie-related pages, Google may interpret your page as being about the movie Cars rather than the automobile.
34. Grammar and Spelling: Proper grammar and spelling are regarded as quality signals. It is worth noting that there were mixed views regarding their importance a few years ago, as communicated by Cutts.
35. Syndicated Content: Is the content on the page original? If it is scraped or copied from an indexed page, it will not rank as well or may not get indexed at all.
36. The Mobile-Friendly update, commonly known as “Mobilegeddon,” rewarded pages that were appropriately optimized for mobile devices from a views perspective.
37. Mobile Usability is an important factor to consider as websites that provide a seamless experience for mobile users may have an advantage in Google’s “Mobile-first Index”.
38. Hidden content on mobile devices may not be indexed or given as much importance as fully visible content. However, a Googler recently stated that hidden content is acceptable but emphasized that critical content should be visible.
39. According to the publicly available Google Rater Guidelines Document, the presence of helpful supplementary content is considered an indicator of a webpage’s quality and can affect its ranking on Google. Some examples of such content include currency converters, loan interest calculators, and interactive recipes.
40. According to Google, content hidden behind tabs may not be indexed. Users are required to click on a tab to reveal the content on your page.
41. The large number of outbound links (OBLs) can result in the “leakage” of PageRank, thereby potentially negatively impacting the rankings of the respective page.
42. Multimedia views: Images, videos, and other multimedia elements can serve as a signal of content quality.