Top 200+ Google Ranking Factors
Here is a famous (or infamous) list called the “Top 200 Google Ranking Factors” by guru Brian Dean.
In 2017, there are probably more than 600+ ranking factors Google uses plus its own AI. Google is constantly changing its algorithm even multiple times during the day so any of these factors are bound to change.
Somewhat dated, as it was initially published in over 3 years ago I believe, it is still it is a handy reference as to the direction a site needs to move towards to become more Google-friendly.
Some of the factors are very dated, speculation, untrue and off-base and I’ve tried to remove them.
Others are on the mark and I’ve bolded them.
We are currently compiling our own list of possible Google Ranking Factors.
Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List
1. Domain Age: Google may use it, but not too important.
2. Keyword Appears in Top Level Domain: Doesn’t give the boost that it used to, but having your keyword in the domain still, acts as a relevancy signal. After all, they still bold keywords that appear in a domain name.
3. Keyword As First Word in Domain: A domain that starts with their target keyword has an edge over sites that either doesn’t have the keyword in their domain or have the keyword in the middle or end of their domain.
4. Domain registration length: A Google patent states:
“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”.
5. Keyword in Subdomain Name: Moz’s 2011 panel agreed that a keyword appearing in the subdomain can boost rankings:
6. Domain History: A site with volatile ownership (via whois) or several drops may tell Google to “reset” the site’s history, negating links pointing to the domain.
7. Exact Match Domain: EMDs may still give you an edge…if it’s a quality site. But if the 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”.
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) helps the site rank for that particular country…but limits the site’s ability to rank globally.
11. Keyword in Title Tag: The title tag is a webpage’s second most important piece of content (besides the content of the page) and therefore sends a strong on-page SEO signal.
12. Title Tag Starts with Keyword: According to Moz data, title tags that start with a keyword tend to perform better than title tags with the keyword towards the end of the tag:
14. Keyword Appears in H1 Tag: H1 tags are a “second title tag” that sends another relevancy signal to Google. One H1 Per Page.
15. The keyword is Frequently Used Phrase in Document: Having a keyword appear more than any other likely acts as a relevancy signal.
16. Content-Length: Content with more words can cover a wider breadth and are likely preferred to shorter superficial articles.
17. Keyword Density: Not as important as it once was.
18. Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords in Content (LSI): LSI keywords help search engines extract meaning from words with more than one meaning (Apple the computer company vs. the fruit). The presence/absence of LSI probably also acts as a content quality signal.
19. LSI Keywords in Title and Description Tags: As with web page content, LSI keywords in page meta tags probably help Google discern between synonyms. May also act as a relevancy signal.
20. Page Loading Speed via HTML: Both Google and Bing use page loading speed as a ranking factor. Search engine spiders can estimate your site speed fairly accurately based on a page’s code and file size.
21. Duplicate Content: Identical content on the same site (even slightly modified) can negatively influence a site’s search engine visibility.
22. Rel=Canonical: When used properly, use of this tag may prevent Google from considering pages duplicate content.
24. Image Optimization: Images on-page send search engines important relevancy signals through their file name, alt text, title, description, and caption.
25. Recency of Content Updates: Google Caffeine update favors recently 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.
26. The magnitude of Content Updates: The significance of edits and changes is also a freshness factor. Adding or removing entire sections is a more significant update than switching around the order of a few words.
27. Historical Updates Page Updates: How often has the page been updated over time? Daily, weekly, every 5-years? The frequency of page updates also plays a role in freshness.
28. Keyword Prominence: Having a keyword appear in the first 100-words of a page’s content appears to be a significant relevancy signal.
29. Keyword or Synonym in H2, H3 Tags: Having your keyword appear as a subheading in H2 or H3 format may be another weak relevancy signal.
30. Keyword Word Order: An exact match of a searcher’s keyword in a page’s content will generally rank better than the same keyword phrase in a different order. For example: consider a search for: “cat shaving techniques”. A page optimized for the phrase “cat shaving techniques” will rank better than a page optimized for “techniques for shaving a cat”.
31. Outbound Link Quality: Many SEOs think that linking out to authority sites helps send trust signals to Google.
32. Outbound Link Theme: According to Moz, search engines may use the content of the pages you link to as a relevancy signal.
