14 Exact Search Engine Ranking Factors Revealed

14 Exact Search Engine Ranking Factors Revealed

    What Are Search Engine Ranking Factors?

    Search engine optimization (SEO) is a complex puzzle that website owners are always trying to solve. Search engines like Google are the gatekeepers of the digital world, & they use intricate algorithms to decide which websites should appear at the top of search results. These algorithms use a variety of ranking signals, or ranking factors, to evaluate & rank the relevance of websites for specific search queries. While the fundamentals of SEO have stayed pretty much the same over the years, the specific ranking factors & their relative importance have changed, making this puzzle a constantly evolving challenge.


    Search engines have changed significantly in the last 3–4 years. Some established practices & ranking signals have become less relevant, & new criteria have been introduced for determining search rankings. In the past, comprehensive lists of over 200 ranking signals were meticulously analyzed & documented by SEO experts like Backlinko. However, the precise nature of these signals remains a mystery, as search engines, particularly Google, zealously guard their algorithms. Consequently, the SEO community is constantly seeking to uncover the most vital & exact ranking factors that directly impact search rankings.Search engines have changed a lot in the last few years. Some old ranking signals are no longer as important, & new ones have been added. In the past, SEO experts would carefully analyze lists of over 200 ranking signals to try to figure out how to rank well in search results. But search engines, especially Google, keep their algorithms a secret, so it’s hard to know for sure what factors matter most. The SEO community is constantly trying to figure out the best way to rank well in search, but it’s a never-ending game of cat & mouse.

    This blog post will explore the ever-changing world of search engine ranking factors, focusing on the 14 key elements that have a big impact on how your website ranks in Google’s search results. If you’re a webmaster or digital marketer who wants to optimize your website & keep up with the latest SEO trends, then understanding these modern ranking factors is essential.

    These are just a few of the many factors that Google considers when ranking websites. By understanding these factors, you can make sure that your website is optimized for the best possible chance of ranking high in search results.

    Stay tuned for more updates on the ever-changing world of SEO!

    The Myth of 200 Ranking Factors?

    The idea of “200 ranking factors” has become a common topic in the world of SEO, thanks to well-publicized blog posts & articles that claim to reveal the secrets of Google’s search algorithm. However, it’s important to note that these posts, which compile lists of 200 or more ranking factors, are not as comprehensive or definitive as they may seem. In fact, they often fall into three distinct categories:

    • Myths: A lot of the factors listed in these articles are not officially confirmed by Google to be direct ranking signals. They’re often based on assumptions, anecdotal evidence, or misunderstandings. This leads to the perpetuation of myths within the SEO community, where practitioners assume certain practices are essential for SEO success when they may not be. In other words, a lot of the stuff you read about SEO online is just speculation. Don’t believe everything you read!
    • Correlation Factors, Not Causal Factors: The lists of 200 ranking factors are basically just a bunch of things that SEO experts have noticed are common on high-ranking websites. But just because something is common on high-ranking websites doesn’t mean it’s what makes them rank high. It could be that there are other, more important factors that we don’t know about. So don’t take those lists too seriously.
    • Artificially Inflated Numbers: Sometimes, articles will list a ton of search ranking factors, like 200, to seem impressive. But a lot of those factors are pretty minor & don’t really affect your ranking. The goal is usually to get people to read the article, link to it, & engage with it.
    important metrics that lead to ranking

    Webmasters, digital marketers, & SEO practitioners need to take these “200 ranking factors” lists with a grain of salt. While they may contain some useful information & tips for improving your website’s SEO, not all of the factors are created equal or directly linked to search ranking. It’s important to understand the difference between correlation & causation when making decisions about your SEO strategy. Just because two things are correlated doesn’t mean one causes the other. For example, there’s a correlation between the number of times a website is mentioned on social media & its search ranking. But that doesn’t mean that social media mentions directly cause a website to rank higher. It’s more likely that there’s another factor at play, such as the quality of the website’s content. So, don’t take these lists as gospel. Use them as a starting point for your SEO research, but don’t blindly follow everything they say.

    Google’s algorithm is crazy complicated & uses a ton of factors to determine search rankings. But Google doesn’t tell us exactly what those factors are. So, the SEO community has to figure it out by experimenting & looking at data. That’s why it’s important to rely on data-driven research & best practices, instead of falling for lists of ranking factors that might not be accurate. The world of SEO is always changing, so it’s important to stay informed & be discerning if you want to succeed.

    Why the number 200?

    The obsession with the number 200 when it comes to Google’s ranking factors has a historical basis. In 2006, Google released a press release that mentioned “over 200 active ranking factors.” This announcement sent shockwaves through the SEO community, sparking a widespread fascination with understanding & deciphering these factors.

