Google uses around 200 ranking factors in its algorithm.
This number was confirmed in a 2009 interview when Google’s Matt Cutts mentioned that Google uses over 200 variables in its ranking algorithm.
Several SEO updates have been made since 2009, and Google has recognized only a handful of them as a ranking factor.
While SEO experts prove many ranking factors, a few are just speculations.
This guide will explore all the known Google ranking factors and explain how they impact your ranking on the SERP.
The Complete List of Known Google Ranking factors
Google regularly updates its guidelines and ranking factors to provide the best helpful content to searchers.
The ranking factors allow marketers to understand how to make their SEO effective.
Here is a complete list of Google ranking factors that marketers and business owners should know to rank their websites on the search results page.
1. Domain Ranking Factors
Domain factors affect the ranking of your webpage based on your website’s domain.
1. Domain Authority (DA) or Domain Rating (DR)
Domain authority (DA) is a website ranking score ranging from 0 to 100.
A higher DA score indicates a website has authoritative and valuable content.
Although Google never confirmed DA as a ranking factor, Google’s algorithm uses a similar pageRank metric to measure the authenticity of your website.
All the top-ranking web pages have a DA score of 70+.
Webpages with high-quality backlinks and SEO-optimized valuable content tend to have higher DA.
2. Domain Age
Many SEOs believe an old domain suggests a trustworthy webpage.
However, Google’s search advocate John Mueller claims domain age does not help with ranking.
3. Keywords in Top Level Domain (TLD)
Using your target keywords in TLD is not a ranking factor but a relevancy factor.
Google can identify your website as a potential search result with keywords in TLD.
4. Keywords in SubDomain
Keywords appearing in your subdomain allow Google to discover your website for targeted search intent.
Webpages with keywords in their subdomain can rank better than those without keywords.
5. Country Extension in TLD
If you have country extensions in your website domain, such as ‘.in’ for India,’ ‘.cn’ for China, or ‘.sg’ for Singapore,’ it can limit the ranking of your website globally.
You should use a ‘.com’ domain if you want to reach your audience around the world.
6. Domain History
Google downranks penalized domains.
If you are buying a website, check if Google has levied any penalties on the domain.
Also, when Google penalizes domain owners for spamming, it can impact the rankings of other sites owned by that person.
2. On-Page SEO Ranking Factors
On-page SEO ranking factors consider the overall quality of a webpage before ranking it on Google.
1. Title Tags
According to Moz, title tags with keywords perform better on SERP.
As known in the SEO space, including your target keywords in the title is necessary to indicate the topical relevancy of your content.
Google also uses your keywords in H1 tags as a secondary relevance factor.
However, inserting your keywords in all the subheads might suggest keyword stuffing and affect your rankings.
2. SEO Writing
SEO writing is essential for ranking on Google.
Writing for SEO includes using keywords, optimizing your content for indexing, and matching the search intent.
Google can crawl, index, and rank web pages with SEO-focused writing.
Long-form content ranks better than short form.
Writing at least 10% longer than top-ranking pages on SERP can help your webpage rank higher.
You should also ensure your content length is suitable for the search intent.
For example, if someone searches for how to add contacts on WhatsApp, they might prefer something other than reading comprehensive guides.
Thus, the content length should be suitable for the search intent but longer and, ideally, better than what is already available on the SERP.
4. Linked Table of Contents
Including a linked table of contents makes it easier for Google to skim through your webpage and understand the content.
Linked tables are beneficial for readers and Google’s bots, and such pages rank better because Google can understand the topical depth of your content.
5. Primary and LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) Keywords
Keywords tell the search engine about the content of your page.
Your primary keywords are what people enter while searching for queries on Google.
Incorporating LSI keywords boosts Google’s understanding of your content.
Overall, using keywords suggests the relevancy of your content and search intent to the search engine’s algorithms.
6. Google Hummingbird
Google’s Hummingbird algorithm uses the context of different words to understand a topic rather than only focusing on keywords.
The hummingbird update in 2013 has improved the quality of results on Google’s search engines.
7. Canonical Tags
You can insert canonical tags if two pages are similar on your website.
These tags indicate to the search engine that a specific URL is the master copy of a webpage.
You can help Google filter duplicate content better by using canonical tags on your website.
8. Outbound Links
High-quality outbound links increase your content authority on SERP.
Webpages that redirect to authoritative external links rank higher on Google.
Internal links or interlinks give a better idea of your website’s overall content relevancy to Google.
You can place all or most relevant content in a single article or blog and decrease the bounce rate on your website.
Placing relevant internal links allows you to boost the value of your content.
Hence, improving the satisfaction of Google’s customers.
10. Broken Links
Broken links suggest abandoned web pages or web pages with old content.
Google downranks websites with broken links.
11. Affiliate Links
Webpages with too many affiliate links and low-value content might not rank higher on Google.
According to Google search essentials, affiliate links without helpful content for the audience are not valuable for SERP.
Hence, Google might downrank affiliate content.
Insert affiliate links relevant to your audience and write valuable blog posts. In short, only create affiliate websites with a concrete content production capacity.
12. Mobile-Friendly Content
More than half of the people will read your content on mobile phones.
Google considers the mobile-friendliness of content before ranking.
Content optimized for mobile users ranks better on SERP
Inserting images, videos, and infographics boost the engagement rate of your content.
