Google's Ranking Factors For SEO: A Complete Guide (2024)
Updated: Nov 23
Did you know that Google makes thousands of updates to its search engine every year? That means that SEO factors that were relevant a few years ago might not be relevant any longer.
What's more, Google has over 200 ranking factors that it uses in its algorithm to rank a webpage.
This is why it's important that you stay updated on all the changes and have a full understanding of each of the SEO factors that google takes into account.
So here I have compiled a complete list of SEO factors that can help you understand what best practices you need to follow in order to rank in Google SERP.
Table of Contents:
Page-Level SEO Factors
1) High-Quality Content
One of the most important factors that google considers when ranking a webpage is whether the content present is of "high quality". What does "high-quality content" mean for Google?
Well, it means creating helpful, reliable, people-first content that provides original information (with research analysis when appropriate), includes comprehensive answers on the topic, and gives substantial value to its readers such that they feel satisfied after reading the content.
You can learn more about Google's guide to creating high-quality content by clicking here!
Some people incorrectly believe that in order to rank your web page, your content must be of a particular word count/length.
This is false, Google does not have a preferred word count.
However, it is interesting to note that web pages that rank on the first page in Google do have a higher word count. In fact, one study from Backlinko showed that webpages that rank on Google's first page contain an average of 1447 words.
But what that means is that rather than content length the fact that these web pages gave comprehensive answers to the queries that the searchers had is what made them rank on the first page.
3) Covering a Topic In-Depth
This same study from Backlinko also shows that content that covered a topic in-depth and answered queries from every angle clearly ranked higher than pages that did not give an in-depth answer to the topic the searcher had queried for.
4) Title Tag
Having a keyword in the title tag is no longer as important as it once was. Studies do show that keyword optimization of the title tag does not correlate to a higher first-page Google ranking.
However, the title tag is still an important On-page SEO signal, and per Moz's study, having the keyword at the start of the title tag does tend to make the webpage perform better than webpages that have the keyword at the end.
5) Meta Tag Description
The meta tag description is not used as a direct ranking signal by Google.
However, having a compelling meta-tag description can attract users to click your webpage more in comparison to other web pages, thus increasing your click-through rate (CTR).
And since click-through rate is a key ranking factor meta tag does act as an indirect ranking signal for Google.
6) H1 Tag
H1 tags are kind of a "secondary title tag". As in, if the title is what a user first sees when they do a search query, the H1 tag "title" is what they see if clicking and going into the webpage.
H1 tag is used as a secondary relevancy signal by Google, so having a compelling H1 tag and making it relevant to the topic you will write about will tend to give your webpage a better performance.
7) Keywords in Subheadings (H2, H3, etc.)
H2 - H6 subheading tags act as another weak relevancy signal when keywords are placed in them. They help Google understand the structure of the page along with what each specific section of the page is about.
8) Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency
This is a numerical statistic that reflects how much relevant a word is to the content of a web page.
The more often a keyword and keywords related to it appear on a page, the more likely it is that the page is about that keyword.
But keep in mind that this does not mean that you will do keyword stuffing as that will get you penalized by Google instead. Keywords should come naturally into your content to enhance the topic you are writing about rather than to use them to solely rank in Google.
9) Including Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords in the content
Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords are words that are semantically relevant to the main keyword.
They help search engines understand the meaning of the keyword and what the content is about when there is more than one meaning for the keyword.
(For example: Are you talking about the micro-organism parasite or Parasite which is a 2019 movie).
Having semantically relevant keywords in the meta tag description and Title tags helps Google discern between words that have multiple meanings and thus may act as a relevancy signal.
10) Page Load Speed
Page load speed is now a key ranking factor for both Google and Bing. This is understandable as what search engines want is that their users to get the best user experience possible.
If the web pages that the search engines show has slow load speed then of course the users will not have a great experience which Google and Bing would want to avoid at all costs.
11) Accelerated Mobile Pages
Although Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are not a direct Google ranking factor, it is intended to increase load speed for the mobile versions of webpages. And thus may indirectly help webpages rank higher on Mobile.
AMPs have their own issues though. Since they strip most of the complex coding of the webpage and show a cached version of your webpage from Google's server, you get limited analytics on the traffic generated from AMP and also lose out on lead generation from the webpage if you have implemented AMP.
If you want to read more about AMP, read this wonderful guide from Neil Patel on Accelerated Mobile Pages.
12) Duplicate Content
Having duplicate content on the same site can negatively affect the webpage's search engine ranking even if the content is modified.
