What Are Search Engine Ranking Factors?
Search Engines are run on algorithms to rank pages from a local index or database against a particular search query. Search Engines use Ranking Signals or Ranking factors to rank the most relevant pages for a specific query.
These signals include factors from On Page Content, Technical Factors, Backlinks, Social Signals and User Experience and more.
We know from Backlinko long before releasing a post of more than 200 Search Engine Ranking Signals that Google and search engines supposedly use to Rank content.
But that post is old, and Search Engines have evolved a lot in the last 3-4 years.
We have listed the 14 most important and Exact Search Engine Ranking Factors that directly affect Search Rankings in Google.
But before that let’s think about why ranking factors are a mystery.
The Myth of 200 Ranking Factors?
Let me make one thing clear at the Onset. Google uses way more than 200 ranking signals to rank content in the SERP.
So posts like on BuzzSumo or Backlinko’s post of 200 Ranking factors on Google, are simply created as a link bait tactic.
In essence, such kind of posts and the ranking factors they contain are essentially
- Correlation factors and not causal factors;
- Presented just to reach the number of 200.
Why the number 200?
This is because in 2006 Google released a press article stating 200 active ranking factors.
But that was 2006!
In 2010, Matt Cutts of Google himself declared that Google counts over 200 Ranking Factors and that each ranking signal had 50 different variations.
With the recent changes to Google and the shift toward Semantic Search and the incorporation of AI and Machine Learning, I am pretty sure the algorithms have evolved enough to incorporate a million ranking factors.
However, all ranking factors are clustered around certain concrete metrics that primarily drive the ranking of a page.
Today I am going to reveal 14 of those important metrics that lead to ranking in Google searches.
List of 14 Confirmed Ranking Factors Used By Google and Search Engines
Page Rank is one of the oldest metrics that are tracked by Google. Previously Page Rank metric was separately shown by the Google Toolbar, but it was removed.
Page Rank is a score assigned to each web page based on 0-10 depending upon the relevancy and quality of Links coming to a Page.
Although the score may not be explicitly included in Search Engine algorithms, Google has confirmed that Page Rank still remains an integral part of its Core algorithm. This simply means that building relevant and high-quality links to a website is still a strong authority ranking signal for Google.
Text Word Relevance
Against any search query, Google will try to rank the most relevant pages that will satisfy the intent. One of the ways to determine relevancy is to count how many times, the words in a search query are appearing the document. This includes contextual restrictions such as duplicate occurrences or synonyms.
Hence it is important to maximise the density of your focus keyphrase in the target landing page or blog post.
We often call it Term Frequency.
Text Phrase Relevance
Another important way to measure relevancy is to count the number of phrases that match the search query in the documents in the index. This differs from the previous metrix in the way that the previous metric focus on word matches that are present in the search query, whereas here we count phrase matches appearing throughout the document.
This is also one of the important reasons why most SEO plugins like Yoast urge to include the focus keyphrase a decent number of times on the target landing page.
Link Term Relevance
Talking of Links, we talked about the importance of high-quality links as the chief determining factor that improves the Page Rank Algorithm.
High-Quality Backlinks are those which are relevant to the other search queries as well. One of the ways Google determine Link relevance is by determining the anchor text matches with respect to the search query.
Hence it is always recommended to include keyword-rich anchor texts while building or acquiring backlinks.
Title Tag Relevance
Although no longer as powerful as it was a few years back Title tag is still one of the primary on-page factors that directly determine the relevance of a document (page) to the search query.
The presence of the focus keyphrase on the Title tag of the target landing page is hence one of the many important ranking signals that determine the relevance of the web page to the search query.
H1 Tag Relevance
H1 Tag is the most important HTML element in a web page. It is often the first heading on a service or a blog page. The H1 Tag determines the subject matter of the page and hence the presence of an exact match term or phrase on the H1 Tag contributes most to search query relevancy.
As per Moz, the importance of the relevancy of the H1 Tag has surpassed that of the Title tag as well. Primarily because Google often re-writes Title tags and Meta descriptions, but it does not rewrite H1 Tags.
