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What Makes Google Tick? Hundreds of Items Used in their Search Algorithm
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The other day we discussed a few of the things that Google is working on these days.  This was but a sample of the many items that Google works on in a given week.  The point is, is that Google seems to always have their hand in something and Google is a very complex entity.  This is not unlike their search ranking algorithm as there are hunreds of elements that make up the algorithm as to why one site appears higher than another in the search results of Google.

There have been some great articles on Google's algorithm and just what the recipe consists of.  Back in December, Ann Smarty had what I call a very  conclusive post on Google's algorithm recipe.  She listed 200 variables that are most likely factors in Google's ranking algorithm, many of which I would like to reporoduce in this post.  Paul Bannister created a similar post earlier today and both are the inspiration for this post.

I like the approach that both used when compiling their lists as they were sorted by category if you will and included elements from the following:
  • Domain
  • Architecture
  • Server-side issues
  • Content
  • Interlinking
  • Page-specific signals
  • Keyword prominence
  • Outbound links from a site
  • Backlinks
  • Visitor behaviour
  • Filters and Penalties
  • Other
With that, here is a combined variation of Ann and Paul's lists:

Domain: 13 Signals

1. Domain age – as Paul pointed out, older sites tend to rank better, because they have generated ample links and just have that overall authority legacy with them.

2. Length of domain registration – it is always a good idea to try and register your domains for longer than one year.

3. Domain registration information hidden/anonymous

4. Site top level domain TLD (geographical focus, e.g. com versus co.uk)

5. Site top level domain (e.g. .com versus .info)
6. Sub domain or root domain?

7. Domain past records (how often it changed IP)

8. Domain past owners (how often the owner was changed)

9. Keywords in the domain – Keywords in the domain name do in fact have an impact.  Having said that, do not go and spam your URLs, use relevant keywords when it makes sense.
10. Domain IP

11. Domain IP neighbors

12. Domain external mentions (non-linked)

13. Geo-targeting settings in Google Webmaster Tools
Architecture: 8 signals

1. URL structure – Use proper words in your links that are meaningful. If using wordpress use permalinks.

2. HTML structure

3. LSI (Latent Semantic Index) words

4. Use of external CSS / JS files

5. Website structure accessibility (use of inaccessible navigation, JavaScript, etc)

6. Use of canonical URLs

7. Valid code – check against http://validator.w3.org/
A number of these items can have an impact on site speed and load times.  Optimizing your site architecture is a good first step to your online success.
Server-side: 2 signals

1. Server geographical location - reminder that you can alter geographic settings in Google Webmaster Tools for location – http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/

2. Server reliability / uptime – Get a free monitor setup for 2 URLS at http://host-tracker.com

Content: 14 factors

1. Content language

2. Content uniqueness;

3. Amount of content (text versus HTML);

4. Unlinked content density (links versus text);

5. Pure text content ratio (without links, images, code, etc)

6. Content topicality / timeliness (for seasonal searches for example);

7. Semantic information (phrase-based indexing and co-occurring phrase indicators)

8. Content flag for general category (transactional, informational, navigational)

9. Content / market niche

10. Flagged keywords usage (gambling, dating vocabulary)

11. Text in or surrounding images

12. Malicious content (possibly added by hackers);

13. Rampant mis-spelling of words, bad grammar, and 10,000 word screeds without punctuation;

14. Use of absolutely unique /new phrases
Internal Cross Linking: 5 signals

1. # of internal links to page

2. # of internal links to page with identical / targeted anchor text

3. # of internal links to page from content (instead of navigation bar, breadcrumbs, etc)

4. # of links using “nofollow” attribute

5. Internal link density

Website signals: 7 signals

1. Website Robots.txt file content

2. Overall site update frequency

3. Overall site size (number of pages)

4. Age of the site since it was first discovered by Google

5. XML Sitemap

6. On-page trust flags (Contact info ( for local search even more important – Make sure your phone number is on the site), Privacy policy, TOS, and similar)

7. Website type (e.g. blog instead of informational sites in top 10)
Page-specific signals: 9 signals

1. Page meta Robots tags

2. Page age

3. Page freshness (Frequency of edits and

% of page effected (changed) by page edits)