Usually, the effect that is seen is cannibalization whereas the two duplicate content is competing to rank for the same keywords and taking each other's rank down, harming the overall visibility of the website.
13) Image & Video Optimization
Image & Videos on a web page gives search engine important relevancy signals about the content through their file name, alt text, title, and caption.
Optimizing these sections greatly helps Google to know what they are about and rank them for relevant search queries.
14) Content Freshness
Google favors content that is either recently published (especially for time-sensitive search queries) or that is regularly updated over ones that are never or sparely updated.
This is because Google wants to give users new information instead of information that might be years old and / or outdated. In fact, this is so much important that Google shows users some results when the web page was last updated.
So updating your content at least once a year is very much important.
15) Frequency of Page Updates & Extent of Content Changes
Along with the freshness of the content, the frequency of updates and the extent to which each of the changes is done, also serve as a freshness factor to Google.
So content that is updated multiple times in a year has a greater freshness factor as well as updates where whole sections are changed vs fixing typos and making small changes.
16) Table Of Contents
Having a table of contents in your blog posts, especially when their content length is high, with links to each specific section of the article helps Google to better understand what your page's content is about.
This can help to rank your page faster and may also sometimes result in site links in SERP results.
17) Outbound Links
Outbound links quality: according to a study conducted by Reboot Online in 2016, backlinking to good, authoritative websites makes Google trust your web page more and has a positive impact on your rankings.
The same results were observed by Rand Fishkin from Moz in 2011 and they published their own piece on why external linking is good for SEO.
Although these are seemingly old studies, the results hold true to this day.
Content of Outbound Link: Google uses the content of the pages you link out to for the relevancy of your own web page. For example, if your blog page talks about shoes and you link out to the Nike website it tells Google that you are talking about Nike shoes and not about shoes from other brands.
The number of Outbound Links: Having good authoritative outbound links is good but having too many outbound links is actually bad as it can "leak" PageRank, which can then hurt your page's ranking in the search results.
18) Internal Linking
Two things need to be taken into account when it comes to internal linking:
When a number of your web pages point to one of your particular web pages, it indicates to Google that the particular web page is important in comparison to your other web pages (the number of internal links pointing to a page shows importance).
Internal links from authoritative pages of your website have a stronger impact than from pages that are less authoritative.
19) Broken Links & Affiliate links
Broken links on your web page indicate to Google that you are neglecting your website and thus negatively impact your web page's quality on Google.
Having too many affiliate links may cause Google's algorithm to pay more attention to the other quality signals of your website to ensure your web page is not a copy-paste affiliate site (affiliate sites where product descriptions and reviews are directly copied from an original merchant without any added value).
PageRank is basically a system developed by Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin that measures how authoritative a particular web page is.
Google measures how authoritative a web page is by seeing how many good quality, and authoritative websites backlink to it.
Generally, the higher the PageRank the higher it tends to rank in search results.
21) URL of the Webpage
URLs that are unnecessarily long can hurt the web page's search engine ranking. Many studies have clearly shown that short URLs have a better chance of ranking in Google's SERP.
If the URL path of the web page is closer to the home page it gets a slight authority boost versus pages that are further away from the home page.
Keywords should also be added to the web page's URL as it acts as a small ranking factor according to Google.
Lastly, the categories in the URL string do provide a thematic signal to Google.
22) Readability and Reading Level Of Content
The reading level of the content of a web page is not a ranking factor for Google, as confirmed by Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller.
But, should you care about the reading level of your content when it comes to ensuring your page ranks in Google? Yes!
This is because you need to understand who your audience is and what is their search intent.
If you're running a blog on the latest scientific discoveries, for example, that is intended for the general public, using simple words & sentences instead of scientific jargon would ensure that your blog is read by many people and thus it would ensure that you rank higher in Google.
23) HTML Errors In Your Website
Although John Mueller has stated multiple times that errors in HTML errors do not matter when it comes to SEO ranking as long as the code can be rendered and SD extracted you should still ensure that there are as few as possible errors in your HTML.
This is because HTML errors can affect the crawl rate, browser compatibility, user experience, and functionality of the website. All of which can indirectly hamper your rankings in Google!
24) Having Bullet Points/Lists
Having bullet points or numbered lists when appropriate, helps the readability of your content for your readers.
If you are using bullet points to answer search queries that are being searched by many, there is a chance that Google may show your answer as a featured snippet in search results.
25) Page Ranking For Multiple Keywords
If your page is ranking for multiple keywords, it can signal quality to Google and hence increase your rank further in search engine result pages.
