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 2018.
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 this video, Google’s Matt Cutts states that:
In other words, they do use domain age…but it’s not very important.
2. Keyword Appears in Top Level Domain: This doesn’t give the boost that it used to. But having a keyword in your domain 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 critical 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 this 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 correlationbetween 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 loading 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 may also use 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: