Google Ranking Factors - SEO Checklist There are "over 100 SEO factors" that Google uses to rank pages in the Google search results (SERPs). What are the search engine optimization rules? Here is the speculation - educated guesses by SEO webmasters on top webmaster forums. Various confirmed and suspected Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Rules are listed below. Google Ranking Factor Checklist
The SEO Rules listed below are NOT listed by weight, and not by any presumed relevance - THAT exercise is left up to the reader!
Alleged POSITIVE ON-Page SEO Google Ranking Factors (38) (Keeping in mind the converse, of course, that when violated, some of these factors immediately jump into the NEGATIVE On-Page Ranking Factors domain.) The term "Keyword" below refers to the "Keyword Phrase", which can be one word or more. Green rows confirmeted 08-26-05
First word is best, second is second best, etc.
Keyword in Title tag - close to beginning Title tag 10 - 60
Keyword in title characters, no special characters The Florida Update EVEN
penalized for this, as part of the OOP. That was absurd, but effective.
Shows theme - less than 200 chars. (Was part of Google
description meta Florida OOP) Google no longer relies upon this tag, but
frequently uses it. Shows theme - less than 10 words. (Was part of Google Florida OOP) Every word in this tag MUST appear
somewhere in the body. If not, it will be penalized for
irrelevance. NO single word should appear more than twice. If
not, it is considered spam. Google purportedly no longer values this tag, but others do.
5 - 20% - (all keywords/ total words) Some report topic
sensitivity - the keyword spamming threshold varies with the
2+ keywords)Keyword phrase Does order in the page match order in the query? Anticipate
Most important at top of page, in bold, in large font
Should describe graphic - Do NOT fill with spam (Was part of
Keyword in alt Google Florida OOP - tripped a threshold - may still be in
effect to some degree as a red flag, when summed with all other on-page optimizations).
Link should contain keywords. The filename "linked to"
should contain the keywords. Use hyphenated filenames, but
Validate all links to all pages on site.
Two clicks to any page - no page deeper than 4 clicks
Intra-site linking Appropriate links between lower-level pages
Google patent - Link only to good sites. Do not link to link
Google patent - Should be on topic, descriptive
Google patent - Avoid "Link Churn"
Google says readily accepts 2-3 times that
.edu seem to be given the highest status.org sites seem to be given high status
Domain Name .com sites excel in encompassing all the spam/ crud sites,
resulting in the need for the highest scrutiny/ action by Google. Perhaps one would do well with the new .info domain class. Absolutely do not exceed 100K page size. Small files
preferred <40K (lots of them). Preferred method for indicating a space, where there can be no actual space One or two= excellent for separating keywords
Hyphens in URL Four or more= BAD, starts to look spammy Ten = Spammer
Google patent - Changes over time Newer the better - if news,
retail or auction! Google likes fresh pages. So do I.
New pages - Ratio of old pages to new pages
Stem, stems, stemmed, stemmer, stemming, stemmist,
peculation, no proofKeep it minimized - use somewhat less than the 2,000
characters allowed by IE - less than 100 is good, less even better
Larger sites are presumed to be better funded, better
organized, better constructed, and therefore better sites.
Google likes big Google likes LARGE sites, for various reasons, not all sites
positive. This has resulted in the advent of machine-generated 10,000-page spam sites - size for the sake of size.
Age of page vs. age of other pages on site
Note: For ALL the POSITIVE On-Page factors listed above, PAGE RANK can OVERRIDE them all. So can Google-Bombing. Top Alleged Negative ON-Page SEO Google Ranking Factors (24)
Text represented graphically is invisible to
The Florida update went after affiliates with a vengeance - flower and travel affiliates were hit
hard - cookie-cutter sites with massive inter-linking, but little unique content. Subsequent updates have also targeted affiliates.
OP) Penalty for over-compliance with well-
established, accepted web optimization practices. Since the Florida update, if you simply cannot
achieve top position, your only alternative to first page SERP exposure may be Google AdWords (you pay for exposure).
Don't link to link farms, FFAs (Free For Alls) Don't forget to check the Google status of
EVERYONE you link to periodically. A site may go "bad", and you can end up being penalized, even though you did nothing.
Don't immediately send your visitor to another
page other than the one he/ she clicked on.
Including the you can't say on TV, plus the 150 or so that followed. Don't shoot yourself right straight in the foot.
Also, avoid combinations of normal words, which when used together, become something else entirely - such as the word juice, and the word love.
