Ranking Google Ranking Factors By Importance

The Most Important Google Ranking Factors, According to SEO Experts

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Rand Fishkin and SEOmoz polled 132 SEO experts with data from over 10,000 Google search results, and have attempted to rank the importance of ranking signals. It’s not confirmed fact, obviously. Google won’t provide such information, but I suppose the next best thing is the collective opinion of a large group of people who make their livings getting sites to rank in search engines, and Fishkin has put together an impressive presentation.

Do you think Google is ranking search results effectively? Comment here.

You can view the entire presentation here, but I’ve pulled out a few key slides that basically sum up the findings.

The factors are actually broken down into the following subsets, where each is ranked against other related factors: overall algorithmic factors, page-specific link signals, domain-wide link signals, on-page signals, domain name match signals, social signals, and highest positively + negatively correlated metrics overall.

The results find that page-level link metrics are the top algorithmic factors (22%), followed by domain-level, link authority features (21%). This is similar to the same SEOmoz poll for 2009, but there is a huge difference in the numbers, indicating that experts are less certain that page-level link metrics are as important. In 2009, they accounted for 43%.

Search Ranking Factors

Page-specific link signals are cited as metrics based on links that point specifically to the ranking page. This is how the results panned out there:

Page-specific linking factors

According to Fishkin, the main takeaways here are that SEOs believe the power of links has declined, that diversity of links is greater than raw quantity, and that the exact match anchor text appears slightly less well-correlated than partial anchor text in external links.

Domain-wide link signals are cited as metrics based on links that point to anywhere on the ranking domain. Here is what the poll looked like in this department:

Domain Level linking factors

The report compares followed vs. nofollowed links to the domain and page, finding that nofollow links may indeed help with rankings:


On-page signals are cited as metrics based on keyword usage and features of the ranking document. Here’s what the poll looked like on these:

on-page factors

Fishkin determines that while it’s tough to differentiate with on-page optimization, longer documents tend to rank better (possibly as a result of Panda), long titles and URLs are still likely bad for SEO, and using keywords earlier in tags and docs “seems wise”.

Here is how the domain name extensions in search results shook out:

Domain extensions

Here are the poll results on social-media-based ranking factors (which Google has seemingly been putting more emphasis on of late):

Social Factors

Fishkin suggests that Facebook may be more influential than Twitter, or that it might simply be that Facebook data is more robust and available for URLs in SERPs. He also determines that Google Buzz is probably not in use directly, as so many users simply have their tweet streams go to Buzz (making the data correlation lower). He also notes that there is a lot more to learn about how Google uses social.

Andy Beard has been testing whether links posted in Google Buzz pass PageRank or help with indexing of content since February 2010. He is now claiming evidence that Buzz is used for indexing.

Danny Sullivan asked Google’s Matt Cutts about the SEOmoz ranking factors survey in a Q&A session at SMX Advanced this week – specifically about the correlation between Facebook shares and Google rankings. Cutts is quoted as saying, “This is a good example of why correlation doesn’t equal causality because Google doesn’t get Facebook shares. We’re blocked by that data. We can see fan pages, but we can’t see Facebook shares.”

The SEOmoz presentation itself has a lot more info about the methodology used and how the correlation worked out.

All of the things covered in the presentation should be taken into consideration, particularly for sites that have experienced significant drops in rankings (because of things like the Panda update or other algorithm tweaks). We recently discussed with Dani Horowitz of Daniweb a number of other things sites can also do that may help rankings in the Post-panda Google search index. DaniWeb had been hit by Panda, but has seen a steady uptick in traffic since making some site adjustments, bringing up the possibility of Panda recovery.

Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable polled his readers about Panda recovery, and 4% said they had fully recovered, while more indicated that they had recovered partially. Still, the overwhelming majority had not recovered, indicating that Google probably did its job right for the most part (that’s not to say that some sites that didn’t deserve to get hit didn’t get hit). In that same Q&A session, Cutts said, “The general rule is to push stuff out and then find additional signals to help differentiate on the spectrum. We haven’t done any pushes that would directly pull things back. We have recomputed data that might have impacted some sites. There’s one change that might affect sites and pull things back.”