26) The Age of Your Page
If you ensure that your older content is regularly updated, it can help your page to rank better than newer pages from your competitors.
This is because although Google prefers fresh content if that fresh content is being given by an older page that already had the ranking it would prefer that over a freshly published web page.
SEO Factors That are Domain Level
27) Parked Domain
Parked domains are those that have been registered and bought but it has not been yet connected to a website or email hosting and is not being used.
A Google update on December 2011 has made the search visibility of such domains decreased. So if you are looking to have a website, do not register the domain and keep it not in use for an elongated period of time, also do not buy any parked domains as your rankings will be decreased.
28) Age Of Your Domain
John Mueller from Google has clearly stated that domain age does not help with SEO in any way. While this may be true, a domain that has been present for a long period of time and has shown its trustworthiness to Google maybe is a bit harder to compete against for a newly published website.
29) Keywords In Top Level Domain
Having keywords in your domain name now only provides a relevancy signal and no longer gives an SEO boost as before.
30) Registration Length Of a Domain
Some blogs on SEO post that when a domain expires is an indication of trust and thus is an SEO factor. However, this is not true, most website registrars do not provide registration length and per John Mueller, this is not what you spend your "SEO time" on.
31) Change in Domain Ownership
Google can understand when a domain name changes ownership and so if the purpose of buying an old domain is to rank for queries it used to rank pre-ownership without much effort, it should not be done as there is no benefit.
Google advises being always cautious when buying an old domain. If the previous owner burned the domain to the ground by buying a lot of spammy links, it can be a hard time for you and a lot of hard work just to bring back the domain to level ground.
If you want to learn more about this, watch this video from Matt Cutts who worked at Google from 2000 to 2016.
32) Exact-Match Domain (EMD)
What's an exact match domain? It's when the domain name mostly matches a particular search query. It is often done by website owners in hopes of ranking in the top spot for that particular search query.
If you are looking to buy a domain name that matches a particular search query in hopes of ranking for that search query, think again.
Google's EMD update in 2012, penalizes EMD domains that have bad quality or thin content. That is not to say that having an exact match domain will cause you to get penalized by Google, but rather that it will not boost your SEO by itself but may get you additionally penalized if your content is bad!
33) Affect of WhoIs on SEO
A private WhoIs along with other signaling factors can indicate to Google that there is "something to hide". And may negatively affect SEO.
Furthermore, if Google identifies a particular website owner as a spammer they can scrutinize if that person owns other websites and penalize those other sites as well.
34) Country Code Extension
Having a country code extension (.bd, .ph., .fr) at the end of your domain name instead of .com can help you to rank your site for that particular country. However, it can limit your site's ranking in other countries.
Site Level SEO Factors
35) Having Contact Information In Your Website
In Google's quality raters' guideline, it states:
"The types and amount of contact information needed depend on the type of website. Contact information and customer service information are extremely important for websites that handle money, such as stores, banks, credit card companies, etc. Users need a way to ask questions or get help when a problem occurs"
Although this is not part of the algorithm, it does show that Google considers contact info an important aspect of a website user's experience.
Furthermore, having your contact info such as your business name, business address, and phone number appear on other websites is considered a citation.
And citation has been a local SEO factor for Google since 2009 if not before.
Having your contact information also increases the click-through rate, which is an SEO ranking factor.
36) TrustRank / Domain Authority (DA):
Google's TrustRank is a very important SEO factor as it measures the "trustworthiness" of a website. Google measures this by evaluating different "trust signals" one of which is the quality of the inbound links to the website.
A lot of very high-quality inbound links that are coming from relevant sources, indicate to Google that the website can be trusted.
By relevant sources, we mean that if your business is about real estate, you should be getting high-quality backlinks that seem natural and not bought from articles and sources that talk about real estate instead of say that talking about entertainment.
There is no direct way to measure Google's TrustRank for your website, but Moz has developed its own metric called MozTrust which tries to copy TrustRank. Its domain authority (DA) is a pretty good alternative measurement of how much your site can be trusted by Google and can be helpful to indirectly measure TrustRank.
Similar metrics are also used by other SEO software tools such as Semrush, AhRef, and Ubersuggest.
Although sitemaps aren't an SEO factor, it does help search engines index your page faster and more thoroughly, which helps to improve the visibility of your website.
38) Downtime And Server Issues
If your site faces a lot of downtime due to server issues and maintenance it can negatively impact your SERP ranking. In severe cases, Google or any other search engine may even deindex your website from its search results.
Your site's server location can also affect your SEO rankings. This is very much evident by the fact that if you search real estate on Google.com the result would be different than if you searched it on google.com.au.
