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Google’s Top Search Engine Ranking Factors

There’s a lot of resources that list all the on-page and off-page ranking factors that are important to search engine optimization. There’s only one list out there that is worth paying attention to: SEOmoz’s Search Ranking Factors V2.

Factors Important to Google RankingGoogle’s ranking algorithm takes into account approximately 200+ attributes when determining the position of websites in search engine results pages (SERPs). In April 2007, SEOmoz published Search Ranking Factors V2, a survey of 37 leaders in organic search engine optimization on the most important factors in Google rankings. Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz CEO maintains that 90-95% of what you need to know about the Google algorithm is contained in the study. While a year old, most of this information is still valid.

Search Ranking Factors evaluates both positive and negative search engine ranking attributes on a scale of 1-5 (5 is “Exceptional Importance), and also indicates the degree of consensus between SEO respondents. Comments from the respondents also yield nuggets of juicy information that can help you refine your SEO and help you avoid landing in Google’s supplemental hell (index).

If you have a limited amount of time for SEO, be sure to focus on the factors that are given the greatest weight by Google’s algorithm. Below is a summary of the top 10 factors that influence Google search engine rankings:

Google’s Top 10 Search Engine Ranking Factors

1. Keyword Use in Title Tag (4.9)
Exceptional Importance and High Consensus

Placing the targeted search term or phrase in the title tag of the web page’s HTML header.

If you only have time one SEO action on your site, make sure to create a good, description title tag that starts with your target keyword.

2. Anchor Text of Inbound Link (4.4)
Exceptional Importance and High Consensus

Inbound links that contain your target keyword in the anchor text will give you a strong boost in ranking for that keyword. While keyword rich anchor text is hugely important, the text adjacent to the link plays a role, as well. A wide array of naturally occurring inbound anchor text is the best scenario – inbound links that are close to identical could invite penalties. So if you’re dropping links…be sure to mix up your anchor text a little!

3. Global Link Popularity of Site (4.4)
Exceptional Importance and Average Agreement

This refers to the overall link weight/authority as measured by links from any and all sites across the web (both link quality and quantity). I like Lucas Ng‘s description, because it refers to Amazon tribes!

“Think of a web page as a town. If a city has freeways, airports, train stations, bus shelters and a port, that’s a good indicator that it is an important hub. That orphaned web page with no links pointing to it? It may as well be a hidden tribe of Amazons that no one has discovered.”

4. Age of Site (4.1)
Exceptional Importance and Average Agreement

Age refers to the date indexable content was first seen by the search engines (note that this can change if a domain switches ownership), NOT the date of original registration of the domain.

Age is a huge factor, which is the reason why a lot of crappy, old, barely relevant sites are hard to knock out of SERPs. According to Todd Malicoat, “The older the berry the sweeter the link juice.”

Google Personalization and Spam5. Link Popularity within the Site’s Internal Link Structure (4)
Exceptional Importance and Average Agreement

Refers to the number and importance of internal links pointing to the target page. While somewhat masturbatory, internal link juice is a strongly weighted factor and, most importantly, one that you can control, especially with regards to the choice of anchor text.

According to Scott Smith, a.k.a Caveman, “Factors considered by Google include: Number of inbound links, importance (placement) of the inbound links within the linking pages, anchor text patterns, nav versus text links, and the content of linking pages.”

6. Topical Relevance of Inbound Links to Site (3.9)
High Importance and Average Agreement

This refers to the subject-specific relationship between the sites/pages linking to the target page and the target keyword. Highly relevant links, from trusted, topically related sites carry more weight.

7. Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community (3.9)
High Importance and Average Agreement

Refers to link weight/authority of the target website amongst its topical peers in the online world. Link love from the popular kids in the hood helps. A few links from authority sites can help a niche site rank above the authorities for niche-related keywords.

8. Keyword Use in Body Text (3.7)
High Importance and Average Agreement

Using the targeted search term in the visible, HTML text of the page.

Target keywords in the title need to be included in the page, especially in starting and ending paragraphs. Focus more on semantic variations than keyword density – repeating the same keywords over and over again, can result in ranking suppression.

9. Global Link Popularity of Linking Site (3.6)
High Importance, But Highly Disputed

In general, a links from popular sites are better, but it’s hard to get an accurate read on how valuable this is.

10. Topical Relationship of Linking Page (3.5)
High Importance and Average Agreement

While all links help, links from topically related sites help more, though it’s hard to measure exactly by how much.

Other Important Search Engine Ranking Factors

Google Sandbox11. Quality/Relevance of Links to External Sites/Pages (3.5)
High Importance and Average Agreement

Do links on the page point to high quality, topically-related pages? According to Aaron Wall http://seobook.com, “Your outbound links help define what community your site belongs in.”

Benefit can be derived through anchor text tunneling, that is, when Site A links to site B with the keyword “widgets”, and site B links to site C the keyword “widgets”.

12. Age of Document (3.4)
High Importance and Average Agreement

Older pages may be perceived as more authoritative while newer pages may be more temporally relevant. An older document on an older, more trusted site will rank better than one on a newer site.

