Google's 100 SEO Ranking Factors
Updated: Oct 8, 2020
This post was created to list the top 100 Google ranking factors for 2020.
There is no general order here; the important thing is to familiarize yourself with all 100 factors and keeps them in mind as you work on your SEO.
1. Domain Age: The difference between a website that is three months old and one that is one year old is not that big. This coming from a Google employee.
In other words, Google does use the domain age. But, as you can see they don't put that much importance behind it.
2. Keyword That Appears in Top Level Domain: By having your main keyword in your domain name URL doesn’t give you the same SEO boost it once did. But still, it acts as a relevancy signal.
3. First Word Keyword in Domain: A domain name that starts with its main keyword has a good edge over sites that don’t have the same keyword in their domain (or have the targeted keyword somewhere in the middle or at the end of the domain).
4. Domain registration term: According to a Google patent it states that “A (legitimate) domain is often paid for several years in advance, while A short term domain (illegitimate) rarely are used for more than one year. Therefore, the expiration date of a website's registration can be used as a factor when it comes to predicting the legitimacy of such domain.”
5. Keyword in Subdomain: The Moz’s experts all agree that a keyword appearing in the subdomain of a website can help boost its rankings.
6. Domain History: A site that has some volatile ownership or changes often could tell Google to “reset” the site’s history and start from zero, negating old backlinks pointing to the domain. Or, maybe in certain cases, a penalized domain could bring the penalty over to the new owner.
7. Exact Match Domain: Exact Match Domains may still give you a slight edge. But if your EMD happens to be a low-quality site, it’s vulnerable to the EMD update.
8. Public and Private WhoIs: If someone has private WhoIs information, then this could be a sign that they are hiding something. Even prominent industry expert Matt Cutts states that having a “WhoIs privacy protection service” is relatively unusual. Even though it isn’t automatically bad, this is usually a sign that there is a very different type of webmaster than someone who simply has a single site.
9. Penalized WhoIs Owner: If Google picks up on a particular person as a spammer, then the tech giant is going to scrutinize the other sites that are owned by that person.
10. The Country TLD Extension: Those who are interested in ranking well in a particular country will want to use country code top-level domains; however, if the site ranks well for a single country, it might have a hard time ranking globally.
Taking a Closer Look at Page-Level Factors
Some of the most important page-level factors to note include:
11. The Keyword Title Tag: The title tag is still an important factor when it comes to the on-page SEO signals. In addition, the title tag should also start with the keyword because these tags tend to perform better than tags that have the keyword at the end of the tag.
12. The Description Tag: In addition, the description tag can have a massive impact on the click-through rate even though Google does not look at this description tag that closely. The more people click on the hyperlink, the better the site is going to perform and rank.
13. The H1 Tag: H1 tags are usually seen as a second title tag. Therefore, both H1 tags and title tags are used to signal relevancy.
14. The TF-IDF: This is used to determine just how much a single word appears in a document. The more often the word shows up on the page, the more likely that page relates to that topic. Google now has a much more sophisticated version when it comes to determining page rankings.
15. Content-Length: The longer the content is, the more likely it covers relevant topics.
16. Table of Contents: If there is a linked table of contents, then Google is more likely to rank this page higher because the search engine can understand what the page is about.
Looking at the Word Count Rankings
Some of the most important word count factors that will play a role in search engine results page rankings include:
17. Keyword Density: Keyword density is used to determine what the site is about; however, spamming or overusing keywords can lead to a significant penalty.
18. Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords in Content (LSI): These LSI keywords help search engines cut through keywords that have more than one meaning.
19. LSI Keywords in Descriptions and Title Tags: LSI keywords that are present in meta tags help Google cut through words that have more than one meaning. This also acts as a signal regarding the relevance of the page.
20. The Depth of Topic Coverage: Pages that cover every angle of a certain topic are going to rank higher than pages that do not cover a topic comprehensively.
21. Duplicate Content: Pages that have a lot of duplicate content are going to be penalized. In some cases, the ReI=Canonical tool can keep Google from penalizing certain types of duplicate content.
Technical Factors that Influence page Rankings
Some of the technical factors that are going to play a role in page rankings include:
22. The Load Speed of a Page: The faster a speed loads, the better the page is going to rank. Google and Bing are able to take a look at how quickly a page is going to load based on its code. Furthermore, Google will also use Chrome to more accurately estimate how quickly a page is going to load.
23. AMP: AMP might be a requirement to rank well in the mobile version of the Google News Carousel.
24. Entity Match: If the content matches the entity that the user is searching for, then this could lead to a ranking boost.
25. Google Hummingbird: This is an algorithm update that allowed Google to slide past simply looking at keywords and look more comprehensively at what a site is covering.
26. Images: Images send key signals to search engines using not only their file name but also their caption, title, alt text, and description.
27. Regular Content: if a site regularly updates its content, then search engines are going to think that the site is more likely to be relevant and will rank it higher.
Other Ranking Factors
There are many other factors that also need to be considered that includes:
28. The Magnitude of Content Updates: If there are major changes or edits, this is going to improve the ranking of the page. Adding or removing content is bigger than simply correcting a grammatical error.
