* Note: this post was highly based on this backlinko list: http://backlinko.com/google-ranking-factors
If you work in digital marketing, you’ve certainly wondered how Google determines the placement of sites in search results.
We already know that it is through an algorithm that tries to present the best results to the user who performs a search. But what criteria it uses to display and order the pages, you probably don’t know yet.
Okay, we’re going to try to solve this mystery!
In this post, you will check Google’s 200 ranking factors to develop better SEO strategies.
But first, it is necessary to make some reservations…
What is Google’s list of 200 ranking factors
Google has never claimed to use exactly 200 ranking factors and has never revealed what they would be. So, this is the first point: this list is not an absolute truth.
However, in statements about the search engine and its algorithm updates, Google professionals have already revealed some of these factors that make up the list, precisely so that the market matures in its SEO actions.
So, if Google revealed only a few data, how did that list reach 200 factors?
That is where the importance of SEO professionals comes in, who is bent over research, metrics and statistics to try to unravel the mysteries of the algorithm.
So, this is how you should understand Google’s list of 200 ranking factors: it doesn’t prove anything about the algorithm, but it shows the characteristics of the pages that get better positioning, based on market studies.
Some factors are proven, others are speculations, others are controversial. Despite these caveats, it is certain that each item mentioned deserves your attention.
More than simply worrying about ranking factors, you should always be concerned with a good SEO strategy, which will have a direct consequence for the good user experience.
Understood? So let’s get to the list!
Top 10 factors that IMPROVE ranking
In a list of 200 items, we need to prioritize! We have selected the factors you should give more importance to:
- Unique and valuable content
This is the essence of SEO: producing quality content for the user. Think less about robots and more about what people are looking for and would like to see on your site. Google values that!
- Page authority
The PageRank was the first algorithm created by Larry Page for over 20 years, based on links a page receives. Despite its age, it is still used, as Google itself claims.
However, many professionals prefer the Page Authority, a metric from Moz that promises more transparency, updates and accuracy than the PageRank. You can check yours on Moz’s Open Site Explorer tool.
- Domain authority
The placement of a page is also influenced by the authority of your domain. Check your Domain Authority also in Open Site Explorer.
How do you know if your website is reliable? “Tell me who you are with …”. Google determines your TrustRank based on your relationships, that is, how many links you receive from trusted sites.
- Loading speed
This is one of the factors that Google made a point of announcing: the loading time of the websites greatly influences the user experience and, consequently, the ranking.
In April 2015, Google announced that mobile-friendly pages would gain better positions in searches performed on mobile devices.
- SSL and HTTPS certificate
Google said that secure sites, which use SSL and HTTPS certificates, are given priority. The impact of this on the ranking has not yet been noticed, but this factor should gain strength.
- Keyword in title
The more you make life easier for the user within your site, the better your experience will be. Usability impacts on length of stay, page views and bounce rate.
- Site architecture
Organization of content is essential for usability and helps Google understand your pages.
10 main factors that WORSE the ranking
- Duplicate content
Duplicate content, both internally and externally, reduces the placement of a page, as it harms the user experience.
- Copied content
Copied content is never legal for Google. He tries to identify the original content and downplays the positioning of the pages he copied. This is also true for images.
- HTML errors
“Dirty” codes hinder indexing and show that the page has no quality.
If Google often finds a page under maintenance or with an internal server error (Error 500), it will fall in positioning or be no longer indexed.
- Spelling and grammar errors
A poorly written website can be a sign of spam. For this reason, Google has evolved to value sites that have no spelling and grammar errors.
- Broken links within the page
Links that lead to nonexistent pages are a sign that the content is out of date.
- Bounce Rate
The moment when a user accesses a link does not interact and leaves the page can count negatively.
Pop-ups annoy the user, which is why Google doesn’t like them.
- Link schemes
Buying or exchanging link schemes (including excessive and advertised guest posts) violate Google guidelines and are penalized.
