Google Ranking Factors

Ever wondered how the Google algorithm really works? I've gathered some info from trusted sources as to how Google ranks pages. This is information piled together from Google, Matt Cutts and others about how the algorithm works.

The following is my theory on how the Google algorithm works. I used to give this to my SEO clients, on a "as is" basis. What that means is, this is simply a theory based on available data and my own observations. It is by no means law, and of course I don't have the actual weights involved, but I still think this information is a good guideline.

Lets start with the page. Here are your page-level ranking factors. All of these factor in keywords, but keep in mind that overloading and spamming these elements will be detected by Google.

Page Level Factors

  • Title Tag - What keywords are in it, most important first, left to right.
  • Header Tags - H1-H6 tags, their content and placement on the page
  • Page Content - All content contained in text of the page (non-code)
  • Meta Tags - Anything included in metatags. Note: As far as I can tell, the only tag really used by Google is the description tag, in lieu of text on your page
  • Internal Link Text - How other pages link to this page
  • URL - Keywords in URL (often spammed, something that may go to the wayside someday).

Google takes in all these factors as a base for rankings. From this data it gathers:

  • Keywords and phrases (what are they? what is the density?)
  • Keyword proximity (are the keywords too dense or packed together?)
  • Natural Language check (is it non-nonsensical text generated by software?)
  • Uniqueness (is this text that is used all over the net?)

What Google Wants

Google wants unique, human generated text that is relevant to the content you are providing, that is as natural as possible. Not keyword stuffed super dense text, but actual text people can read and understand. It is also looking for good semantics, as referenced in page optimization for dummies.
Domain Factors

Google also takes into account some things about your domain. Here are some of the factors:

  • Domain age
  • History of Registrants (changed often?)
  • Backlinks to base domain
  • "Neighborhood" or who you link to, and who links to you.
  • Registration length (if you register for 5 years, you might be more serious about the domain)
  • History of the domain (what did it contain before? what is there now?)

Inbound Link Ranking Factors

  • Quality of inbound links (all the factors above, who is linking to you?)
  • Age of domains linking to you
  • IPs of those domains (hint: if they all have the same IP, don't count on it helping)
  • Neighborhood of those domains.
  • How long they've been linking to you (if 5000 new sites link to you in a week, may trigger a flag)
  • Do they accept paid links? Have they been reported?
  • Are they link farms?
  • User Data (mostly applies to those who use Google analytics)
  • Bounce Rate (are people leaving your page instantly? This is not a good sign)
  • How long do they stay? (again, is your page relevant to what they are looking for?)
  • Sarches for your domain (how many people search for
  • CTR on SERPS (this one I'm not so sure of. But sources say this matters)

User Feedback

Here is where I inject my conspiracy theory, tinfoil hat type of stuff. I personally think that Google not only reviews feedback other people send about your site, but they use human reviewers. They have staff who peruse SEO forums looking for someone bragging about tricking Google and getting a great SERP, etc. This is completely unsupported by fact, but my personal belief. I have a hard time believing a company as smart as Google wouldn't hire real humans to do this type of quality assurance. I'm not knocking them for it, as a white hat SEO, I encourage them to weed out spammers. But I have no real evidence that they actually do this.


There are many ranking factors that Google uses to determine your SERP. In the end, honesty matters. Eventually, Google will end up putting the most relevant sites at the top, for the benefit of their users. So rather than trying to "trick" Google, try putting up content worthy of close scrutiny and make it good enough people will link it. Google will do the rest!



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