29. Historical Updates: Is the page being updated regularly? Or is it simply being updated once every five years?
30. The Prominence of the Keyword: If a keyword shows up in the first 100 words, this is going to help the page rank better in Google.
31. Magnitude of Content Updates: The significance behind edits and changes on a site also serves as a page freshness factor. Adding or removing paragraphs is more significant than just changing around a few words or fixing some typos.
32. Page Updates: How often do you update the page over time? Daily, weekly, every year, or never? The frequency of updating your page also plays a role in freshness and helps rankings. Remember, its easier to update a page rather than make a new one.
33. Keyword Prominence: Make sure to have the target keyword appear in the first 100 words of the content on the page is directly correlated to first-page Google rankings.
34. Keyword in H2, H3 Tags: By having your keyword appear as a subheading such as H2 or H3 format could be another weak relevancy signal. In fact, John Mueller from Google states:
“These heading tags placed in HTML help us to understand the structure and what's important on the page.”
35. Outbound Link Quality: Many people in the SEO world think that linking out to authority sites will help when it comes to sending trust signals to Google. And this has been backed up by an industry study.
36. Outbound Link Theme: According to an Algorithm by Hillop, Google has used some of the content on pages you link to as a relevancy signal. As an example, if you have a page about food that links to a page related to cars, this may tell Google that your page is about the food Cars, not the food itself.
37. Grammar and Spelling: If your page has proper spelling and grammar, then it will be seen as a quality signal by Google, although there have been mixed messages a few years back on this topic whether or not this was important.
38. Syndicated Content: When looking at the page, Google will search to see if the content on the page original? If it’s copied and or scraped from another person's page it won’t rank well… or may not get indexed at all.
39. Mobile-Friendly Update: This often referred to the term “Mobilegeddon“, this is an update that rewarded pages that were optimized properly for Mobile devices.
40. Mobile Usability: Google just rolled out its Mobile-first Indexing in Sept of 2020 and it gives an edge to websites that are mobile-friendly.
41. “Hidden” Content on Mobile: Content that is hidden for mobile devices may not get indexed or have much weight to them vs fully visible content. But, recently, a Googler stated that hidden content is ok. Then went on to say that in the same video, "if the content is critical, then it should be visible…”.
42. Helpful “Supplementary Content”: According to a Google Rater Guideline Document states that helpful supplementary content is seen as an indicator of a page’s quality (and therefore, Google ranking). For example; loan interest calculators, currency converters, and interactive recipes.
43. Content Hidden Behind Tabs: Do you have hidden items? Do your users need to click on a tab somewhere to reveal some content on your page? If so, Google has stated that this content “may not be indexed”.
44. Number of Outbound Links: By having too many dofollow links will “leak” a site's PageRank, which can hurt the rankings for that page.
45. Multimedia: videos, images, and other elements of multimedia can act as a content quality signal. One industry study showed a direct 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. The Quality of Internal Links Pointing to Page: Internal links from authoritative pages on the same domain have a much stronger effect than pages that have no or low PageRank.
48. Broken Links: Having a ton of broken links on a page could be a sign of a neglected or abandoned site. When reviewing the Google Rater Guidelines it uses broken links as one way to assess a homepage’s quality.
49. Reading Level: Of course, we all know that Google estimates the reading level of a page. In fact, Google used to give you reading level stats:
But what does Google do with this information is up for debate. Some people say that a basic reading level can help you rank better in search because it will appeal to the masses.
50. Affiliate Links: Links to or from affiliates themselves most likely won’t hurt your rankings. But, like anything, if you have too many, Google’s algorithm may pay closer attention to the other quality signals from your site to make sure you’re not a “thin affiliate site“.
Understanding how all of these factors might impact a site’s ranking will help businesses and people improve their SERPs.
51. URL String: Google reads the various categories in the URL string and look for themes in the content.
52. Sources and References: It is important to make sure that all resources are cited appropriately, as this is a sign of the quality of the content. Those who are willing to cite their sources are going to position themselves as a position of authority. All sources need to be cited wherever possible, particularly if it is not common knowledge.
53. Sitemap and Page Priority: If the page has a sitemap.xml file, then this could highlight the page as a priority and improve its ranking as a whole.
54. Links, Outbound: It is possible that a page might have too many outbound links. This can make it hard for Google to tell what the page is about, hurting the ranking.
55. UX Signals and Keywords: If the page ranks well for other keywords, then this could provide Google a signal that this is a high-quality page. Even Google itself indicates that it looks for sites that many users like, as this is a sign of quality.
56. The Age: Fresh content is always better. It is important to make sure that a page is updated on a regular basis to help improve the ranking of the site as a whole.
57. Layout: The better a page is laid out, the better the ranking is going to be. Google always prefers pages that are laid out properly, as this is better for the user.
58. Parked Domains: Those who use parked domains are going to be penalized, as their search visibility has been reduced.
59. Content that is Useful: There is a difference between quality content and useful content. Useful content will still improve the performance of a page.