- Backlinks from disreputable sites
Poor sites with links to your site are a bad sign.
Now let’s look at other factors at the page, domain and website level that are relevant in the ranking.
40 Page Factors (On-Page)
- Useful content
To win better positions, it is not enough to create quality content – it also needs to be useful. An example is the good positioning of Yahoo Answers, which always seeks to bring something useful to people’s lives.
- Content size
Texts with 1000 words or more earn point with Google, as they tend to be more in-depth and relevant than 500 words or less.
- Multimedia content
Videos, texts, images, infographics etc. The more different formats, the better.
- Complementary content
Calculator, currency converter, interactive recipes – these are examples of complementary content that values your page.
- Keyword at the beginning of the title
According to Moz, the closer the keyword is to the beginning of the title, the easier it is for the user to see and Google to understand.
- Keyword in the meta description
The meta description is not a ranking factor, but inserting the keyword in the description is important for it to appear in bold in the search results for the user.
- Keyword in the h1 tag
The h1 tag gains great importance in the ranking, as it is at the top of the hierarchy of heading tags.
- Keyword in h2 and h3 tags
The h2 and h3 tags are below h1 in the heading tag hierarchy, but they also have their importance. But remember to use the keyword in them naturally.
- Keyword in URL
An important factor of SEO On-Page: the URL structure must be friendly and contain the keyword.
- Keyword at the beginning of the text
The first 100 words of the text get more attention from Google, so they must contain the keyword for the page.
- Keyword density
Refers to the number of times the keyword is inserted in the text. It should appear naturally, with common sense, so that Google can identify it as important. But this is a controversial factor, as the algorithm uses other, more intelligent criteria.
- Keyword semantics in content
Terms that convey the same meaning as the keyword (synonyms, partial occurrences, etc.) can be used in the text to clarify its meaning to Google. For example, the use of the word “note” can refer to “invoice”, “musical note”, “note at school” etc.
- Keyword semantics in title and meta description
These similar terms can also be used in the title and meta description.
- Order of terms in the keyword
Google prioritizes sites optimized for the keyword that exactly matches the search. For example, for those looking for “how to make beans”, a site optimized for “how to make beans” will have better positioning than for “beans how to make”.
- Image optimization
To understand what an image shows, Google needs the help of alt (alternative text) and src (filename) tags. If the keyword appears on them, the better.
Lists improve the scannability of a text and tend to engage the reader, improving the time spent on the page.
Another important scanning factor is the insertion of intertitles in the text.
- Short paragraphs
A huge block of text doesn’t make you want to read, does it? Shorten your paragraphs and make your content more attractive.
- Canonical Tag
The use of Canonical Tag corrects duplicate content problems within your site and improves indexing by Google.
- Content update
The algorithm seeks to prioritize more updated content, although other factors have more weight. For some pages, the updated date is displayed in the results.
- Consistency of updating content
It is not only important to update the content, but mainly to update consistently. It is not enough to exchange a few words; you need to bring something new to the user.
- Frequency of updating content
The frequency at which content is updated is also important.
- Quality of links to external pages
Having links to quality external pages can be a sign that you are trustworthy.
- Content of linked external pages
The content of the pages to which you link can be indicative for Google.
- Number of links to external pages
Caution: Excessively linking to external pages may seem like spam.
- Number of internal links to the page
The number of links within the site to an internal page gives indications of its importance.
- Quality of internal links to the page
Receiving internal links from authoritative pages improves the positioning of a page.
- Anchor text of the internal link to the page
Anchor text is important information for Google to understand the subject of the landing page. However, as it was used a lot for spam, it is good to use different variations, not just the keyword.
- Reading level
Google can infer whether your content is basic, intermediate or advanced. But it is not known which type he ranks better. This is a factor that still deserves studies.
- Affiliate links
Using affiliate links is not a problem; the mistake is to overuse them. Google is suspicious.
