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Google Ranking Factors

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Google Ranking FactorsThere’s a lot of information floating around these days about what makes a site rank. Most of it’s misinformed, outdated, or entirely untrue, because practically nobody cites their sources. Worst of all, the products/services that stem from that kind of recklessness are often dangerous. Despite all that, we actually know a lot for certain about the way Google ranks sites. Real SEO knowledge doesn’t come from a random blogger, forum, or get-rich-quick scheme.

You probably already know that Google uses about 200 ranking factors in their algorithm but what the heck are they? This resource is a complete guide to how Google ranks sites. We’ve included factors that are controversial or even outright myths, but created filters to hide the junk. The information below is updated constantly, so if you’re serious about SEO, we recommend signing up for quarterly updates (below) so that you don’t lose touch.

Domain Age – Matt Cutts states that:

The difference between a domain that’s six months old versus one year old is really not that big at all.
Matt Cutts
In other words, they do use domain age…but it’s not very important.

  • Keyword Appears in Top Level Domain – Doesn’t give the boost that it used to, but having your keyword in the domain still acts as a relevancy signal. After all, they still bold keywords that appear in a domain name.
  • Keyword As First Word in Domain – A domain that starts with their target keyword has an edge over sites that either don’t have the keyword in their domain or have the keyword in the middle or end of their domain.

Domain registration length: A Google patent states:

Valuable (legitimate) domains are often paid for several years in advance, while doorway (illegitimate) domains rarely are used for more than a year. Therefore, the date when a domain expires in the future can be used as a factor in predicting the legitimacy of a domain
  • Keyword in Subdomain Name – Moz’s 2011 panel agreed that a keyword appearing in the subdomain can boost rankings.
  • Domain History – A site with volatile ownership (via whois) or several drops may tell Google to “reset” the site’s history, negating links pointing to the domain.
  • Penalized WhoIs Owner – If Google identifies a particular person as a spammer it makes sense that they would scrutinize other sites owned by that person.
  • Country TLD extension –  Having a Country Code Top Level Domain (.cn, .pt, .ca) helps the site rank for that particular country…but limits the site’s ability to rank globally.
  • Keyword in Title Tag – The title tag is a webpage’s second most important piece of content (besides the content of the page) and therefore sends a strong on-page SEO signal.
  • Title Tag Starts with Keyword – According to Moz data, title tags that starts with a keyword tend to perform better than title tags with the keyword towards the end of the tag.
Although not as important as it once was, keyword density is still something Google uses to determine the topic of a webpage. But going overboard can hurt you. Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords in Content (LSI): LSI keywords help search engines extract meaning from words with more than one meaning (Apple the computer company vs. the fruit). The presence/absence of LSI probably also acts as a content quality signal. LSI Keywords in Title and Description Tags: As with webpage content, LSI keywords in page meta tags probably help Google discern between synonyms. May also act as a relevancy signal.

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