Google Search Ranking Factors

googlesearchGoogle Search uses a 200-factor algorithm when deciding where to rank a website in its search listings. This algorithm changes slightly from time to time, and nobody knows exactly how the algorithm works. If Google publicized it, then people would find ways to abuse the system to get their site to the top of the listings. But Google does provide an overview of some of the factors that they consider. And tons of research has been done by third-party companies.

This list is a summary overview of some of the more important factors that Google Search considers in ranking websites. I’ve taken many pages of research and condensed it into as short a list as possible, excluding factors that web designers have no control over and those that may be too technical for the technically challenged. Some of these factors are more important than others, but you should strive to incorporate as many of these into your website as possible.

FACTOR DESCRIPTION
Domain Name
  • Age: Old domains and websites rank better than newer.
  • Registration Length: Register your domain name for as many years as you can (5-10 years is better than 1-2 years). Fly-by-night companies often register for only 1-2 years.
  • Length: Strive for shorter, more concise domains. For instance, for the company “Miller’s Excavating LLC”, the domain “millersexcavating.com” is better than “millersexcavatingllc.com”.
  • Keywords: Your domain name should contain your keyword(s). For instance, the domain “millersexcavating.com” is better than “millersllc.com”.
  • Exact Match: For the company “South Jersey Excavating”, the domain “southjerseyexcavating.com” is better than “southjerseyexcavators.com”.
Website Address (URL)
  • Length: Strive for shorter, more concise page addresses. For instance, for the company “Miller’s Excavating LLC”, the URL “www.millersexcavating.com/excavating.html” is better than “www.millersexcavating.com/
    weprovidelotsofexcavatingservices.html “
  • Keywords: The page address “millersexcavating.com/excavating.html” is better than “millersexcavating.com/ page1.html”
Title Tag Each page should have a title tag, and the title should contain your keyword(s). Also, the keyword(s) should be as close to the front of the title tag as possible, so for the company “South Jersey Excavating”, the title “Excavating in South Jersey” is better than “South Jersey Excavating”.
Description Tag Keyword(s) should appear in the first 100 words of the page content, and should be used often throughout the site. But going overboard is bad.
Text Content
  • Quality Content: Make sure the content on your site is helpful and of high quality, rather than just “marketing fluff”.
  • Amount of Text: The more text, the better, but to a point. Too much text can bore readers. And pages consisting of only images or Flash (no text) will not rank well.
  • Original Content: Your content (text, images, etc.) should be original, not copied from someone else’s website.
  • Grammar and Spelling: Avoid lots of misspellings and poor grammar.
  • Reading Level: Wording should be at a basic reading level, rather than advanced, technical, or overly sophisticated wording.
Page Loading Speed Pages that load faster rank better than slower loading pages (WordPress websites often load slowly).
Content Updates Search engines prefer sites with recently updated content. And frequency of page updates is important. Search engines prefer sites that are updated monthly rather than annually, weekly rather than monthly, or daily rather than weekly.
Images and Videos Sites with images and videos rank better than those without. Sites with embedded YouTube videos rank much better due to the media content, and the fact that Google owns YouTube.
Website Layout, Pages, and Coding
  • User Friendly and Organized: Website layout should be user-friendly, organized, and easy to navigate.
  • Number of Pages: The more pages on your site, the better, but to a point. A 4-page site is better than a 3-page site, but a 20-page site is no better than a 15-page site.
  • Coding Errors: Avoid lots of HTML errors or sloppy coding.
  • Bulleted and Numbered Lists: Provide lists (such as list of services you provide) in bulleted or numbered format.
  • Broken Links: Make sure links on your site are working, and that the content you’re linking to is available.
  • Image Alt Tags: Alt tags added to images help search engines determine what the image is about.
  • H1 Tags: An H1 tag in the body of the page is considered a “secondary title tag”. Styled H1 tags rank better than non-H1 text.
Contact Information Add your company’s contact information (phone, fax, address, etc.). If the contact info matches your whois info (the contact info for your domain name), that’s even better. And a separate contact page is better than no contact page.
Social Media
  • Company Social Media Profiles: Companies with social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) rank better than those without.
  • Social Media Shares: The more shares, likes, posts, tweets, comments, etc. on social sites about your website, the better.
  • Age and Rank: Shares and likes from high-ranking and older Twitter and Facebook accounts count more than those from newer or unpopular accounts.
  • Facebook Shares vs. Likes: Facebook Shares of your page are better than Facebook Likes because they’re more similar to a backlink.
Sitemap A sitemap helps search engines effectively and accurately index your website.
Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics These two programs help your website rank better in Google.
Backlinks (Incoming Links from other sites)
  • Quantity: The more incoming links your site has from other sites, the better. Very important factor.
  • Quality: Links from high-ranking, popular, reputable sites are better than those from low-ranking sites, and backlinks from “link farms” or other spammy sites are bad.
  • Relevance: Links from sites in a similar industry are better than those in a different industry.
  • Age: Backlinks from older sites are better than those from newer sites.
Outbound Links
  • Quality: Adding links to high-ranking, reputable sites helps send trust signals to search engines (which is why the social media links on your site are so important).
  • Relevance: Outbound links related to your industry is a search engine relevancy signal (i.e. links to Owens Corning, GAF, and CertainTeed if you’re a roofer).
  • Quantity: Too many outbound links are bad.
Reciprocal Links Reciprocal linking/link exchanging (I’ll link to you if you link to me) used to be the best way to gain ranking, but now it’s considered spammy.
Bounce Rate Bounce rate measures how quickly a visitor “bounces” off your site. A high bounce rate is bad. Bounce rate can be high if the site isn’t displaying properly, is difficult to navigate, contains music that plays automatically, or contains uninteresting content. Interesting content, videos, images, many pages, and contact forms keep the user on the site longer, lowering the bounce rate.
Domain Authority and Page Rank Sites that get more traffic tend to have a higher domain authority and page rank, and will rank better.
User Reviews and Site Reputation Negative reviews on other sites can affect your website’s ranking.
IP Address Flagged If your IP address is flagged for spam (for instance, you send unsolicited emails), then any website on that IP address may lose their ranking.
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