- Structured data (Schema.org Rich Snippets)
Rich Snippets are markings in the code of a page that provide extra information in the search results, such as breadcrumbs and rating in reviews. They are not a ranking factor, but they usually attract more clicks.
- URL length
Short, straightforward URLs are more easily read and understood by the user.
- Path to page
The closer a page is to the home, the more relevant it is.
- Page Category
The category in which the page is inserted should make sense to Google. For example, a page about a stove should be in the category Appliances.
- References and sources
Citing references and sources from which you obtained certain data is a sign of quality, as well as valuable information for the reader.
- The priority of the page in the Sitemap
The page hierarchy is informed to the algorithm by the sitemap.xml file and can influence the ranking.
- Other keywords
A sign of the quality of content is the ranking for several keywords, not just one.
- Page age
Although Google prefers new content, an old but regularly updated page also earns points.
- Page layout
The layout improves usability, increasing the time spent on the page.
- Parked Domains
They are pages that only information that the domain is registered, with no content other than ads. Google does not show Parked Domains on results.
9 Domain Factors
- Domain keyword
The site that has the keyword in the domain gets a bonus, and Google even puts the search term in bold in the results.
- Keyword at the beginning of the domain
If the keyword appears at the beginning of the domain, even better!
- Subdomain keyword
The keyword in the subdomain also counts points, but with much less weight.
- Exact domains
Refers to the exact match between the keyword and the domain name. It is usually an important factor, but Google has become more discerning because this feature was used a lot for manipulations.
- Domain age
Matt Cutts, a Google engineer, explained that the age of the domain is not such an important factor. For him, it is worth more how relevant this domain has been over time.
- The country extension (ccTLD – country code Top Level Domain)
Sites with a country extension at the end of the address (.br for Brazil, .es for Spain, etc.) give Google clear indications of where they are from and to whom they should be displayed.
- Domain history
If a domain has already been penalized, it counts negatively.
- Private Whois
Keeping domain Whois data private can be a negative sign for Google.
- Whois penalized
If a domain owner has already been penalized, it is possible for Google to downgrade all sites on its domain.
11 Site Factors
The sitemap.xml file tells Google all the pages on your site. It helps in crawling, especially for new content.
Breadcrumbs indicate the way to reach a page (such as Home> Bedroom> Beds). They situate the user and Google regarding the architecture of the site.
- Contact us
Providing a page or simply contact details is an indication of reliability.
- Site updates
A website that is frequently updated takes priority.
- Number of pages
The number of pages alone is not a ranking factor, but the higher the number, the greater the amount of indexed content.
- Server location
The location of the server can influence the display of your pages in different regions.
One more sign of reliability: if you are transparent with users, then you are reliable.
- Google Analytics and Google Search Console
Integrating Google services to your website provides more complete information for the search engine to rank.
- Duplicate Goal Description
As we said, Google doesn’t like duplicate content. Meta descriptions must be unique for each page.
- Ratings and reputation
Google says, ” Treating your customers badly is bad business .” Negative ratings and reviews are not a ranking factor, but they do damage your website’s reputation.
- DMOZ listed sites
DMOZ is one of the first and largest link directories in the world and has become a reference library. Having a website listed there can count points.
43 Backlinks Factors (Off Page)
Backlinks are the links you receive from other sites. The relationship with the market is one of the most important points for Google to understand the relevance of a website. Linkbuilding strategies, alongside quality content, are considered the main ranking factor.
Know the factors:
A website that uses backlinks naturally, only when they are really interesting to your audience, are they much more relevant to Google.
- Website TrustRank with a backlink
Google’s level of trust in the backlinked site helps determine how much it should trust yours.
- Backlink page authority
Receiving links from pages with a good Pagerank or Page Authority account points.
- Backlink domain authority
The authority of the backlinked domain is also important.
- Backlink domain age
The age of the backlink domain counts for you, but very little.
