Guess what’s the biggest headache of any SEO or website owner nowadays?
Is it finding great content ideas? Creating super-awesome content? Or Is it knowing how to grow in SERPs?
Nope! The biggest headache for SEOs across the globe today is the regular updates of google ranking factors.
Just imagine you did a brief content and keyword research and created excellent content. You published it taking care of all the SEO required and resultantly it performed well. Great!
You are rising in SERPs day-by-day, you dreamt of being the next industry giant and BOOM! Google released a new algorithm update. And suddenly your performance stats went down drastically.
What can you do now? Start from the bottom back again?
Accept it or not, google’s habit of updating search engine ranking factors regularly does make a heavy impact on your SEO strategies and website’s performance.
In 2006, Google announced that they use over 200 ranking factors to determine the rankings on SERPs.
And that’s not all, the list of google ranking factors is constantly evolving.
Here, I’ve pulled down the list of over 200 SEO ranking factors that are currently known and believed to be effective.
And obviously, no one’s been able to fix all the 200 ranking factors in SEO, so I’ve pointed out the 7 most important ranking factors that you must fix ASAP.
But before diving right in, I want to clear out that SEO is arguable. And there are have been so many arguments about the “200 known SEO ranking factors”. The perspective of which ones are most important and which ones are not important at all usually differs.
To not get confused, one thing to keep in mind is Google focuses solely on user experience. Google want to offer their users the best user experience and hence, the best results.
So, let’s start from the basics,
What is a Google Ranking Factor?
Ranking factors are the measures applied by Google to web pages to decide the best rankings of relevant and useful pages to return for a search query.
All SEOs, content creators, marketers and website owners must know about them not because they’re everything for SEO.
But because they make them understand how to improve the user experience, which results in more traffic, conversions and hence profit.
So I strongly suggest you look up to this blog as a guide to improve your website’s presence on Google.
How many Google Ranking Factors are known?
There are over 200 known ranking factors in SEO that are usually said to be correct but again, SEO is arguable.
Since Google announced this back in 2006, thousand of ranking factors have been rolled out. And with each Google algorithm update, something is believed to be changed and is tested to confirm.
So, some of the “believed” 200 factors are proved, while others are still in doubt.
The Top 7 Search Engine Ranking Factors
Before starting the list, let me mention again SEO is arguable. And for many SEOs out there these factors might not be the best ones.
But for me, these are the ones that I’ve found to be working and effective to improve the user experience, conversion rate, trustworthiness and rankings.
Let’s go now,
“Content is King”, there’ll be no content creator or SEO that hadn’t heard this phrase. And it’s completely true.
Content is the very base that Google stands on. But how to measure if the content is “quality” content or not?
The two most important things to look up to decide whether it’s worthy to be called quality content or not are,
- Content that offers value
- Content that covers a topic entirely
Content that offers value
If the content doesn’t offer the reader some value or valuable insight, it’s better not to be read. A reader hopes to find some insights and value on your website that others don’t have.
How to do this:
- Write about a topic that you’re an expert in or the one that you understand completely.
- Provide straight and valuable answers to your audience.
- Don’t write fluff.
Content that covers a topic entirely
Thin content is one of the best ways to get failed.
It’s been proven again and again that content that covers a topic entirely is ranked better and loved more by readers.
How to do this:
- Cover all relevant areas to your topic and answer every question that a user might have.
- Analyze your competitors to find what they missed or did wrong.
- Make the text better readable by adding multimedia like images and infographics, CTAs to relevant pages, and a clickable table of content.
It’s too obvious, ain’t it. Keywords are the very first thing that Google look up to while finding the relevant pages for the search query.
So, adding relevant keywords can be a great help. Let’s see the places where you can add keywords to help Google understand what your content is about are:
- Content body
But but but, the story doesn’t end here, adding keywords in content and other indicators can be very helpful but here enters keyword stuffing.
Adding the same keywords too many times or forcefully or using the same sentence repeatedly in your content body, metadata, headings and title can lead to keyword stuffing. And keyword stuffing can be a major negative signal to Google.
How to avoid keyword stuffing:
- Do not add keywords forcefully, let them be natural
- Avoid using the same sentence repeatedly
- Do not use irrelevant keywords or at irrelevant places
Links, whether they are backlinks, internal or outbound links play a crucial role in helping you rank better on search engine result pages.
Backlinks we all know are undoubtedly among the most important search engine rankings factors. But with time some things have changed, you just can’t gain a link from any site on the internet now.
Internal links also help your site in many ways, including
- Helping crawlers to find and crawl pages on your site
- Keeping the user on your site for a longer period
Speed of the page came out to be a major ranking factor. In the fast-paced world, no one wants to keep waiting to read a piece of content.
Users expect your site to be faster if you want to make them stay.
Research has shown that a site taking more than 3 sec to load loses a whole lot of users. And this directly implies that page speed has a great impact on your traffic conversions and ultimately revenue.
The worst part of having a slow website is that the audience you lose is gained by your competitors who have optimized their site to load faster.
You must have realized that you can’t afford to have a slow page speed. Learn how you can improve your page speed here: Why Website Speed Is Important And How To Increase Page Speed.