39) Use of HTTPS
Google considers the security of websites through HTTPS encryption as one of the top main priorities for its users. Hence why HTTPS is a ranking signal for Google.
Thus having an SSL certificate will ensure your website ranks over sites that don't.
40) Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
E-A-T is a principle that Google's human search quality raters use to rate the quality and effectiveness of web pages in search results.
Human quality raters in Google go through web pages in the search results to rate web pages on how much expertise they have on the topic, how much credibility they have on publishing the content, and how much trustworthy they are in publishing it. Trustworthiness is the most important factor among the three.
Although E-A-T is not a direct Google ranking factor, how human search quality raters rank web pages does help Google to improve its search algorithm, thus making E-A-T an important aspect of SEO.
After all, if Google's algorithm deems your website to not be trustworthy, authoritative, and have no expertise, it is highly unlikely that it will rank your web page in search results.
41) Mobile Optimization & Usability
Mobile optimization is now an important SEO factor for Google. With over more than half of worldwide search happening on cell phones, this might not come as a surprise to anyone.
Simply put, if your website is not optimized for mobile phone users your website will fall in ranking and miss out on a huge chunk of visitors.
42) Site Navigation and Usability
Traditionally, a website's navigation and usability are seen as a separate concern from its search engine optimization (SEO).
However, a website that has poor usability & navigation will have a high bounce rate, decreased page views, and time spent on the site by users, which will indicate to Google that its users do not like the site. Thereby hurting search engine rankings.
43) Google's Core Web Vitals
The Core Web Vitals report in Google's search console shows how your page is performing, based on real-world usage data.
It measures performance through three metrics: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). Having a good Core Web Vitals report is important as it means that users are having a great page experience.
Per Google, it is one of the many signals that are used to rank pages and can act as a tie-breaker between two contents of equal quality when one has a better page experience per CWV metrics.
44) Google Analytics & Google Search Console
Usage of GA4 and GSC is not a ranking factor for Google (some think using it gives Google better usage data to have the site rank in its search results), as Google has denied this myth.
However, using GA and GSC does give you all the data and metrics of your site performance, enabling you to take better decisions to optimize your site for SEO.
45) Breadcrumb Navigation
Breadcrumbs are website links usually on the top part of your web page (just below the navigation bar) that allow web users to see where they are on your website.
Google uses breadcrumbs to categorize information in search results and you will often see breadcrumbs for a certain web page (especially product pages) being displayed in search results in Google.
Since this helps users to navigate your website and help Google to categorize it, breadcrumbs kind of help in your SEO.
46) Server Location Of Your Website
Per Google, server location does affect which location where your web page will rank. So if your website's IP address is in the UK for example, it will be easier for you to rank in SERPs in the UK than in the USA.
A good example of this is if you typed in "ATM booth" in google.com.us the result would be different than what you would get if you searched for the same result in google.com.uk.
47) User Reviews and Business Reputation
A business's reputation in business review websites such as Yelp or even Google may play an important role in search engine results ranking algorithms.
If customers frequently have a bad experience with your business and regularly give you poor ratings and submit complaints, Google's algorithm can demote you in its search engine rankings.
You can read more on this at this link.
How Backlinking Affects SEO
48) Backlinks from Aged Domains
Getting backlinks from websites that have aged may count more towards ranking than getting them from new domains. However, no matter how aged a domain is, in order for the backlink to count the domain itself must be trustworthy and must have relevancy as well.
49) Number of Root domains that backlinked to your website
When it comes to backlinking, the number of referring domains (from trustworthy sites) is an important ranking factor in Google's algorithm.
A number of studies have shown that when you exclude URLs with 0 backlinks the top 3 search results have a higher number of referring domains than those that rank lower in search results.
50) Backlink Quality & Authority
More important than the number of backlinks is perhaps the authoritativeness and quality of the referring page and its root domain.
The authority of the referring page, called PageRank is extremely important as an SEO ranking factor as a number of studies have shown that getting a few backlinks from authoritative and trustworthy sites is more important to rank in Google than getting many backlinks from less authoritative/spammy websites.
51) Multiple Backlinks From Different Pages Of The Same Domain
According to a MOZ study on possible search engine ranking factors, correlation data showed that getting backlinks from different pages of the same root domain contributed to the ranking of a webpage in search results.
52) Backlink Location in The Referring Webpage
The MOZ study also found that backlinks that were located at the top part of the page contributed more as a ranking factor than backlinks that were located at the bottom part of the content.
Hence why, it is advisable that if you can choose to get a backlink on a particular webpage try to ensure that the backlink is located at the top part of the content rather than at the end.
53) Anchor Text Of The Backlink
Google associates anchor texts with the page it links back to, to better understand what the backlinked web page is about. Thus appropriate anchor texts give Google a strong relevancy signal for ranking the web page.
However, over-optimized anchor texts can work as a webspam signal to Google, as it can signal to Google that the backlinks are probably bought instead of being acquired naturally.
54) Links from Ads
Links from ads are tagged rel="sponsored" and do not count anything toward SEO
55) Nofollow Links
The rel="nofollow" attribute was first introduced in 2005 to combat link spamming in comments. Its introduction made all such links that were spammed in comments of social media posts, forums, etc. useless.
In 2020, Google made slight changes to how it handles the Nofollow tag. In its official statement, Google stated that starting from March 1, 2020, backlinks that have nofollow attributes will give hints for crawling and indexing purposes.
While this does not mean that it is an SEO factor, it still may give a hint and small relevancy signal to Google's search engine about the webpage that has been backlinked to.
56) UGC Tag
Backlinks that have the rel="UGC" tags are also neglected by Google when it comes to search engine ranking.
UGC tags are defined as user-generated content which are usually comments on blog posts and social media posts.
57) Contextual links
A contextual link is a text link within a paragraph that has a related idea in relation to what has been backlinked.
For example, in a paragraph, you are writing about dog breeds found in the UK, you backlink to an article about the top 10 popular dog breeds that people get in the UK.
Such links are considered to provide a more powerful relevancy signal to Google than backlinks that either are not placed with contextual content or are placed in empty sections of a webpage separate from the content.
58) Domain Relevancy
Getting backlinks from domains that are in the same niche or talk about the same topic carries more weight than getting a backlink from domains that talk about unrelated topics.
59) Page Relevancy
Similar to domain relevancy, getting backlinks from web pages that talk about related content carries more weight than getting backlinks from pages that talk about unrelated topics.
60) Matched keywords in the Title of Referring Page
A backlink from a page that has your page's keyword in its title will be more relevant to Google than getting a backlink from a page that does not have your keyword in its title.
61) Link Velocity
A website that is consistently getting links will signal Google that the website (or its webpage) is gaining popularity and will result in Google boosting its search engine ranking.
On the other hand, the website that is losing its backlinks will signal to Google that its popularity is decreasing and so will be deranked by Google instead.
It is important to keep in note that, an increase in spammy and low-quality links will only increase ranking in Google for a short period of time, after which Google inevitably will heavily penalize the site, which can result in a permanent penalty of not being able to rank in Google.
62) The Hilltop Algorithm
The hilltop algorithm along with PageRank helps Google identify web pages that are expert and authoritative. How Hilltop does this is, is by first identifying expert pages on specific topics and then seeing who they are backlinking to.
Thus if a webpage is backlinked to websites that are considered top resources on the relevant topic, it will get special treatment from Google.
In research done by Rand Fishkin from Moz, he showed that co-citation is perhaps a stronger signal than anchor texts in backlinks when it comes to search engine ranking.
What are co-citations? It's when other websites are citing your webpage in addition to a particular keyword with or without directly backlinking the webpage.
Since co-citations tend to be more naturally acquired when people talk about your webpage, Google may give it more importance and thus it associates your website with what people are talking about your website to rank it on the related keyword without you having to necessarily optimize for that specific keyword.
64) Backlink Age
The age of a backlink is a sign of trust to Google. This is because paid links are more prone to be removed after a certain period of time than naturally occurring links. Thus if your backlinks stay for a long time in the same place, it is a signal to trust your website.
65) Link Reciprocal
In regards to backlinking, Google always advises avoiding link spamming. For example, excessive link exchanging (I link your site while you link back mine) can flag your website for usage of link schemes and penalize your website instead.
66) Number of Outbound Links On Page
A webpage can only pass a limited amount of PageRank to the sites its backlinking to. So a page with hundreds of do-follow links will pass less rank than one that has only a few meaningful backlinks.
67) Backlinks from Forum
Google devalues backlinks from forums due to widespread link spamming that occurs with black hat SEO.
If you do submit links on forums (to perhaps get direct traffic) be sure to tag them with the rel="nofollow" attribute so that Google does not penalize you.
68) Content Quality of Linking Webpage
Alongside the authoritativeness of the backlinking website, the content quality is also important. Getting backlinks from content that is poorly written or short will not pass as much value as from well-written content.