- Backlink age
Older backlinks may be more valuable than new ones.
- Domain country extension (TLD)
The country extension of the backlinked domain can help your site rank for a particular country.
- Variety of domains with backlinks
A page with backlinks coming from several different domains gains more importance.
- Variety of IPs with backlinks
A website with backlinks from different IPs also gains more priority.
- Number of pages with backlinks
The more pages that link to you, the better.
- Image tags with backlinks
When the backlink is in an image, the alt and src tags tell Google what it represents and what it has to do with your page.
- Backlinks from .edu and .gov domains
Generally, .edu and .gov pages have authority, so it is good to receive links from them.
- Competitor backlinks
You deserve an award if even a competitor links to your site! Google thinks that too.
- Homepage backlinks
Links made on the home page of a website carry more weight than on the internal pages.
- Guest posts
Guest Blogging has gone through many questions. Currently, backlinks in guest posts are only worthwhile if they are on blogs relevant to your niche, with natural anchor texts and content relevant to the audience of that site.
- Quality of content on the backlink page
Original, useful, quality content gives more value to the backlink.
- Backlink page content size
As with your page, the size of the text indicates the depth of the content. The bigger the better.
- Contextual Backlinks
Links naturally inserted in the text have more value, as they are inserted within a context, which makes Google easier to understand.
- Backlink location in the content
Links at the beginning of the text are worth more than in the middle or at the end.
- Backlink location on the page
A link in the middle of the text is worth more than in the footer, sidebar or comment box, for example. This shows naturalness in the quote.
- Text around the backlink
We have already said that Google is able to understand the context in which a link is inserted. So, if he is on a complaints page, it is detrimental to his ranking.
- Backlink semantics
The context of the backlink helps Google to understand the meaning of the keyword, as in the case of the word “note” that we mentioned earlier (“musical note” or “note from the school”?).
- Backlink anchor text
Anchor text is an important backlink factor, as it describes what the user and Google will find on the landing page. But remember: use different variations, or even your brand name, to avoid being interpreted as spam.
- Link title
The text that appears when the mouse passes over a link is its title. It can also influence ranking.
- Nofollow links
Receiving nofollow links is not a problem – they just don’t transmit authority, just traffic. The problem is when many links to your site use this parameter. Bad sign.
- Diversity of backlinks
Having all the backlinks coming from a single source (for example, forums and blog comments) can be a sign of spam.
- Domain relevance
A domain about cars that generates a link to a salon doesn’t make much sense, right? The backlink domain must be relevant within your market.
- Page relevance
The same logic applies to the page: it must also be related to the landing page.
- Keyword in page title
If your keyword is in the title of the page that gave the backlink, better for placement. It probably means that they are two experts on the subject.
- Positive backlink gain speed
It is important to always keep earning links – a sign that you are always increasing your popularity.
- Negative backlink gain speed
If Google realizes that the number of backlinks you earn is dropping, it can understand that your popularity is falling.
- Hub pages
Gaining links from pages that are considered a “hub”, that is, that centralizes a given subject, can be a positive point.
- Authoritative sites
Receiving links from sites that are considered an authority on the subject counts for many points.
- Wikipedia backlink
Wikipedia links are “nofollow”, that is, they do not transfer authority, but they generate great traffic to your site, so it is interesting to have them.
- Real website backlinks
A link building strategy should focus on real websites, brands or real people. There are many fake websites, used only to generate links and spam.
- User-Generated Content (UGC)
Google can differentiate whether the content was produced by the author of the site or by a user. It values when the UGC, for being original and authentic content.
- Sitewide links
Sitewide links are those present throughout the site, such as in the footer or header. According to Matt Cutts, Google interprets sitewide links as one.
- 301 Redirects
Matt Cutts explains that 301 redirect links convey the same authority as the original links. If there is any loss to ranking, it is negligible.
- Reciprocal links
If Google identifies the appearance of many links from one site to the other and vice versa, it can interpret it as a link exchange scheme, which it does not like.