A new adjustment to the Panda update has been approved at Google, but has not rolled out yet, he says. This adjustment will be aimed at keeping scraped content from ranking over original content.

Home Page Content

There have also been other interesting bits of search-related information coming out of Google this week. Cutts posted a Webmaster Central video talking about the amount of content you should have on your homepage.

“You can have too much,” said Cutts. “So I wouldn’t have a homepage that has 20MB. You know, that takes a long time to download, and users who are on a dial-up or a modem, a slow connection, they’ll get angry at you.”

“But in general, if you have more content on a home page, there’s more text for Googlebot to find, so rather than just pictures, for example, if you have pictures plus captions – a little bit of textual information can really go a long way,” he continued.

“If you look at my blog, I’ve had anywhere from 5 to 10 posts on my main page at any given time, so I tend to veer towards a little more content when possible,” he added.

Who You Are May Count More

Who you are appears to be becoming more important in Google. Google announced that it’s supporting authorship markup, which it will use in search results. The company is experimenting with using the data to help people find content from authors in results, and says it will continue to look at ways it could help the search engine highlight authors and rank results. More on this here.

Search Queries Data from Webmaster Tools Comes to Google Analytics

Google also launched a limited pilot for search engine optimization reports in Google Analytics, tying Webmaster Central data to Google Analytics, after much demand. It will use search queries data from WMT, which includes:

  • Queries: The total number of search queries that returned pages from your site results over the given period. (These numbers can be rounded, and may not be exact.)
  • Query: A list of the top search queries that returned pages from your site.
  • Impressions: The number of times pages from your site were viewed in search results, and the percentage increase/decrease in the daily average impressions compared to the previous period. (The number of days per period defaults to 30, but you can change it at any time.)
  • Clicks: The number of times your site’s listing was clicked in search results for a particular query, and the percentage increase/decrease in the average daily clicks compared to the previous period.
  • CTR (clickthrough rate): The percentage of impressions that resulted in a click to your site, and the increase/decrease in the daily average CTR compared to the previous period.
  • Avg. position: The average position of your site on the search results page for that query, and the change compared to the previous period. Green indicates that your site’s average position is improving.To calculate average position, we take into account the ranking of your site for a particular query (for example, if a query returns your site as the #1 and #2 result, then the average position would be 1.5).
  • This week, we also ran a very interesting interview between Eric Enge and Bill Slawski addressing Google search patents and how the might relate to the Google Panda update.

    Back to the SEOmoz data. Do you think the results reflect Google’s actual algorithm well? Tell us what you think.

    Ranking Google Ranking Factors By Importance
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    • http://twitter.com/#!/NickStamoulis Nick Stamoulis

      This is a lot of information to take in, and there’s even more! Many thanks to the guys at SEOMoz for taking the time to put this together. While we may never fully understand the intricacies of the Google algorithm, the more we understand the better we can do our jobs as SEO professionals.

      • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

        Absolutely. Of course, Google will keep changing faster than anyone can keep up.

    • Mvc

      Apparently long content pages are ranking better. That’s one of the reasons why Google needs to be broken up. Most long content pages have adsense on it. Product pages don’t rank too well. Product pages are the competition to Google ole Froogle, Merchant, whatever it is called now.

    • AL

      Maybe I’m just missing it, but I don’t see any dates as to when this data was collected. I am wondering if it was done prior to Google’s Panda update in late February. If so, I then wonder if the numbers would be any different.

      • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

        Looks like the research was first referenced in April, and Fishkin references the the Panda update in the presentation, so it’s not pre-Panda.

        • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

          Rand said at SMX Advanced last year that they can pull the query data in a night so I would expect it to only lag by the time it takes to do the formal analysis.

          The criteria they choose get more and more bizarre with each survey.

    • http://www.wsdbiz.co.il Aviran

      Wow, will help alot for doing seo work, i always though nofollow links doesn`t matter.

    • http://www.seonorthamerica.com Tom Aikins

      This stuff is great. Really. I’m going to have to look at the full report that’s linked to the story. Thanks for this.