This is because poorly written content itself will not rank well in Google no matter how much authoritative the root domain site is. Thus it will have a limited PageRank itself and will be able to pass less than one that has more PageRank.
69) Alt Tags (in Images and Videos)
Alt tags act just like anchor texts for images and videos and act as a relevancy signal to help Google understand what the image/video is about so that it can rank it for the appropriate keywords in SERP.
How User Interactions Affect Your SERP Ranking
RankBrain is the third most important factor for search engine ranking and is a machine-learning algorithm that Google has created to help them process and understand search queries in order to provide better search results to its users. It is able to tweak Google's search algorithms and see how users interact with the new search results.
Thus one of its main purposes is to analyze how users interact with the search results and implement changes in the Google search algorithm in order to improve user satisfaction with SERP.
71) Organic Click-Through-Rate (CTR) For Specific Queries
There is no compelling evidence that Google uses CTR as a direct ranking signal. However, it is evident that indirectly, it does affect your rankings.
If your webpage has a higher-than-average CTR than your competitors for a particular search query, Google will give your webpage a SERP boost for that particular search term.
Some ways to ensure your webpage has a higher CTR are through giving unique Titles, having compelling meta tag descriptions, and using schema.
72) CTR For All Keywords That Your Webpage Ranks For
The overall CTR that your website has for all the keywords and search queries that you rank for may indirectly be a user interaction signal for Google.
73) Bounce Rate
The bounce rate is not a direct ranking signal for Google. As Matt Cutts from Google said in a forum, that it would not only be spammable but also noisy.
And this makes sense. Cause not all websites will have the same interaction rate of users. Depending upon the industry, some webpages will have high user interaction while in others people will just read and then leave the webpage. Thus bounce rate can not be taken as reliable data.
However, it can be an indirect ranking signal affected by issues in your website that are part of direct ranking factors.
For example, if your website has slow load speed, poor ratings in core web vitals report, or has poor content, users will obviously leave your website and you will have an unusually high bounce rate.
Whether Google takes that into account as a signal is up for debate. But generally, if your website has no issues with direct ranking factors that do affect bounce rate, it should be good.
Pogo-sticking is when users move from one search result page to another in SERP, in the hope of finding a result that will satisfy their query.
People leave one webpage in search results and jump to another due to several reasons, namely: slow-loading website, poor quality content, content mismatch, clickbait headlines, and poor page experience.
While pogo-sticking is not a Google ranking factor (as Google has strongly denied it) some of the issues that make users leave your site and enter another webpage in the search result are direct SEO ranking factors.
75) Direct Traffic
Although a SEMRush study showed a significant correlation between the increase in direct traffic and SEO rankings, correlation does not equate to causation. And direct traffic is not a Google ranking factor.
The reason is simple, it would be far too easy to manipulate should direct traffic had been a signal for Google SERP ranking.
76) User Comments
According to John Mueller from Google, comments on webpages, when moderated to ensure that it talks about the relevant topic in the webpage can help with SEO rankings.
This is because when user comments stay on topic, it provides Google additional context. It also signals to Google that the webpage is popular as people are engaging with it.
On the other hand, if your users are commenting with spammy links, random words, etc. it can signal Google to decrease your ranking.
77) Other User Metrics of Google Analytics
Many SEO experts claim user metrics such as dwell time, returning traffic, etc. affect SEO rankings. However, Martin Splitt in a 2019 Twitter clarified, they did not in fact use any of the GA user metrics for SEO ranking.
But that is not to say you should not look into these metrics. Metrics from GA, and Google Search Console (GSC) are all indicators of the health of your website.
So if you are doing good with SEO these metrics should correlate to good performance scores. However, the metrics themselves do not have any impact on your search engine rankings.
How Google Uses Brand Signals As an SEO Factor
78) Branded Anchor Text
Including brand names in anchor text can act as a strong brand signal to Google.
79) Brand Awareness
Brand awareness is important to rank in SEO. If you want your brand name to be at the top of the search result for the brand search query, it's important to make people be aware of your brand and have them search your brand name or "brand + keyword" in search engines.
When people search for your brand along with keywords of products / services you sell. Not only does it show Google that your brand is real it also associates your brand with these products and services and may get you a boost on non-branded keywords of the associated products/services.
80) Social Media Page, Likes, and Shares
Having active and engaging social media pages for your brand enables your brand to not only be in the top result in search queries it also makes Google link your social media profiles when someone searches for your brand. Which increases the legitimacy of your brand to the searchers.