- Too many 301 redirects
However, many 301 redirect links to your site can be a bad sign.
- Number of links to external pages
The more external links there are on a page, the less authority it will transmit to each one.
- Backlinks in forums
Links posted on forums have lost strength due to spam practices.
- “Sponsored” Backlinks
Words like “sponsored” or “partner” next to the backlink can be read by Google and this can be interpreted as buying links.
9 User Interaction Factors
The way users interact with a website or page gives Google indications about the quality of its content and how much they deserve better placement. In addition to the bounce rate, which we have already mentioned, know other factors:
- CTR for a keyword
The clickthrough rate of a page for a given keyword is a ranking factor.
- CTR for all keywords
The click-through rate for all keywords that the page appears on is also a ranking factor.
- Length of stay (time on page)
The amount of time a user spends on the site theoretically indicates how engaging the content is. It is one of the main ranking factors, as you can see in this post!
- Direct traffic
When a user types the page’s URL directly into the browser bar, Google understands this as a positive.
- Frequent visitors
The more visitors that return to the page, the better for ranking.
- Chrome bookmarks
Google can identify which pages have been added to “Favorites” in Chrome, and this possibly counts points.
One more piece of information collected from Chrome is the toolbar. However, nobody knows exactly what data Google uses.
The number of comments on a page is an excellent sign that the content is relevant to the user.
- Blocked sites
A Google Chrome extension allows you to block unwanted websites from your search results. If a website is blocked by many people, this can be a bad sign.
18 Factors of Algorithm Operation
Some details of how the search engine works can influence the display and order of results.
- Update on results
The algorithm prefers to display more updated results, but not always. If the quality of the content on an older page is better, it takes priority.
- Diversity in results
When the search is for an ambiguous word (like “note”, “orange” etc.), it will show different results to try to correct the user’s intention.
- User search history
With the search history, the results will become more accurate. For example, in ambiguous searches, Google will already know the user’s intention.
- User browsing history
The pages that the user usually accesses are displayed with priority.
Google prefers to display results in the region where the user performs the search.
- Safe Search
In Google’s search settings, you can enable Safe Search, which removes content unsuitable for minors from the results.
- Google Plus circles
If the results contain links from users who are in your Google Plus circles, they will appear prominently for you.
- Domain diversity in results
Google seeks to display different domains in the results.
- Big brands
Big brands can also gain a better position in the search.
- Easter Eggs
Google has a dose of humour. Try typing “atari breakout” in the search for images … Even that can influence your ranking!
- DMCA Reporting
DMCA is a US copyright law. Reported sites lose positioning.
Google also displays some more accurate results for the user. For example, for current affairs searches, links to news portals are highlighted. Know some of these verticals that also count as ranking factors:
- Google Images
- Google Videos
- Google Shopping
- Google Maps
- Google News
- Google Flights
- Google Books
10 Social Factors
Social signals are a controversial topic. Are they or are they not ranking factors?
Matt Cutts explains that Google is not able to index everything that is produced on social networks after all the volume of content is huge and often private. In addition, they are very volatile: numbers and relationships change constantly. Therefore, social signals would not be a reliable factor for Google to include in its algorithm.
Probably, what exists is a correlation: pages that perform well on networks tend to have such incredible content that they also attract other signals (such as backlinks) that really impact positioning.
Another perspective is that social networks collaborate indirectly: the greater the reach on the networks, the greater the possibility of receiving visits and backlinks.
Therefore, engagement in networks is probably not even a ranking factor. However, you can keep an eye out for these factors, which correlation tests have identified as common social signals for well-positioned pages:
- Number of tweets with backlinks
- Authority of accounts that generate backlinks on Twitter
- Number of interactions and shares on Facebook
- Authority of Facebook profiles that interact
- Number of pins on Pinterest
- Votes on social sharing sites (Reddit, Stumbleupon, Digg etc.)
