A Quick Guide to Google Page Ranking Factors


We need to kick off this guide to Google page ranking factors with a caveat. Google’s ranking algorithm is a proprietary secret, so it’s not publicly known exactly how it works. It’s also constantly being updated with minor tweaks and occasional major revisions. And search engine optimization is a perpetually evolving field.

That said, Google does drop significant hints—and sometimes definitive information—about what’s important to ranking high in its search results. Also, dedicated search engine marketers have devoted countless hours to studying, experimenting, and homing in on factors that seem to have noticeable effects on page rankings.

The following guide to Google page ranking factors is reliable, but it’s not exhaustive and it’s not prioritized.

Domain-Related Factors

These are Google page ranking factors related to your website domain.

  • Domain age
  • Whether the keyword is in the domain name
  • Whether the keyword appears as the first word in the domain name
  • Length of domain registration
  • Keyword in subdomain
  • Domain history
  • If the Whois owner has been penalized
  • Public WhoIs favored over private Whois registration

On-Page Factors

These are factors related directly to what’s on the page.

  • Keyword in title tag
  • Keyword at the beginning of title tag
  • Keyword in the meta description tag
  • Keyword in the H1 tag
  • Keyword in subsequent, ordered H tags
  • Keyword used in the content/keyword density
  • Keyword used within the first 100 words
  • Keyword in URL
  • Length of URL
  • Proximity of URL to the homepage
  • Content length
  • Known author/qualifications of author
  • Inclusion of a linked table of contents
  • Use of semantically related keywords
  • Semantically related keyword in the meta title and description
  • In-depth, quality, useful content
  • Page load speed
  • Free from duplicated content from other pages on the site/other sites
  • Keywords in image file names and alt text
  • Recently created or updated content
  • Age of the page
  • Frequency/substance of page updates
  • Proper spelling and grammar
  • Reading level of the content on the page
  • Keywords in anchor text leading to the page
  • Number and relevance of links to other pages on the site
  • Number and relevance of internal links directing to the page
  • Number and quality of outbound links
  • Number and quality of inbound links
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Presence of multimedia like images or videos
  • Inclusion of helpful supplementary content like free calculators or other tools
  • Free from broken links
  • Free of or containing limited affiliate links
  • Free of HTML errors
  • Authority/trust-level of the domain
  • Authority/trust level of the page
  • PageRank
  • Relevance of page’s category to page
  • Content formatted for readability
  • User-friendly layout
  • Priority of the page in the sitemap.xml
  • Citing references and sources
  • Use of structured data

Site-Level Factors

These are Google page ranking factors related to your website as a whole.

  • Thorough Contact page
  • Valuable content on the site
  • Regularly updated site
  • Organized site architecture
  • Inclusion of a sitemap
  • Long-term site downtime
  • Location of server
  • HTTPs/valid SSL certificate
  • Inclusion of legal pages (terms and conditions, privacy policy)
  • Unique title and meta description tags on each page
  • Use of breadcrumb markup
  • Mobile-responsiveness
  • User-friendliness
  • Bounce rate
  • Domain authority
  • User reviews
  • Site reputation

Backlink Factors

These are factors related to the external links that lead to the page.

  • Number of backlinks
  • Age of linking domain
  • Age of backlinks
  • Keyword in backlink anchor text
  • Keyword in alt tag of image backlinks
  • Number of backlinks from authority sites
  • Number of links from .edu and .gov domains
  • Number of links from sites in your industry
  • Links from real sites versus blogs created as backlink farms
  • Relevance of referring domains
  • Trust factor of linking page and domain
  • Presence of links from competitors
  • Number of links that are not from ads
  • Presence of some nofollow links
  • Diversity of backlink profile
  • Relevance of the content on the referring page
  • Keyword in the title of the linking page
  • Lots of backlinks to URL with 301 redirects
  • Backlink location on the page and in the content
  • Natural rate of growth in number of backlinks
  • Linked as a source in a Wikipedia article
  • Natural link profile
  • Presence of excessive reciprocal links
  • Links in real content rather then user-generated content/forums
  • Backlinks from a page with a 301 redirect
  • TrustRank of linking site
  • Few outbound links on the referring page
  • Quality and word count of linking content

User Experience

These are Google page ranking factors related to the user behavior around the page that the search engine can quantify.

  • Organic click-through rate for keyword
  • Organic click-through rates for all ranking keywords
  • Dwell time
  • Bounce rate
  • Measurement of how users interact on your site based on RankBrain
  • Total direct traffic
  • Percentage of repeat visitors
  • Percentage of visitors that click on other pages in their search results after visiting your page
  • Page frequently bookmarked by Chrome users
  • Number of comments on page

Google Algorithm Preferences

These are factors that have to do with the way Google prioritizes what its search results page looks like overall.

  • Showing diversity in search results
  • Avoiding domain repetition in search results
  • Showing newer/updated content in search results
  • Browsing history of user
  • Search history of user
  • Succinct answers, formatting, page authority, and HTTPS for featured snippets
  • Geo-targeting
  • Adult content or curse words (excluded from safe search results)
  • Legitimate DMCA complaints
  • Matching searcher intent
  • Showing big brands with relevant content
  • Showing results optimized for Google Shopping

Brand Factors

These are Google page ranking factors pertaining to how your brand fits in with the user’s query.

On-Site Spam Signals

These on-site factors work against a page’s ability to rank high in search results, as they indicate a spammy page.

  • Low-quality/nonsensical content
  • Multiple and sneaky redirects
  • Flagged server IP address
  • Distracting ads and popups
  • Popups that are difficult to close
  • Overuse of keywords in content and/or meta data
  • Use of doorway pages
  • Lots of ads above the fold and not much content
  • Excessive use of affiliate links
  • Hidden affiliate links
  • Nofollowing all outbound links

Off-Site Spam Signals

These off-site factors work against a page’s ability to rank high in search results, as they indicate a spammy page.

  • Unnatural increase in backlinks
  • Many low-quality backlinks
  • Backlinks from a hacked site
  • Low-quality directory links
  • Links from sites with the same server IP
  • Backlinks from sites selling them

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