With the release of the mobile-first indexing approach of Google. Mobile-friendliness has become a major Google ranking factor.
As mobile searches have grown exponentially over the last few years. Optimizing your site for mobile users is a must-to-do optimization.
Your website ought to be responsive to attract more users and increase the conversion rate.
Organic CTR (Click-Through-Rate)
The organic click-through rate of your website helps Google know that people like your content.
It’s quite simple, if more users are clicking on your web page in SERP, then it implies that your content is related to the search query and hence Google will rank it higher.
You can increase your click-through rate by writing a better Title and Meta description.
Note that to increase your CTR, you need to get other SEO factors too in line. Because if you are ranking on the 5th or 6th search engine result page, your CTR will obviously be less.
Domain Authority (DA) is not an official ranking factor and the simplest reason for this is that Google didn’t create it. John Mueller said “….it is a tool made by Moz” when asked if DA is a signal for rankings or not.
But I believe one should focus on the domain authority as Moz too uses some specific signals to create the score.
As when more related and trustworthy sites link to your website and you have the content that ranks well, then it directly means that your website is trustworthy. And that increases your rankings more.
Now, this all plays into DA. So, even if the domain authority is not an official ranking factor (till now), you should put some work to improve it.
All 200 (Known) Ranking Factors in SEO
Now that you know the top 7 ranking factors that no one should ignore. Let’s make a rundown on the known 200 Google ranking factors.
The top categories that they are categorized in are,
- Website’s Domain Factors
- Page-Level Ranking Factors
- Site-Level Ranking Factors
- Backlink Ranking Factors
- User Interaction based Ranking Factors
- Special Google Algorithm Rules
- Brand Signals based Ranking Factors
- On-Site and Off-Site Webspam Ranking Factors
Website’s Domain Factors
Domain factors are the factors that concern your website domain (the www.yoursite.com version of your website). These factors include:
- Your domain age
- Domain registration length
- Keyword in your domain
- Keyword in subdomain
- Keyword is the first word in your domain
- Domain history
- Public WhoIs vs private Whois
- Penalized Whois owner
Page-Level Ranking Factors
Page-level Google ranking factors are the ones that can be optimized in each web page of your website. These ranking factors count
- Focus keyword in the title tag
- Keyword being at the beginning of your title tag
- Keyword in the meta description tag
- Keyword in the H1 tag
- Existence of keyword in other header tags (H2 and H3)
- Existence of linked table of contents
- Existence of semantically related keywords
- Existence of keyword in the first 100 words
- Related keyword in meta title and description
- Length of content
- Word count rankings
- Keyword density
- Page loading speed via HTML
- Page loading speed tested on Chrome
- Core web vitals
- In-depth quality content
- Useful content
- There should be no duplicate content on the same website.
- the freshness of the content (the newer, the better)
- How many times has the content been updated since it was last updated
- Updates to historical data on the page
- Image optimization using ALT tags, titles, and file names
- Presence of multimedia, for example, images and videos
- Proper use of rel=canonical
- Grammar and spelling
- Page’s reading level
- Originality of the page’s content
- Page optimized for mobile
- Entity match
- Number of outbound links
- Usability and optimization for mobile devices
- The domain’s authority or trust level
- The page’s authority/trust level.
- Availability of additional content, such as free tools and calculators
- On mobile, there is content that is hidden (may not be indexed)
- Content hidden behind tabs (it may not be indexed and wouldn’t show up in search snippets)
- Number of outbound links
- Outbound links’ quality
- Outbound links’ theme
- Quantity of internal links leading to the page
- Internal links’ quality
- There are too many broken links (could lower-ranking capabilities)
- Existence of many affiliate links
- Citing references and sources
- Presence of many HTML errors
- Use of structured data
- Length of URL
- The URL’s proximity to the homepage
- Presence of keyword in URL
- Presence of keyword in URL
- User-friendliness and readability are prioritised in content formatting.
- The page’s priority in the sitemap.xml
- Relevance of page’s category to page
- Utilization of a user-friendly layout
- UX signals from ranking pages on the same keyword’s SERP
- Internal link anchor text to the page
- Opinion of human editors
Site-level Ranking Factors
Site-level ranking factors in SEO increase a level to include all the ranking factors at the level of the whole website. These include
- The existence of a contact us page or appropriate amount of contact information
- The site’s content should add value or offer new perspectives.
- The authority of a domain
- Websites are updated on a regular basis to maintain their freshness.