Multimedia also allows readers to understand a topic better than text-based content.
You should add alt text in your media for Google to understand the context of your images to rank on SERP.
14. URL Length
Shorter URLs increase a page’s search visibility.
Several SEO experts say shorter URLs have a slight edge while ranking on SERP.
15. Keyword in URL
Keywords in URLs are another relevancy signal.
According to search representatives at Google, it’s a tiny ranking factor for the search results page.
Google considers the content type based on the search intent of an audience.
For example, readers might prefer a listicle of a topic or a step-by-step guide for another.
Therefore, the content type can be a ranking factor if it’s specific to search intent.
Citing references or sources is a sign of content quality.
Google may only consider it a ranking factor for some types of content.
References and citations matter for Y-M-Y-L or your money, your life content. It’s a content category that can influence a decision about a person’s money or life.
For example, finance or health content.
18. Content Freshness
Google considers the freshness of content while ranking them.
New and updated content can rank better than old content, but Google may not consider content freshness for topics that don’t require a content update.
HTTPS ensures the data security of your website visitors.
Google flashes a not secure signal on its browser for websites without HTTPS.
HTTPS has been a lightweight Google ranking factor since 2014 to protect Google users from spammy websites.
20. Core Web Vitals
The core web vitals measure your webpage’s loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability.
It shows Google how your pages perform based on real-time usage and aim to improve user interaction on a webpage.
21. Intrusive Interstitials
Interstitials are unwanted pop-ups on a website that obstruct a user’s view of the content.
An intrusive webpage layout interrupts users while accessing the content or redirects them to another page.
Interstitials are part of Google’s page experience and are a negative ranking factor.
22. Geotagging (Local Search)
Geotagging can improve the ranking of content with local search intent.
23. Content Readability
The top-ranking content on Google has an average readability score of grade 9 or 10.
Lower grease readability between grades 8 – 10 allows the maximum number of people to read your content. Thus, complex readability might downrank your page.
24. User Experience (UX)
UX is the overall webpage experience for a user.
Google considers the website layout and loading speed ranking factors to ensure a smooth UX.
25. Bounce Rate
The search engine calculates metrics of the percentage of users who stay on the website for a longer time and those that leave the website after viewing only a single page.
Bounce rate is a negative ranking factor for webpages on SERPs as it indicates the number of users unsatisfied with the contents of a search result.
26. Search Intent
Search intent is an essential ranking factor on SERP.
Websites that provide content suitable for the search intent rank higher.
27. Meta Descriptions
Detailed and keyword-optimized meta descriptions allow Google to understand the topical relevance of content without scanning the entire piece.
28. Quality Vs. Useful Content
Quality content is only sometimes useful for readers. Hence, they move away from that page.
Google wants to rank content that helps users and not Google bots. Thus, usefulness ranks over the quality of the content.
Off-Page Google Ranking Factors
Off-page ranking factors refer to the actions taken outside your website’s content that affect your SERP rankings.
Webpages with high-quality backlinks from authoritative domains rank higher.
On the other side, backlinks from low-quality directories or spam websites can lead to a Google penalty.
Local businesses with positive reviews and higher ratings appear on the SERP.
However, Google also considers that business owners resolve customer complaints in the Google reviews section as an organic ranking factor.
3. Branded Searches
When people directly search for your brand, Google may boost your ranking, considering your brand is a website.
4. Author Legitimacy
Backlinks from guest blog posts written by well-known writers with personal brands on social media are a strong ranking factor.
To rank content, Google considers the author’s legitimacy from their business or social profile.
5. Link Diversity
When a website receives too many backlinks from the same website, Google can penalize its rankings.
Links from different legitimate sources signify natural linking, and Google ranks such pages with interest.
Also, the anchor text of backlinks is crucial for Google to understand the context of the backlinks.
6. Site Reputation
Google algorithms ensure a website’s reputation by crawling reviews on sites like Yelp.com or Quora.
Technical SEO Ranking Factors
Technical SEO is the optimization of a website to enable Google to crawl and index the website for ranking.
1. Site Architecture
Simple websites with organized and prioritized web pages play a critical role in SERP rankings.
A good site architecture makes it easier for Google and users to navigate and access a website and affects the site’s visibility in search results.
Indexation is how websites organize information about web pages they crawl.
Webpages with no index tags cannot rank on Google.
3. Schema Markup
Adding schema markup helps the search engine crawl better and understand what your content is trying to convey.
Specific schema markups allow your content to rank as a featured snippet, raising the overall ranking of the webpage.
4. Site Navigation
User-friendly sites with breadcrumb navigation, which helps users know where they are on a website, can help with rankings.
5. Contact Us Page
Google’s quality guidelines mention that they prefer websites with appropriate contact us information to ensure domain legitimacy for ranking.
Google may give an edge in rankings for websites with Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness (E-A-T) applications.
The E-A-T factor is mainly considered for health content or sensitive information.
We cannot control all the SEO ranking factors because they keep changing with search behavior.
Google has never approved all the ranking factors.
Every SEO expert may not approve of all the factors, yet for a few Google ranking factors such as backlinks, keyword everyone, including Google, agrees upon optimization and search intent.
Website owners and SEO writers should focus on providing unique and valuable content that addresses the search intent and is optimized for known SEO factors to rank on top of the SERP.