Says Aaron Wall, “Older documents may be trusted more, especially if they are well cited and do not have many broken links in them. For blogs and news sites new documents may tend to have high PageRank values due to internal site structure. New documents may also be given a freshness boost.”

13. Keyword Use in H1 Tag (3.3)
High Importance and Average Agreement

Creating an H1 tag with the targeted search term/phrase

14. Amount of Indexable Text Content (3.2)
High Importance and Average Agreement

Refers to the literal quantity of visible HTML text on a page. Sheer volume of content isn’t that important, but it is good to have some indexable content as opposed to all flash and images. Chris Boggs http://chrisboggs.blogspot.com thinks that content of 75-100 words can be effective in scoring points with Google. However, absence of indexable content can be mitigated by other factors, such as quality inbound links, quality outbound links, and intelligent keyword deployment across title, meta, hx, etc.

15. Age of In-Bound Link (3.2)
High Importance and Average Agreement

Age matters

16. Topical Relationship of Linking Site (3.1)
High Importance and Average Agreement

It helps

Google User Data in Search Engine Rankings17. Relevance of Site’s Primary Subject Matter to Query (3.1)
High Importance, But Highly Disputed

The topical relationships between the full content of a website and a user’s given query. References to the Google’s neutering of the Google bomb effect, caused by complaints from miserable failures in high places, indicate a belief that this factor is more important now than before. However, the dominance of Wikipedia in SERPs is a powerful counter-example.

18. Keyword Use in Domain Name (3)
Moderate Importance and Average Agreement

Including the targeted term/phrase in the registered domain name, i.e. keyword.com. Having your keyword in your domain name has little bearing on its own. The benefit comes from its propensity to attract inbound links with your keyword in the anchor text. You can use hyphens to separate works, but your url will look yucky, and it kills your branding.

[tags]search engine ranking factors, google, seo, search engine optimization, search marketing, serp, lorna li[/tags]

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  1. SEO says:

    I found a quick way to get Goggle to index my New web site over night.

    My old web site had a PR 2 what I did was to simply change my web site name and keep the same webhost.

    With Goggle searching my web site the next day giving me ” 200 Status OK ” for all of my new pages.

    Goggle still find’s some of my old files giving me 404 pages less each day from my old site.

    Goggle it seem’s gives more wieght to your IP address than your URL.
    How else can Goggle come to my new web site looking for my old domain

    ————–The Road To Success With SEO ————–

  2. Ankit Garg says:

    Very nice informative post. Clears lots of dust around the topic and makes it polished for readers.

  3. […] a simple – there is a link, it is worth xxx, move onto the next link. See for yourself the top 10 search engine optimization factors according […]

  4. […] Top Search Engine Ranking Factors for Google […]

  5. dan says:

    Very nice informative post. Clears lots of dust around the topic and makes it polished for readers. The pie diagrams given in the blog gives a clear picture about the information given in the blog.

  6. […] linkbuilding, and code optimization work as a team in an attempt to address a variety of search engine ranking factors.  Programming your website in a way that allows engine spiders to access, categorize, and index […]

  7. Flüge says:

    Great precise summary of the main factors listed on seomoz. Sophisticated and clear structured as well. AAA

  8. Just as you described the age of the site, on page optimization factors decide a major role in ranking a site. I have found blogs with two years old ranking better with less number of links than those with two months old. A major factor is that the links that 2 year old blogs have are usually high pagerank due various updates that happen in these days.

  9. SEOMOZ produces some of the best materials for SEO and search marketing on the web. Rand and crew are awesome, and you should go to any conference and see him speak: informative, fun and action-oriented. But, as with anything online – test for results yourself.

  10. Very informative post. but its very tough to follow all the rules. Thanks anyway

  11. you see that alot. all kinds of recipes for climbing the search list on google. i’ not saying they arn’t true. but, as an internet marketer for many years i can say that eventualy, googles purpose is to find the best sites to a spesific query. all the rules mentioned erlyier are extremly important but on top of them keep in mind to maitain a reach and usefull content. well orginized landing pages. establish good website structure and your website will climb up eventualy!

    Great post!

  12. That was one of the most helpful blogs I have come across Some of the leading gurus have insight which we are so lucky they share

  13. Niyaz | SEO says:

    Nice… these are quite helpfuil… but i need to stress much on link building too 😀

  14. Great tips, this is basically everything you really need to know about SEO. Also love how you break it down into visuals which makes it a lot easier for some people to grasp.

  15. Great compilation.
    I knew about the relevance before, but this “top-list” is new to me.

    Miguel Rego Gomes dos Reis

  16. Age definitely is important. And if you have an old and somewhat authoritative domain, try setting up subdomains. I have been told that it is like starting from scratch if you create a subdomain, but I find this statement to be false. A subdomain can rank very well if your top level domain is also doing very well in the search engines.

    While on page optimization is important, if you want to rank well for competitive terms, link building, and domain age in my opinion would be the most important.

  17. Like investing, I have found that a diversity of methods employed to optimize a site seems to work best… don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

  18. Thanks for the article and also the post are useful. Link building is ofcourse very important, I do however have my questions around domain age. On the other hand most blogs write about this, so I should consider this as a fact maybe. Relevance is a fact, especially when it comes to ranking high on competitive terms. Thanks again