4. Content duplication with other pages of the site (internal duplicate content);

5. Page content reading level

6. Page load time (many signals in here)

7. Page type/authority (About-us page versus main content page)

8. Page internal popularity (how many internal links it has)

9. Page external popularity (how many external links it has relevant to other pages of this site)
Keywords usage and keyword prominence: 13 signals

1. Keywords in the title of a page

2. Keywords in the beginning of page title

3. Keywords in Alt tags

4. Keywords in anchor text of internal links (internal anchor text)

5. Keywords in anchor text of outbound links

6. Keywords in bold and italic text

7. Keywords in the beginning of the body text

8. Keywords in body text

9. Keyword synonyms relating to theme of page/site

10. Keywords in filenames

11. Keywords in URL

12. No “Randomness on purpose” (placing “keyword” in the domain, “keyword” in the filename, “keyword” starting the first word of the title, “keyword” in the first word of the first line of the description and keyword tag…)

13. The use (abuse) of keywords utilized in HTML comment tags
Outbound links: 8 signals

1. Number of outbound links (per domain)

2. Number of outbound links (per page)

3. Quality of pages the site links in

4. Links to bad neighborhoods

5. Relevancy of outbound links

6. Links to 404 and other error pages

7. Links to SEO agencies from clients site

8. Hot-linked images

Backlink profile: 21 signals

1. Relevancy of sites linking in

2. Relevancy of pages linking in

3. Quality of sites linking in

4. Quality of web page linking in

5. Backlinks within network of sites

6. Co-citations (which sites have similar backlink sources)

7. Link profile diversity

       1. Anchor text diversity

       2. Different IP addresses of linking sites

       3. Geographical diversity

       4. Different TLDs

       5. Topical diversity

       6. Different types of linking sites (logs, directories, etc)

       7. Diversity of link placements

8. Authority Link (CNN, BBC, etc) Per Inbound Link

9. Backlinks from bad neighborhoods (absence / presence of backlinks from flagged sites) (It seems that this is less of a factor nowadays – as it would be too easy to affect someone else’s site.)

10. Reciprocal links ratio (relevant to the overall backlink profile)

11. Social media links ratio (links from social media sites versus overall backlink profile)

12. Backlinks trends and patterns (like sudden spikes or drops of backlink number)

13. Citations in Wikipedia and Dmoz

14. Backlink profile historical records (ever caught for link buying/selling, etc)

15. Backlinks from social bookmarking sites.
Each Separate Backlink: 6 factors

1. Authority of TLD (.com versus .gov)

2. Authority of a domain linking in

3. Authority of a page linking in

4. Location of a link (footer, navigation, body text)

5. Anchor text of a link (and Alt tag of images linking)

6. Title attribute of a link

Visitor Profile and Behavior: 6 factors
1. Number of visits;

2. Visitors’ demographics;

3. Bounce rate;

4. Visitors’ browsing habits (which other sites they tend to visit)

5. Visiting trends and patterns (like sudden spiked in incoming traffic)

6. How often the listing is clicked within the SERPs (relevant to other listings)

Penalties, Filters and Manipulation: 12 factors

1. Keyword over usage / Keyword stuffing;

2. Link buying flag

3. Link selling flag;

4. Spamming records (comment, forums, other link spam);

5. Cloaking;

6. Hidden Text;

7. Duplicate Content (external duplication)

8. History of past penalties for this domain

9. History of past penalties for this owner

10. History of past penalties for other properties of this owner (?)

11. Past hackers’ attacks records

12. 301 flags: double re-directs/re-direct loops, or re-directs ending in 404 error

Additional Factors (6):

1. Domain registration with Google Webmaster Tools;

2. Domain presence in Google News;

3. Domain presence in Google Blog Search;

4. Use of the domain in Google AdWords;

5. Use of the domain in Google Analytics;

6. Business name / brand name external mentions.

This is a great list, thanks to Ann Smarty from Search Engine Journal for starting the discussion.


posted by Jody @ Thursday, April 29, 2010  
  • At 8:01 AM, Anonymous orm said…

    Very detailed post. Google really has a lot of factors that go into their algorithm. Thanks for taking the time to compile this list.

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