"Links" in title tag, etc. Here is my listhis penalty has been
loosened - many of these words now appear in normal context, with no problems. But watch your step. - within the same C block (IP=xxx.xxx.CCC.xxx) If you have many sites with the same web host, prolific cross-linking
can indicate more of a single entity, and less of democratic web voting. Easy to spot, easy to penalize.
Stealing images/ text blocks from Copyright violation - Google responds strongly if
In body, meta tags, alt text, etc. = demotionTargeting too many unrelated keywords on a page, which would detract from theming, and
reduce the importance of your REALLY important keywords. Google patent - Google is now switching between a "Newer" cache, and an "Older" cache, frequently drawing from BOTH at the same time.
Page edit - can reduce consistency This was implemented to frustrate SEOers. Did
your last edit substantially alter your keywords, or theme? Expect noticeable SERP bouncing.
Problematic - know pitfalls - shorten URLs,
Don't use for redirects, or hiding linksMost (all-?) SE spiders can't read Flash content
Provide an HTML alternative, or lose out.
A red flag - one reason only - a sneaky link. OK - No penalty - Google advises against this. All over the place - but nothing is ever done.
(The text is the same color as the background,
and hence cannot be seen by the viewer, but is visible to the search engine spiders.)
OK - No penalty - . Google used to reward these pages. Multiple
entrance pages in the top ten SERPs - I see it
daily. There they are at #2, with their twin at #5 -
the main page gets pushed down, 6 months now. Reported numerous times.
OK - No penalty - . Google picks one (usually the oldest), and shoves
it to the top, and pushes the second choice down.
Currently a big issue with stolen content - the
thief usurps your former position with YOUR OWN content.
HTML code violations (The big G Doesn't matte does not even use DOCTYPE
Unless of course, the page is totally FUBAR.
Simple HTML verification is NOT required (but
IN GENERAL, this works pretty well to keep
controversial, I would like to add webmasters in line. The fallacy of this is that this comment: There are many
even the casual observer can readily observe
things that Google would LIKE to continuing, blatant exceptions to these official have webmasters do, but that they pronouncements. SPAM reports elicit no simply cannot control, due to
response, unless specific-case, knob-tweaking
penalty imposition is authorized. There are many
anecdotes about GG "taking care" of a problem.
Google states that they do not provide hand-
violation of their "suggestions"
tweaked "boosts", but are silent about hand-
tweaked demotions. They occur, fer shure. To
demotion. (This is somewhat dated believe otherwise is naive. Wouldn't YOU swat - G is getting around to fixing these the most obnoxious flies? I would. Avoid any things.)
Alleged POSITIVE OFF-Page SEO Google Ranking Factors (43)
Based on the Number and Quality of links to you Google link reporting continues to display just a SMALL fraction of your
actual backlinks, and they are NOT just greater than PR4 - they are mixed.
In Yahoo search, type in:linksite:www.domain-name.comlinkdomain:www.domainname.com
What Google used to count (report). Now, what Google reports
from PR4+ pages seems almost random, frequently changing. Acceleration of link popularity
Google patent Link acquisition speed boost - speculative Too fast
= artificial? Sandbox penalty imposed if new site?
Contains keyword, key phrase? #1 result in SERP does NOT
EVEN need to have the keyword(s) on the page, ANYWHERE!!!
What does that tell you? (Enables - search for
change of anchor Google patent - Not good. Why would you do that?textPopularity of
links on referrer Fewer is better - makes yours more importantpagePosition of link
HUGE boost - it is said that Google's directory comes
STRAIGHT from the DMOZ directory. You MUST get into
dmoz. Be careful who you approach with the old spondulix. It is almost impossible to get into DMOZ. This site cannot get in, after
waiting over 2 YEARS (28 months). Not even in the lowest, most insignificant category, "Personal Pages". I guess I just don't "measure up" to the other 20,000+ sites in this category. Theme fit category? General or geographic category? Both are
DMOZ category? possible, and acceptable. Site listed in
Boost? Another great vote for your site.
Directory listing boost (If other RESPECTED directories link to
other directories you, this must be positive.)
Google patent Boost for long-established sites, new pages indexed
easily The opposite of the sand box.
Site Age - Very Temporary boost for very new sites - I estimate that this boost
Influences SERPs - logical, consistent, conventional
Previously, many pages preferred - conferred authority upon site,
thus page. Bigger sites = better SERPs Now, fewer pages preferred, due to proliferation of computer-generated pages. Site exhibit theme? Use many related terms? Have you used a
Page Metrics - User Behavior - Currently implemented through the Google tool bar?