60. Insights: If the content does not add anything “new” to the discussion, particularly with thin affiliate sites, then Google is going to punish these sites.
61. HTML Errors and W3C Validation: if a page has a lot of HTML errors, then this could be a sign of a low-quality site. Google is going to penalize these sites accordingly.
62. URL Path: If the page is closer to the homepage, then it is going to rank higher. If a page is buried by the architecture of the site, then this page is going to rank lower.
63: Domain Authority: If everything is the same, a site on an authoritative domain will rank better than a page on a site that doesn’t have as much authority.
64: URL Length: If the URL is too long, then this is going to hurt the overall visibility of the page. Numerous studies have shown that URLs that are shorter tend to rank better.
65. The Page Rank of the Page Overall: While not exactly correlated, pages with high levels of authority tend to outrank pages without much link authority.
66. Human Editors: Human editors may have the ability to influence the ranking of certain pages.
67. Category: The category of the page may have the ability to influence its ranking, so pages that are in a related category may enjoy a bit of a ranking boost when compared to pages without a defined category.
68. WordPress Tags: Tags are a signal that is specific to WordPress and may not have a direct influence on the SEO campaign as a whole.
69: URL Keyword: If the keyword is presence in the URL, this is going to lead to a ranking boost, even if it is minimal.
70. The Number of Linked Pages: If there are more linked pages, then this could lead to a ranking boost, up to a point.
71: The Anchor Text: This is a part of the original algorithm. When pages have the right anchor text, as long as this is not spammed, keyword-rich anchor text will lead to a ranking boost.
72. Alt Text for Images: It is a good idea to think about this as the anchor text of an image, so it plays a role.
73. Links Coming from Ads: All of these links need to be nofollowed. There is also a good chance that Google can identify these links and filter them out.
74. Guest Posts: Guest posts are going to provide some value but they are not going to be as valuable as high-authority posts from editorials, so it is important to keep this difference in mind.
75. Bad Links: There are plenty of pages out there that are considered bad neighborhoods and these could actually hurt the ranking of a page.
76. Expected Links: There is a chance that Google might not fully trust a website until it gets links from pages that should be expected, given the industry.
77. Competitor Links: Links from pages that are already ranked high on the SERP could be more valuable than other types of links and should be prioritized.
78. The Authority of the Link: Similarly, if the referring domain has a high level of authority, this is going to make the link that much more valuable.
79. EDU and GOV Links: There could be a special place in SEO campaigns for these types of links. Consistently seen as higher authority than other domain endings, these links need to be prioritized.
80. Broken Links: if the link is broken, then this is going to hurt the ranking of a page, so it is important to make sure the links work appropriately and that the authority of the linking page is high.
81: Navigation and User Friendly Natures: This is a style of user-friendly site-architecture that helps users (and search engines) know where they are on a site.
82. YouTube: YouTube videos are always preferred on search engine results pages and this is likely because Google owns YouTube and wants to drive traffic to its own sites.
83. Mobile Optimization: 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.
84. The Usability of the Site: It is important to make sure that the site is easy for people to use, as this has a major impact on the ranking of a site.
85. Google Analytics: If the program is working on the site, then this could lead to an improvement in the indexing of the site itself.
86. User Reviews: Largely seen as a major ranking factor, there are many ways that user reviews impact the ranking of a site, starting with the Google Reviews themselves.
87. The Age of the Linking Domain: Aged domains are usually going to provide a more powerful ranking boost than new domains.
88. The Number of Separate C Class IPs: If there are more separate C Class IPs involved, then this leads to a wider breadth of links, which is going to boost the ranking.
89. The Number of Root Domains from Links: If there are more referring domains, then this is going to lead to a bigger ranking boost, as numerous studies have shown.
90. Duplicate Information: If there is any duplicate information present on the page, then this could hurt the ranking of the page overall.
91. Privacy Pages: If there is a privacy page present, then this is going to let Google know that the site is trusted, which is going to lead to a ranking boost.
92: Uptime and Downtime: If the site is up all the time, this is going to make it look more reliable. Similarly, downtime is going to hurt the site and its ranking.
93. Location of the Server: If the server is present in the local area, then this is going to improve the site’s ranking for searches that are conducted in the local area.
94. The Sitemap: The sitemap allows search engines to index the page easier, improving the ranking.
95. Updates to the Site: If the site is updated on a regular basis, then this is going to improve the freshness factor, which is going to lead to a boost in its rankings.
96. Google Search Console: If this tool is present on the site, then there are some who believe that this could lead to a ranking boost as well.
97. The Architecture of the Site: If the architecture of the site is easy to follow, such as using a silo, then this makes it easier for Google to organize the content.
98. The Contact Us Page: If the contact page is clear, then this is going to lead to an improved quality rank, which will improve the ranking as a whole. But the contact page has to match the WhoIs page as well.
99. Location Pages: Those who want to rank well for specific locations need to make sure they have a separate location page for each individual location.
100. The Domain Trust and Trust Rank: The Trust Rank is an important ranking factor. Sites that are more trusted are likely to rank higher.