    Fast forward to 2010, & Matt Cutts, a former Google engineer & spokesperson for the company, further fueled the fascination when he acknowledged that Google considered over 200 ranking factors, & each ranking signal had as many as 50 different variations. This acknowledgment added credibility to the idea that there were a multitude of signals at play, making it a topic of enduring interest in the SEO world.

    So there you have it, the reason why everyone is so obsessed with the number 200 when it comes to Google’s ranking factors. It’s all thanks to a few well-timed announcements from Google itself.

    However, it’s essential to recognize that the field of SEO has evolved significantly since 2006 & even 2010. Google’s search algorithms have advanced tremendously, incorporating AI (Artificial Intelligence) & machine learning to refine their ability to deliver the most relevant search results to users. This evolution suggests that the ranking factors have become more sophisticated & nuanced over time.

    While it may be tempting to believe that there could be an astronomical number of ranking factors in play, it’s more likely that these factors have been consolidated around certain concrete metrics that primarily drive a page’s ranking. These metrics are continually fine-tuned to provide users with the best possible search experience.

    As we delve into the modern landscape of SEO, it becomes evident that the obsession with the number 200 is less relevant. Instead, the focus has shifted toward understanding the key metrics & practices that genuinely influence search rankings. The SEO community acknowledges that while the specifics of ranking factors may remain elusive due to Google’s proprietary algorithms, there are key principles & best practices that website owners can employ to optimize their content, technical aspects, & overall web presence.

    In the ever-evolving world of SEO, staying attuned to these core principles & remaining adaptable to the evolving algorithms is paramount. The focus is on delivering valuable & relevant content, improving user experience, & adhering to ethical & data-driven SEO practices to achieve success in Google’s search results.

    List of 14 Confirmed Ranking Factors Used By Google and Search Engines

    Page Rank

    PageRank is a metric that was created by Larry Page & Sergey Brin, the founders of Google. It is a score assigned to each web page based on the number & quality of links to that page. Pages with more links from other high-quality pages will have a higher PageRank score. PageRank is one of the factors that Google uses to determine the ranking of websites in its search results.

    Although PageRank is no longer displayed publicly in the Google Toolbar, it is still an important part of Google’s search algorithm. Google has confirmed that PageRank is still used to rank websites, but it is not the only factor that is considered. Other factors that Google uses to rank websites include the quality of the content on the website, the number of visitors to the website, & the number of links to the website from other websites.

    Building relevant & high-quality links to a website is still a strong authority ranking signal for Google. This means that website owners should focus on creating high-quality content that will attract visitors & encourage them to link to the website. Website owners should also avoid building links from low-quality websites or websites that are not relevant to their website.

    Text Word Relevance

    When you search for something on Google, the search engine tries to find the most relevant pages that will satisfy your query. One way Google determines relevance is by counting how many times the words in your query appear on the page. This includes both the exact words you searched for & synonyms. So, if you want your page to rank well for a particular search term, it’s important to include that term & its synonyms throughout the page. This is known as keyword density.

    However, it’s significant not to overdo it. If you include the keyword too many times, it can look spammy & Google may penalize your page. A good rule of thumb is to include your keyword once or twice per paragraph, & to make sure it appears naturally in the text. You can also use related keywords, or long-tail keywords, which are more specific & less competitive.

    By following these tips, you can improve your chances of ranking well for your target keywords & attracting more visitors to your website.

    We often call it Term Frequency.

    Text Phrase Relevance

    Another significant 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 metric in that the previous metric focused 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 essential reasons why most SEO plugins like Yoast urge to include the focus key phrase a decent number of times on the target landing page.

    For example, if the search query is “how to make a cake”, the previous metric would only count the number of times the word “cake” appears in the document. However, the phrase metric would also count the number of times phrases like “how to make a cake” or “make a cake” appear in the document. This is because these phrases are more likely to be relevant to the search query than individual words.

    Including the focus key phrase a decent number of times on the target landing page is critical because it helps to ensure that the document is relevant to the search query. However, it is influential to note that over-optimizing for the focus key phrase can actually hurt the document’s ranking. This is because search engines are looking for documents that are naturally relevant to the search query, not documents that have been stuffed with keywords.

    When discussing links, we discussed the importance of high-quality links as the main factor that improves the Page Rank Algorithm. High-quality backlinks are those that are relevant to other search queries. One of the ways Google determines link relevance is by determining if the anchor text matches the search query. Therefore, it is always recommended to include keyword-rich anchor text when building or acquiring backlinks.

    Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink. It is the text that users click on to follow the link. The anchor text is indispensable because it helps Google understand the context of the link & the page that it is linking to. When you include keyword-rich anchor text in your backlinks, you are telling Google that the page that you are linking to is relevant to the search query. This can help your page rank higher in search results.

    However, it is important to note that not all keyword-rich anchor text is created equal. Google will penalize your site if you use too much keyword stuffing, which is when you use the same keyword or phrase multiple times in your anchor text. It is also important to use natural-sounding anchor text that is relevant to the content of your page.

    Talking of Links, we talked about the importance of high-quality links as the chief determining factor that improves the Page Rank Algorithm.

    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

    The H1 tag is the most important HTML element on a web page. It is the first heading on a service or blog page & determines the subject of the page. The presence of an exact match term or phrase on the H1 tag contributes most to search query relevancy. According to Moz, the importance of the relevancy of the H1 tag has surpassed that of the Title tag as well. This is primarily because Google often rewrites Title tags & Meta descriptions, but it does not rewrite H1 tags. This means that if you want your page to rank well in search results, it is important to use relevant keywords in your H1 tag.

    In addition to being important for SEO, H1 tags also help users understand the content of your page. When users see an H1 tag, they know what the main topic of the page is. This can help them decide whether they want to read the rest of the page.

    When writing your H1 tag, it is important to keep the following tips in mind:

    • Use relevant keywords.
    • Keep the tag short & to the point.
    • Use a clear & concise title.
    • Avoid using all caps or too many special characters.

    Make sure the tag is relevant to the content of the page. 


    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.

    Document Length

    Although not always applicable, the length of a document can be an indicator of its contextual significance. A longer document is more likely to cover a topic in more detail, including multiple subtopics. This can be considered an authority signal, as it suggests that the author has done their research & is knowledgeable about the topic. Additionally, a longer document may be more likely to be cited by other sources, which can also contribute to its contextual significance.

    However, it is important to note that the length of a document is not always a reliable indicator of its quality or importance. Some short documents can be very well-written & informative, while some long documents can be poorly written or irrelevant. Ultimately, the quality of a document should be judged on its content, not its length.

    Geo Location Tagging

    Geotagging is a critical & useful ranking factor for local shops & SEO markets. It helps Google understand the relevant location that the page is targeting. For local shops & businesses, this is the most important strategy to rank pages in SERP. By tagging the latitude & 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 page. Thus improving the relevancy of the web page for location-specific searches.

    Geotagging can also be used to improve the user experience. For example, if a user is searching for “restaurants near me,” Google will return a list of restaurants that are geotagged near the user’s location. This makes it easier for users to find the businesses they are looking for.

    Overall, geotagging is a valuable tool for both businesses & users. It can help businesses improve their search engine ranking & reach more customers, while also providing a better user experience for those searching for local businesses.

    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

    The URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is not just a web address; it plays a pivotal role in SEO & search engine rankings. URL relevance, in particular, refers to the degree to which the content of a web page is reflected in its URL structure. When the URL slug (the part of the URL that follows the domain) contains exact match keywords or phrases that directly relate to the content of the page, it becomes a strong relevancy factor with the potential to significantly influence search engine rankings

    Search engines, like Google, aim to provide the most relevant & accurate results to users. When a user conducts a search, they often use specific keywords or phrases to express their intent. If these same keywords are present in the URL of a web page, it signals to search engines that the page directly addresses the user’s query. This alignment enhances the page’s relevance & increases the likelihood of it appearing in search results for that specific query.

    Text TF*IDF

    In the intricate world of information retrieval & search engine optimization, understanding the concept of TF, or Term Frequency, is fundamental. As its name implies, Term Frequency is a metric that quantifies the number of times a specific keyword or term appears within a document, be it a webpage, an article, or any textual content. This seemingly straightforward metric holds the key to unravelling the importance of a keyword within a body of text, & it plays a pivotal role in the way search engines understand & rank content.

    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, where a website is hosted, is a critical factor in search engine ranking considerations. Search engines, such as Google, aim to provide users with the most trustworthy & relevant results for their search queries. To achieve this, they consider various factors related to the domain host’s history, particularly in the context of spammy activities. If a domain has changed ownership multiple times, it can raise concerns about its legitimacy & trustworthiness. Frequent changes in ownership may be associated with websites engaged in questionable or spammy practices. Search engines consider this when evaluating the credibility of a domain.

    In the past, if a domain was subjected to manual actions or penalties by search engines like Google due to violations of search quality guidelines (such as manipulative SEO tactics or the distribution of malicious content), it can significantly impact the domain’s reputation. Even if the domain changes ownership, this history is often retained in search engine records, which can affect its ranking potential. The presence of many spam backlinks pointing to a domain is a strong signal of spammy behaviour. These backlinks are often acquired through unethical link-building practices & can harm a domain’s reputation. If a domain accumulates an excessive amount of spam backlinks, it is likely to be viewed negatively by search engines, which may lead to a lower ranking.