Google patent - How often is a page clicked on?
Google patent - Relatively long time = indicates relevance hit
Page Metrics - User Behavior - Currently implemented through the Google tool bar?
Google patent - # of visitors, increasing trend = good
Relatively long time = indicates relevance hit Add brownie points.
Google patent - Domain Expiration Date Register for 5 years,
Google knows you are serious. Register for 1 year, is it a throw-
Registration Time away domain?Are associated
Google patent - No spam, ownership, etc. Alleged NEGATIVE OFF-Page SEO Google Ranking Factors (13)
Have you paid a company for web traffic? It is probably low quality traffic, with a zero conversion rate. Some providers of traffic for traffic's sake may be considered
"bad neighborhoods". Can Google discount your traffic (for true popularity), because they know it's mostly phony? Have you read about
In a nut shell, old links are valued, new links are not. This
is intended to thwart rapid incoming link accumulation,
accomplished through the tactic of link buying. Just one of the sandbox factors.
Query meaning changes over time, due to current events
You MUST have at least 1 (one) incoming link (backlink)
from some website somewhere, that Google is aware of, to REMAIN in the index.
Link-buying (Very good Google patent - Google hates link-buying, because it IF you don't get caught, corrupts their PR model in the worst way possible. 1. Does
your page have links it really doesn't merit? 2. Did you get
caught, the penalty isn't tons of links in a short time period? 3. Do you have links worth it.)
Google promises to Ban! (Presenting one webpage to the
search engine spider, and another webpage to everybody else.)Google says that incoming links from bad sites can't hurt you, because you can't control them. Ideally, this would be
true. However, some speculate otherwise, esp., when other
neighborhoods, affiliates associated factors are thrown into the mix, such as web
rings. Should result in IMPRISONMENT, forthwith! Grand
Penalties - resulting from Theft, mandatory minimum sentence. The criminal
Domain Hijacking (work COPYS your entire website, and HOSTS it elsewhere,
with . . . a few changes. WMG is the worst offender - gobbles up tons of Google server time by nervous Nellie webmasters. Google even
mentions them by name. I think that Google will spank
you when you cross the threshold, of say, 100 queries per day for the same term, from the same IP. Google can block your IP. Get a Google API. What is your uptime? Ever notice a daily time when your server is unavailable, like about 1:30 AM? How diligent
must Googlebot be? This is the worst reason to get
dropped - you just aren't there! An ISP maintenance interruption can cause delisting.
. Bull! Google now has over 8 Gigs of indexed
being dropped from large pages. Thousands of pages are disappearing from various
huge websites, but I think that it is G just cleaning house, by dumping computer-generated pages.
Rank Manipulation by Competitor Attack(1. Content theft causing Impossible by Google definition (except for a few nasty you to get a duplicate
tricks, like making your competition appear to be link
spammers) Ideally, there SHOULD be nothing that your
competition can do to directly hurt your rankings.
the original - Google has However, an astute observer noticed that Google changed
their website to read : Old verbiage = "There is nothing a
competitor can do to harm your ranking ." New verbiage
Latest= "There is a competitor can do ." An
obvious concession that Google thinks that at least some
dirty tricks work! Of course, there will always be new
Bouncing Ball Algorithm At least 2, and often 3 identifiable Google Search Algos
are currently in use, alternating pseudo-randomly through the data centers.