Furthermore, likes and shares in social media also indirectly affect your search engine ranking social metrics and signals.
81) Information Tied To Verified Online Profiles
Per the former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, information that is tied to verified online profiles is ranked higher in Google than content without such verification.
82) Brand Mentions
As previously mentioned for cocitations, Brand mentions without backlinks with associated keywords can act as a brand signal and help Google associate the brand with the keywords that they were mentioned along with.
83) News Associated With Big Brands Get Shown on the First Page
Big brands get frequently mentioned in top stories and Google can bring news feeds associated with such brands to the first page.
Webspam That Can Negatively Affect Your SEO
84) Panda Penalty
Panda algorithm update was made to reward sites that are high quality in content and to penalize sites that have low quality.
If your website has a sudden steep drop in search visibility, it may be a sign that your site has been hit by Panda.
Factors that trigger Panda Penalty are:
Thin content: Pages with very little relevant text and only containing a few words.
Duplicate content: Copied content such as publishing the same blog post on multiple sites or your own site having multiple pages with variations of the same keyword.
Low-quality content: Pages that provide very little value to their human readers.
Lack of trustworthiness: Content that is deemed untrustworthy and false.
Content Farming: A large number of low-quality blog posts are often aggregated from other websites.
Low-Quality User-Generated Content: Sites that let their users publish posts that are short and / or full of grammatical errors.
High Ad To Content Ratio that disrupts the user experience.
Content Mismatching Search Query: Clickbaity content that promises its users one thing but delivers something else.
Thin Affiliated Links: Poor content webpages surrounded by affiliated links.
This refers to the practice of presenting content to search engines while something entirely different to human users with the intent of manipulating search engine ranking. If caught (and you will be caught), your site will be heavily penalized permanently.
Doorways are sites or pages created to rank for specific but similar search queries. They lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination.
Such as: Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page.
87) Hacked Websites
Hacked websites are penalized (temporarily) by Google as they give users a poor experience. Here are some tips from Google on how to Fix hacked sites.
88) Hidden Texts and Links
If you practice placing content on your webpage to solely manipulate search engines then beware!
Hiding texts and links by making them be placed behind images, having them have the same color as the background, using CSS to put them offscreen, making their font size or opacity 0 so that only search engines can read them but human readers can't, can get you heavily penalized by Google.
89) Over-Optimization of Website
Google penalizes practices such as keyword stuffing, header tag stuffing, excessive keyword usage without context, and meta tag stuffing.
Since such pages are deemed low-quality content for its users they are heavily penalized by Google.
90) Link Spam
Per Google, "Any links that are intended to manipulate rankings in Google Search results may be considered link spam." Websites that do excessively link spam are often penalized heavily if caught. Link spam includes:
Buying or selling links for the purpose of ranking.
Excessive link exchanges.
Using automated services to generate links.
Requiring a link as part of a Terms of Service, contract, or similar arrangement.
Text advertisements or text links that don't block ranking credit.
Low-quality directory or bookmark site links.
Keyword-rich, hidden, or low-quality links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites.
Widely distributed links in the footers.
Forum posting with links in signatures.
91) Misleading Functionality
Sites that claim to provide functionality but in reality don't can be penalized by Google. For example, a site that claims to give online dictionary service but in reality doesn't give it.
92) Sneaky Redirects
Sneaky redirects are done maliciously in order to show one content to search engines and another to human users. Examples include showing one content to desktop users but redirecting mobile users to a spammy site.
Such practices are also penalized by Google.
93) Auto-Generated Spammy Content
AI-generated spammy content that does not add value to readers and has nothing original in it. Hence why you should not use ChatGPT-created content without editing and curating it.
94) User Generated Spam
Site owners are responsible to ensure that their users do not generate spammy content. User-generated spam includes spammy posts in forums, comment spam on blogs, and spammy file uploads.
If such practices persist without the site owners moderating it, the website can be penalized by Google.
95) IP Address Flagged As Spam
If your server's IP address is flagged as spam by Google, it can affect all sites on that server.
96) Penguin Penalty
Penguin update affected sites that engaged in link schemes and keyword stuffing, such practices as mentioned above can be penalized by the Penguin Algorithm.
97) High Amount of Low-Quality links
If your site has a high number of low-quality links from low-quality directories, spammy sites, forum posts, etc. Google will penalize your site.
98) Unnatural Increase Of Links
Google can detect sites that suddenly have an unnatural increase in backlinks and can identify if such an increase is legitimate or not. If found to be done through link schemes Google can penalize the site.