Check out this recent study from Moz
As seen from the number of On Page Factors that determine Keyword Ranking relevance, it is clearly seen that in the study it is found that the LDA similarity between H1 Tag and Query is much more important than the LDA similarity between Title tag and Query. No need to ponder over the term LDA.
The conclusion is the presence of exact match terms and keyphrases in the H1 Tag is a better ranking factor than the Page Title.
Although not applicable in all circumstances, the more the length of the document, the more the contextual significance. It also indicates that the document covers a topic in detail involving multiple subtopics, which in itself is an authority signal.
Google wants to rank articles from authoritative sources as per their EAT guidelines. A higher number of term matches (Term Frequency) and the document length can provide a good enough signal that the document is relevant and authoritative.
Geo Location Tagging
Perhaps a very important and useful ranking factor for Local Shops and SEO markets. Geo Tagging pages help google understand the relevant location that the said page is targeting.
For local shops and local businesses, this is the most important strategy to rank pages in SERP.
By tagging the latitude and longitude tags to a particular page there is a higher chance of the page showing up in local searches as Google will cross-reference the user’s location with the geotags present on the web pag. Thus improving the relevancy of the web page for location-specific searches.
If you don’t know how to generate Geo Tags, here is a tool that can help :
Time of Publishing
This tells about how old the web page has been since it was last published. The age of a web page becomes a significant ranking factor only when the page has a decent amount of viewers and engagement. That is when an older page ranks much more than a newer page since a page that is driving traffic consistently for a decent amount of time is much more authoritative than a newly created page.
Hence Page publishing time is definitely one of the important ranking factors for Google.
URL Relevance is another factor that influences the search engine rankings of the website. If the URL slug contains exact match keywords or phrases then that counts as a strong relevancy factor and can definitely influence the rankings of the search engine.
Let’s learn about TF or Term Frequency. As the name suggests it is a measure of the number of times a particular keyword occurs in a document.
TF = (No. of times a keyword appears in a document) / (Total Number of Words)
DF Score or document frequency = (Number of docs) / (Total Number of documents where the keyword appears in a Database)
IDF = log(DF)
When TF is multiplied by the IDF, then the resulting score is lower for commonly used words and higher for niche-specific or intent-specific topics.
When we use Keywords that have a high TF-IDF score, those words indicate to Google the context of the page more than regular words.
As seen from the Moz study of On Page Level Keyword Usage factors that affects rankings, it is often seen that TF-IDF Score for Title, Text and Heading is often considered one of the most important ranking signals that determine the relevancy of search query.
Domain Host Spam Score
The reputation of the domain host is often an important consideration while ranking websites.
If a domain has changed hands multiple times, or if it has previously suffered manual actions or has been deferred from the ranking by Google, then the domain may be considered as spam.
Also, the presence of too many spam backlinks to a single domain also indicates a spammy domain which might be deferred from ranking.
This data can be mainly obtained from a Domain’s Who.is Information.
Backlink Profile of the Web Page
The Backlink Profile of a page takes into account mainly the TLD distribution and certain categories of sites from which the Web page is drawing backlinks.
Pornographic Sites – Less authoritative, unless the query is pornographic.
Commercial Links – Links from Ecommerce or commercial sites. Generally .com domains.
Wiki Links – Links from Wikipedia-type websites or archives.
.Org links – Links from .org domain extensions.
.Edu Links – Links from Education Websites
.Gov Links – Links from government websites.
Except for the pornographic sites, the other 4 categories of TLDs are highly authoritative provided the link relevancy is satisfied.
Page Experience Signals
This usually refers to the six user experience signals used by Google to measure the user interactivity of a page.
These signals are often called Core Web Vitals and are essential in determining whether a particular page should rank higher than another page or not.
Learn about Core Web Vitals in https://web.dev/vitals/
Search Engine Ranking signals are important for SEOs as understanding them helps us get closer to what the user is actually searching for. Google’s aim is to provide the best search experience to users.
We have covered the most important ranking factors among them that are confirmed. We will bring more in the upcoming days.