    • http://www.koozai.com Mike

      All good highlights Chris. I think SEOmoz did another excellent job with their survey, although they do put a pretty big disclaimer on the data to state that correlations may not be influencing factors. I.e. even though a factor may appear to influence Google it’s no guarantee that it will. So we’re still slightly back at the drawing board.

    • http://www.aktivtek.no Piotr

      Just stunning.. As always Chris have done the great job. About the domain name extensions: is it that obvious that .com is most popular so it is also most showed on search results? I don’t fully understand a point of this poll.

    • http://www.seobrazil.com.br Joel

      The efficiency comes from popular acceptance, I’m one of those popular and I think the results of Google effective. Indirectly I help to maintain this efficiency using at customer sites, ranking factors as that of Google Ranking by Importance shown here at WebProNews a website for SEO is also very important in my opinion. Who says the opposite?

    • http://www.purocleanpers.com; Kristine

      As with all research reporting, it would have been helpful for us newbies if the terms for the variables had been defined so we knew what we were looking at. Perhaps this was the difficulty with the way the data was collected. What I can take away from this discussion is that we all have to keep trying different things to see what works. ‘Course as soon as we find a pattern that works, Google will change the algorithms . .. Thanks Chris for posting!

    • http://www.get-business-online.com/ Gal

      Chris, this is great stuff, although I suspect it will take some time to digest. I generally find your posts interesting and up-to-date, but this is pretty special.

      Personally, I believe that Google (and other search engines) are trying to emulate humans in choosing the order of pages for a given query. Therefore, when doing SEO, we should always try to appeal to humans. If we are successful, we’ll get both the tweets and the shares, follow and nofollow links and all the other good stuff, as if by magic.

      Nothing (NOTHING) beats good, relevant, interesting content.

      Like this post :)

    • http://www.gikmedia.com/ GIK

      Great advice however the rise of the likes of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook must mean even bigger and faster changes to search algorithms in future

    • http://ejakulasi-dini.mywapblog.com/mercedes-benz-mobil-mewah-terbaik-indone.xhtml Mercedes-benz peringkat rank Indonesia

      I don’t understand how google gives rangking with many factor. But I feel they start making diference strategy to change SERP now. Thank for your good post. Best regard from Mercedes-benz mobil mewah terbaik Indonesia

    • http://www.eurobrazilian.com Eurobrazilian

      Excellent stuff. Thank you.

    • http://www.wholeblossoms.com/ Kenneth

      Great article! I appreciate seeing what factors are considered important for ranking purposes. How about factors that penalize websites? Do ya’ll have a writeup that attempts to provide factors that will actually decrease a site’s ranking (eg black hat seo tactics, lack of content refresh, duplicate pages, canonical errors, etc).

    • http://www.alejandroshotelcusco.com/ Shomara

      its a good Advice
      Great advice however the rise of the likes of social networks such as Twitter and Facebook must mean

    • http://goalpj.w2c.in goalpj

      waho if i was 2 rank google i will rather give them 78percent. Google d best site so far. Up google

    • http://www.netbookboard.com vinay

      Many thanks to SEOMOZ.It really helps .

    • http://goalpj.w2c.in gregory hollarholuwer john

      if i should av bin d 1 2 rank google i will beta give them 92% among othe site. Google u are d best

    • http://gauravchhikara.com Gaurav Chhikara

      Thanks for telling these factors, I would like to read more posts about domain-level Link factors and page-level link factors.

    • http://www.blueorangelinkbuilding.co.uk/ Mark

      I love the little caption about the ranking of TLDs with Google not liking Canadians as much as .biz.

    • http://www.weightlossgurl.com/guarantee.php weight loss

      Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really neatly written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and return to learn extra of your useful information. Thank you for the post. I will definitely comeback.

    • http://brrip720p.org brrip 720p

      nice article but i want to know that are domain name extensions (like: .com,.net,.org) factor for good rankings??????

    • http://www.pozycjonowanie-torun.net Pozycjonowanie


    • http://www.pozycjonowanie-torun.net Pozycjonowanie

      Also make sure when doing SEO for the first time to read Googles guidelines and standards they will help tremendously!.

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