Special Algorithm Rules
99) Diversity in Ambiguous Keywords
Google will give diverse results on keywords that are ambiguous such as "gdp" or "tte". This is because Google doesn't exactly know what exactly you are searching for and will try to give you a mix of results to choose from.
100) Browsing and Search History
What you frequently browse or search for can get a SERP boost for you.
101) Featured Snippets
Featured snippets are short texts that appear at the top of Google's search result (the so-called position 0) in order to quickly answer a searcher's query.
The snippets are usually taken from web pages indexed by Google. It can be taken from one single webpage that is already ranking on the first page or in some cases it can be from multiple web pages.
Featured snippets are important because it presents an opportunity to get more organic clicks from the search result without having to rank higher in Google. Meaning, your webpage can be in 5th position in the search result, but if your webpage qualifies for the snippet, it gets featured at the top and you get more visibility.
Featured snippets do not come in every search result though and there is no way to guarantee that your webpage will get featured in search queries where there are featured snippets.
However, there are ways to optimize your webpage to maximize your chance of getting featured snippets.
Geo-targeting is when you tell Google that your website is for a specific location. For example, a website of a clothing brand that only sells clothes in Chicago IL. Geo-targeting can be done in a number of ways, such as through using local server IP and using country-specific domain extension (.fr .bd, etc.)
Google will tend to rank you higher for your geo targetted location but will make it harder for you to rank in SERP for other locations.
103) Valid DMCA Complaints (Copyright Removals)
If a website gets too many copyright removal / DMCA complaints that are valid, Google will punish the sight and decrease its rank or entirely de-index it.
104) YMYL Pages
Webpages that talk about topics that could impact a person's future happiness, health, financial stability, and safety are called "Your Money or Your Life" webpages (YMYL for short).
YMYL pages include topics such as News & current events, information about the citizenry, government and law, finance, shopping, health, and safety, and information about a specific demographic pertaining to for example, age, ethnicity, religion, etc.
Google takes YMYL pages very seriously, and such pages MUST show Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EAT) in their respective field.
They must be user-focused and unique, give links to relevant external sources, follow On-Page SEO best practices as dictated by Google, build high-quality links, and keep their content up-to-date in order to rank in Google.
105) Vince Update
Per Matt Cutts, the Vince update was small changes done to the algorithm that factored trust, authoritativeness, and expertise more for certain generic search queries which resulted in helping big brands to rank higher for such keywords.
He further stated that it would not affect most searches and would not affect long-tail keywords.
Hope this long and extensive blog post was helpful enough for you to understand all the factors that you need to take into account in order to rank in Google.
While some of these direct factors are part of Google's algorithm, others are not directly part of its algorithm but play an indirect role to affect your SEO ranking.
While it is important to take into account the direct ranking factors for Google when you are doing SEO for your website, it's also important that you take the indirect factors into account to take your rankings to the next level! (Rand Fishkin from Moz has this great video explaining this exact point.)
If you skimmed through the blog post and just wanted to know what are the most important SEO ranking for factors Google in 2024? They are:
High-Quality Content: Unless you can make user-focused content that is unique and satisfies the queries of the searcher you will never be able to rank.
Keywords in Title and H1 Tag: Although its importance has waned over the years it is still an important ranking signal for Google.
Keywords Optimization: This should occur naturally, keeping in mind to keep the content user-focused. Any type of keyword stuffing or other black hat SEO techniques will have negative consequences.
Backlinks: Google gives a lot of importance to backlinks, but having backlinks from authoritative and trustworthy sites and acquiring them naturally is more important than the number of backlinks.
Mobile Friendliness: Because the majority of searches now are done through mobiles, Google gives a lot of importance that your website is mobile-friendly. Unless you implement mobile optimization you will miss out on a large portion of possible visitors to your website and your rankings in the desktop version can get negatively affected too.
Website Load Speed: Website load speed along with other factors of Core Web Vitals is important in giving a good user experience and is critical for SEO ranking.
Website Security: The use of HTTPS is vital to ensure that your website is secured and ranks in Google. Furthermore, it is also important to prevent your website from being hacked as that can negatively affect your rankings
Search Intent and Content Relevancy: Because of how RankBrain works and its importance, it is critical that your content is relevant to the searcher's intent and lets the searcher accomplish what he/she is trying to do with the search.
Internal linking: Although much less important, internal linking not only helps search engines navigate through your website, it also passes PageRank and tells Google what web pages on your website are important in comparison to others.
Let me know in the comment section if I missed anything. Was there anything in my post that you learned after reading it? I would appreciate it if I could hear from my readers.