33. Grammar and Spelling: Proper grammar and spelling is a quality signal, although Cutts gave mixed messages in 2011 on whether or not this was important.
34. 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 as the original or end up in their Supplemental Index.
35. Helpful Supplementary Content.
36. The number of Outbound Links.
37. Multimedia: Images, videos, and other multimedia elements may act as a content quality signal.
38. 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.
39. Quality of Internal Links Pointing to Page: Internal links from authoritative pages on the domain have a stronger effect than pages.
40. Broken Links: Having too many broken links on a page may be a sign of a neglected or abandoned site.
41. Reading Level: There’s no doubt that Google estimates the reading level of web pages. 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.
42. 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”.
43. 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 WC3 validation is a weak quality signal.
44. Page Host’s Domain Authority: All things being equal, a page on an authoritative domain will rank higher than a page on a domain with less authority.
45. Page’s PageRank: In general higher PR pages tend to rank better than low PR pages.
46. URL Length: Search Engine Journal notes that excessively long URLs may hurt search visibility.
47. URL Path: A page closer to the homepage may get a slight authority boost.
48. Human Editors
49. Page Category: The category the page appears on is a relevancy signal. A page that’s part of a closely related category should get a relevancy boost compared to a page that’s filed under an unrelated or less related category.
50. WordPress Tags: Tags are WordPress-specific relevancy signal.
51. Keyword in URL: Another important relevancy signal.
52. URL String: The categories in the URL string are read by Google and may provide a thematic signal to what a page is about.
53. References and Sources: Citing references and sources, like research papers do, may be a sign of quality.
54. Bullets and Numbered List: 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.
55. Priority of Page in Sitemap: The priority a page is given via the sitemap.xml file may influence ranking.
56. Too Many Outbound Links.
57. The quantity of Other Keywords Page Ranks For: If the page ranks for several other keywords it may give Google an internal sign of quality.
58. Page Age: Although Google prefers fresh content, an older page that’s regularly updated may outperform a newer page.
59. User-Friendly Layout.
61. Useful Content. Must be “awesome” with 1000 to 2000 words.
62. Lengthy, Awesome, Authoritative Content That Provides Value and Unique Insights.
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.
65. Site Architecture: A well put-together 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 minor 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. About 68% of Google’s users search on a mobile device and Google has announced it is moving toward a “mobile first index”.
76. YouTube: YouTube videos may be 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.
79. User reviews/Site reputation: A site’s on review sites like Yelp.com and RipOffReport.com likely play 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.
80. Linking Domain Age: Backlinks from aged domains may be more powerful than new domains.
81. # of Linking Root Domains: The number of referring domains is one of the most important ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.
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 algo for .gov and .edu TLDs.
86. Authority of Linking Page: The authority 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.
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.
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.”
Which 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. The 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 is 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 such as in a widget.
97. Excessive 301 Redirects to Page: Links coming from 301 redirects dilute.
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 in 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 link from a page that’s closely tied to 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: Aaron Wall claims 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 pass more juice than a link from a small, microniche site.
113. Co-Occurrences: The words that tend to appear around your backlinks helps 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.
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 microformatting have a higher SERP CTR:
122. TrustRank of Linking Site: The trustworthiness of the site linking to you determines how much “TrustRank” gets passed on to you.
123. The number of Outbound Links on Page.
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.
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 on bounce rate matters.
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.
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: Search chain influence 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.
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.
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.
152. Image Results: Google elbows our organic listings for image results for searches commonly used on Google Image Search.
154. Single Site Results for Brands: Domain or brand-oriented keywords bring up several results from the same site.
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.
171. Official Linkedin Company Page: Most real businesses have company Linkedin pages.
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.
177. Brick and Mortar Locations. Local SEO is dominant these days.
178. Site-Speed. With more users using mobile and expecting pages to load in 5-7 seconds, your site must be fast and reach a Google Page score in the mid-90’s.
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: A sneaky redirect is a big no-no. If caught, it can get a site not just penalized, but de-indexed.
182. Popups or Distracting Ads.
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 page (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.
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.
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.
Off Page Webspam Factors
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.
196. Unnatural Links Warning.
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.
199. Manual Penalty: Google has been known to hand out manual penalties.
200. Selling Links.
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 know as a temporary link scheme.