- The structure of the website
- Availability of a sitemap
- TrustRank (how close your site is to a well-known and trusted site in terms of links)
- Mobile optimization across the site
- Site-wide user-friendliness (usability and interactiveness)
- Long-term site downtime
- Location of server
- HTTPS / use of a valid SSL certificate
- Site reputation
- Unique metadata
- Use of breadcrumb markup
- Bounce rate
- User reviews
Backlink Ranking Factors
Backlink ranking factors look up to the links that your website receives from other websites. The more trustworthy the link sending websites are, the more value that backlink carries in the eyes of Google. These factors include
- Number of referring domains
- Age of linking domain
- Anchor text of backlinks
- Context of content the content of linking page
- ALT tag of image links
- Amount of links from distinct c-class IPs
- Quantity of referring pages
- Availability of links from competitors
- Amount of links from expected websites in your industry
- Amount of links from .edu and .gov domain extension websites
- Linking page’s trust factor
- Country TLD of link offering domains
- Linking domain’s domain factor
- Amount of links that aren’t from ads
- Availability of many follow links that are sponsored or UGC
- Links from bad neighbourhoods
- Existence of some nofollow links
- The text that appears when you hover over a link
- Natural link profile
- Domain authority
- Diversity of link profile
- Links from relevant domains
- Usual growth rate in number of links
- Backlinks from a page with a 301 redirect
- Lots of backlinks to URL with 301 redirects
- Links from relevant pages
- Backlink age
- Link location on page
- Location of link in content
- Words around your backlinks
- Avalability of your page’s keyword in the linking page’s title
- Links from real sites vs fake blogs
- Links in real content vs. UGC
- Spiky and unnatural rate of growth in number of links
- Excessive reciprocal links
- Quality of linking content
- Linking content’s word count
- Fewer outbound links on linking page
- TrustRank of linking site
- Forum links vs. links in genuine content
- Links to top resources or hubs on a specific issue
- The number of links from sites that are regarded as authoritative
- Linked as a source in a Wikipedia article
- Sitewide links = one link
User Interaction based Ranking Factors
User experience is the very base that Google seeks to improve with every update. These factors look at whether your site is satisfying users or not. These factors include
- Organic CTR for exact keyword
- Organic CTRs for all ranking keywords
- Total direct traffic
- Dwell time
- Bounce rate
- Repeat visitors’ percentage
- Percentage of users that clicked on another result on SERP after clicking on your web page
- Evaluation of how users interact on your site based on RankBrain
- Page frequently bookmarked by Chrome users
- Number of comments on page
- Blocked sites
Special Google Algorithm Rules based Ranking Factors
Some of the Google algorithm rules do not look up to your site or page to rank. These factors look up to some other elements on Google’s and user’s end. These Google ranking factors include
- Browsing history of the user
- Search history of user
- Requirement for diversity in the SERP
- Requirement for domain diversity in SERP
- Requirement for freshness in the SERP
- Local search results
- Bad words or adult content
- Succinct answers, formatting, page authority and HTTPS for featured snippets
- Legitimate DMCA complaints
- Transactional searches
- High content quality standards for YMYL keywords
- Search intent
- Availability of giant brands with relevant content (they usually rank higher)
- Availability of Google Shopping optimized results
- Availability of news stories related to keyword for Top Stories box
- Spammy queries
- Spammy sites
- Image results
- Branded search
- Easter eggs and April Fools’ Day jokes and hoaxes from Google
Brand Signals based Ranking Factors
Brand signals might seem not much important in terms of SEO but They Are! Brand mentions around the web do affect SERP and can have a positive or negative impact on your rankings. These factors include:
- Brand + keyword searches (for example, ItsGeekynerd SEO)
- Branded anchor text
- Branded searches
- Real social media accounts
- Twitter handle with followers
- Facebook page with lots of likes
- Official LinkedIn page
- Known author or verified online profile
- Brand mentions without links
- Top stories with brand mention
- Physical location of offices
On-Site and Off-Site Webspam Ranking Factors
Spamming has a major impact on your search engine result pages rankings. To rank higher your site have to avoid being spammy or even being looking spamming. The On-Site and Off-Site webspam ranking factors include
- Low-quality content
- Gibberish content
- Distracting ads and popups
- Links to bad neighbourhoods
- Over-optimizing the site
- Spammy popups that are hard to close
- Numerous ads above the fold
- Multiple and sneaky redirects
- Use of doorway pages
- Flagged server IP address
- Hiding affiliate links
- Affiliate sites
- Compute generated content
- No-following all outbound links
- Keyword stuffing in meta tags
- Low-value content sites
- Unnatural rise in the number of backlinks
- Lots of low-quality backlinks
- Hacked site
- Low-quality directory links
- High percentage of links from websites that are not related
- Links from websites that have same server IP
- Using “poison” in your anchor text
- Automatic links in widgets
- Selling links
- Temporary link schemes
- Ignored manual actions in search console
Phew, finally we’re done. I know the list might seem overwhelming but it is what it is.
These are known and believed 200 ranking factors in SEO that affect a web page’s rankings in SERPs.
While some of them might have zero to no effects on some sites, some of them do have a major impact.
The Bottom Line
Now you know the 200 known SEO ranking factors and as no one can optimize a site for all these factors at once, I’ve listed the top 7 Google ranking factors that no one should overlook.
I’ll suggest you consider this article as a guide and not as strict regulations.
As only Google can clear out what really is a ranking factor and what not, we SEOs can only run tests and speculate ranking factors.
One thing is for sure, user experience is what is at the bottom of all this. You fix the user experience of your site and you’re doing it all excellent.
I hope you wound have found all the answers you were looking for. If not, then the comment box is wide open for you or you can mail us your query at [email protected], we will be more than happy to help you.
Also, Thank You For Reading Along. It Means A Lot To Us.