    Information about a domain’s ownership, history, & backlink profile can often be obtained from its Whois data. This information is valuable to search engines in assessing the trustworthiness & history of a domain host. If irregularities or red flags are found in this data, it can influence the ranking of the associated website.

    The evaluation of a web page’s backlink profile encompasses an analysis of TLD (Top-Level Domain) distribution & the categories of sites from which it garners backlinks. TLD distribution is pivotal in assessing the diversity & credibility of backlinks. A varied TLD distribution signals a broad appeal, favouring pages with links from authoritative TLDs like .edu & .gov. Conversely, an imbalanced TLD distribution, featuring spammy or low-quality TLDs, can trigger ranking concerns.

    Categories of linking sites also hold significance. Relevance & thematic alignment between the linking site’s category & the web page’s content are highly advantageous. Backlinks from authoritative sites within the relevant category boost a page’s trustworthiness. A diverse backlink profile featuring links from various categories is generally positive, showcasing broader recognition & appreciation across online communities. However, low-quality or irrelevant categories can tarnish a page’s trustworthiness & ranking prospects. The holistic evaluation of TLD distribution & linking site categories shapes the perception of a web page’s authority & credibility according to search engines, ultimately influencing its search rankings.

    This includes:

    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

    Page Experience Signals, commonly referred to as Core Web Vitals, are a set of user-centric metrics introduced by Google to assess & measure the quality of the user experience provided by a web page. These signals are integral in determining a page’s ranking in search engine results, as they aim to ensure that users have a positive, seamless, & interactive experience when visiting a website. Core Web Vitals encompass six primary metrics that evaluate different aspects of user interaction:

    • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): LCP measures the loading performance of a web page. It assesses the time it takes for the largest content element, such as an image or text block, to become visible to the user. A fast LCP ensures that users can access the main content quickly.
    • First Input Delay (FID): FID quantifies a user’s first interaction with a web page, like clicking a link or button. It evaluates the delay between the user’s action & the browser’s response. A low FID indicates a more responsive & interactive page.
    • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): CLS gauges visual stability by assessing how many content shifts on the page while it loads. A low CLS means that content remains stable, preventing accidental clicks & enhancing user experience.

    These three Core Web Vitals are considered essential for a positive user experience. Google also factors in other user experience signals that include mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, & the absence of intrusive interstitials (pop-ups). The combined assessment of these signals provides a comprehensive evaluation of a web page’s ability to deliver a smooth & engaging user experience. Pages that perform well in these aspects are more likely to rank higher in search results, as Google aims to prioritize content that provides users with a positive, interactive, & efficient experience. In essence, Core Web Vitals & Page Experience Signals are a critical component of modern SEO, focusing on enhancing user satisfaction & engagement with online content.

    Learn about Core Web Vitals in https://web.dev/vitals/

    Final Thoughts on Search Engine Ranking Signals:

    In the ever-evolving landscape of SEO, search engine ranking signals serve as the guiding principles that help digital marketers, webmasters, & content creators navigate the complex world of online visibility & user engagement. These signals are the compass by which websites strive to align their content, structure, & strategies to meet the ultimate goal: providing the best possible search experience to users.

    Google, as the leading search engine, has a primary mission – to connect users with the most relevant, authoritative, & user-friendly content in response to their queries. Understanding & leveraging search engine ranking signals is integral to achieving this objective.

    In this exploration, we’ve delved into some of the most vital & confirmed ranking factors, shedding light on how elements like content quality, backlinks, user experience, & domain reputation impact a website’s standing in search results. These insights are not only the foundation of effective SEO, but also the means by which website owners can ensure their content is discoverable & valuable to their target audience.

    It’s important to note that the SEO landscape is constantly evolving. As search engines like Google continue to refine their algorithms, new signals & factors may emerge, while the weight of existing ones may shift. Staying informed & adaptable is a hallmark of successful SEO strategies.

    In this fast-paced digital environment, the pursuit of search engine ranking excellence is ongoing. As we look ahead, we can anticipate further refinements & adjustments in response to the changing digital landscape. The commitment to providing the best search experience will remain at the forefront, making it essential for SEO practitioners to continually refine their tactics & strategies to meet the evolving needs of both users & search engines.

    In closing, the understanding & application of search engine ranking signals are a journey toward creating a more user-centric, informative, & accessible online ecosystem. The road ahead promises new challenges & opportunities for those committed to the pursuit of excellence in the realm of SEO, & we eagerly await the insights & advancements that the future will bring.