- Google Plus +1 number
- Authority of Google Plus accounts that interact
- Context (text around the link in the publication)
- Social sharing buttons on website pages
12 Brand Factors
For Google, detecting that a brand really exists is important to determine its position in searches and to avoid fake websites. Here are some factors that help to highlight the existence of a brand on the web:
- Brand citation in the backlinks’ anchor texts
- Google searches for the brand
- Facebook page with fans
- Twitter profile with followers
- Have a LinkedIn page
- Have employees listed on LinkedIn
- Profiles and pages active on social networks
- Number of RSS followers
- Inclusion of the company in Google My Business
- Brand quote on news sites
- Brand quote without a link on different sites
Google recognizes a brand quote and the context in which it is inserted. Only the mention, even without a link, can help in ranking.
- Tax payment
In some cases, Google can identify whether the site is related to a business that pays taxes, which demonstrates the real existence of the brand.
12 Factors of Spam On Page
Google has refined its algorithm so that it can detect spam actions and automatically downgrade the page or even stop indexing it. Know some of these bad practices:
- Low quality content
Pages of little or no value to the user started to fall in the results in 2011 .
- Links to disreputable sites
Your level of reliability drops when your pages link to disreputable sites.
- Cloaking or redirection
Refers to the site that displays content for robots and another for the user, or redirects the person to a different page than the one Google saw.
- Keyword stuffing
This is a very common spam practice: stuffing your site with keywords. In addition to being cheating, it creates a bad user experience.
- Keyword stuffing in meta tags
The excess of keywords can also occur in the meta keywords, in the meta description, in the title tag, among others.
- Excessive page optimization
When Google realizes that optimization is forced and harming the user experience, the site can be penalized.
- Excessive above-the-fold ads
Large number of “above the fold” ads (that is, before scrolling) indicates spam.
- Hidden affiliate links
Sites with cloaking affiliate links are penalized.
- Affiliate sites
Superficial affiliate pages, worthless to the user, also fall into the results.
- Automated content
Automatically generated meaningless content is an aggressive spam technique, easily identified by the algorithm.
- Too many nofollow links
Using too many “nofollow” links means that you don’t want to convey your authority to anyone, or that you don’t trust anyone. To Google, this can look like fraud.
- IP marked as Spam
Having a website on an IP marked as spam is a bad sign.
10 Factors of Spam Off-Page
1 Excessive backlink gain
A sudden and excessive growth in the number of backlinks is a sign of spam.
2. Too many low-quality links
Receiving too many links from the comment box or forums is also a sign of spam.
3. Domain relevance
Sites that receive a lot of links from domains that are not related to your business can fall in the results.
4. Too many backlinks from the same IP
Receiving many links from the same IP is a sign of spam.
5. Anchor text repeated in excess
When the anchor text with the keyword is used excessively throughout the site, Google identifies it as spam.
6. Manual penalty
Even though it passes free through the algorithms, the site can be manually removed by the Google team dedicated to the identification of spam.
7. Temporary link schemes
Buying or exchanging link schemes can be temporary: links are created and quickly removed. But Google can also identify that.
8. Google Sandbox
It is still a mystery whether Google actually uses this, but some professionals say that new sites that already start with good positioning fall into a filter (the “sandbox”) to analyze if there is any manipulation.
9. Disavow Links
This tool fights negative SEO, as it allows you to ask Google to disregard the backlinks from dubious or hacked sources that you receive, keeping your reputation up to date.
10. Reconsideration request
After being penalized, a website can correct its errors, make a reconsideration request and, if Google accepts, resume its ranking.
End of list! Ready to apply to your website?
We definitely have no control over the algorithm. This list of 200 Google ranking factors, inspired by this page, helps to understand SEO trends, but it is far from definitive.
Perhaps some of these factors make a difference, others do not. The important thing is that you test yourself with your website, your market, and check what works best.