GOOD LUCK NOW on trying to figure things out! IN ADDITION, some the above factors are being "tweaked" daily. Not only are the "weights" of the factors changed, but the formula itself changes. Change is the only constant. An algo change can boost or demote your site. I put this in the negative factors section, because your position is never secure, unless of course, you are huge (PR=7 or greater). If you simply cannot achieve top position, your only alternative to first page SERP exposure may be Google AdWords (you pay for exposure). Today, I searched for an extremely competitive "2-word term", and I found that NOT ONE of the top ten Google SERPs had even one of the words on the page. YOWSA!Today's theory - when it doesn't matter, anybody can get #1 in a second, if they know the on-page rules. BUT, after a certain "commercial competitive level", the "semantic analysis" algo kicks in, and less becomes more. The keyword density rules are flipped upon their noggins. I think that we are witnessing the evolution of search engine anti-seo sophistication, right before our very eyes. Fun stuff. Recent Updates - What's the Buzz? "multiple small updates" 2005 - Novem. 5 - Jagger 3 Update Nov.10 all done - settling out. October 26 - Jagger 2 Update More SERPs churning - OLD is highly valued. October 17 - Jagger 1 Update Recent Links, Recent Sites = SERP Turmoil Google has declared war on phony links Devaluation of reciprocal from unrelated-subject pages Devaluation of links from "link houses" Devaluation of purchased links Big allinanchor changes Large companies thrust to the top of the SERPs Sandbox update Lowering of sandbox threshold - re-sandboxing Too fast link accumulation - links acquired too quickly Deeper sandbox (longer - over 6 months) Some suggest that one's site really had to be online before January 2004,
in order to avoid most ramifications of the sandbox. Brief Google Algorithm Update List - 2005 - Sept. - the "False" Update (Sep.22 - Big update, many changes) 2005 - May - Bourbon Update 2005 - Febr.- Allegra Update - Feb.17, 2005, Some sites released from the sandbox, but many remain. 2004 - Feb.- Brandy Update 2004 - Jan.- Austin Update 2003 - Nov.- Florida Update 2003 - June - Esmeralda Update 2003 - May - Dominic Update 2003 - Apr. - Cassandra Update 2003 - Mar. - Boston Update The Google Sandbox - The Single-Biggest SEO Ranking Factor for New Sites Google is clearly fighting spam by sacrificing SERP newness for higher SERP quality. HOW IT WORKS SOLUTIONS
thinking was, NO NEW SITES new sites.
get good ranking, until they prove themselves. Spammers
generate thousands of new pages Adwords or Adsense program, in
daily, along with millions of new which case your pages get spidered in
MINUTES. Your site will be checked initially with an algo or human "smell
test". If you smell good, you're in.
SANDBOX In March
ranking ability on new (recently Good rankings will follow (provided
appearing?) sites, by deprecating of course, that you have good on-page
the new links, for 2-4 months. If SEO, and a few good backlinks).
filter, now referred to as the domain and backlinks have "The Sandbox". This
partner ("approved"), then you are not
domain, just for it's longevity, and old
backlinks. Many have bought up old domain names for this purpose. This
Over time, the newly generated may work right now, but the rules will
eventually the sandbox effect is Good luck!
Notes to the Above 118 Google Ranking Factors:
1 I have tried to summarize the best opinions of many webmaster forum posters. 2 There are no published rules - this is my continuingly changing compilation of SEO chatter. 3 If your keywords are Rare and Unique, then Page Rank doesn't matter. 4 If your keywords are very Competitive, then Page Rank becomes very important. 5 The fewer incoming links that you have, the more important on-page factors are.
There are a million ifs, ors, buts . . . I am attempting a concise summary. Exceptions to EACH of the POSITIVE ON-Page factors are frequent and many. However, I feel that it is important to
6 score highly on as many factors as possible, since factor weight and even factor consideration
are changing constantly - CYA. Not to mention the other SEs. A few words about the LANGUAGE used on the Google site - in a phrase - "soft spoken". We see it everywhere these days. I am referring to understatement, sometimes even to the point of confusion. "significant", "may", etc. For example, when Google states that maybe it might not
7 be a good idea to do a particular thing, what they SOMETIMES really mean is "If you do it,
you are history". Some Google suggestions are actually commands (STRONG HINTS) in disguise. At some point, you begin to realize this. Google just can't tell us everything, literally. Soooooooooo, LISTEN UP! Read the rules. Read between the lines. Carefully. Differentiate. Project. Guess real hard for your situation.
Google Facts and Fictionhttp://www.google.com/webmasters/facts.html
Search Engine Optimizershttp://www.google.com/webmasters/seo.html
"These optimization opinions are too strong - Too much speculation - I wanna see your SEO data!
Disclaimer NOT A Google, Inc. Site
2 In no way, did this data come directly from Google, Inc.
This page consists of a compilation of public information, commonly available on the
3 internet, at multiple sites, as well as public webmaster forums, and simple manual tests. 4 The opinions stated above are merely the often misguided personal opinions of the author. 5 I am not privy to any inside information. 6 This information is continually changing, and may not be relevant when you read it.
Although the author makes every effort to verify the information on this page, no information
7 on this page is guaranteed to be correct, and any data contained herein may be erroneous. Google-Related Webmaster Links
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Page Rank Tool ind your PR, no PC needed - rankwhere.com
Ranking Factors 118 factors Google uses to rank websites
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Search Engine - Danny Sullivan - Complete SE Info - SEW
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Google Adsense Stop Words - Avoid these words to avoid PSAs.
A review chart of some popular Google Webmaster SEO Forums
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