Compare this list to my 2010 top 20 ranking factors. See what has changed and what hasn’t. Notice how many factors are still top 20 factors and how many weren’t factors several years ago (but are now). This time around the factors aren’t necessarily in order because some factors rely on others, while others are stand alone.
1. Keyword in URL
Google scared us recently with the EMD (Exact Match Domain) update. But keywords in URL still plays a major factor because of how it can sometimes represent brands that need to rank for their own names. Keyword in URL should not be confused with EMD or keywords in domain name. Keywords in URL means it can be in either the sub-domain, domain, or page/file name. All seeming to be equal nowadays.
2. Keyword in Linking Domain & Linking Page
When Google looks at the websites that are linking to you, one of the most important factors is if the keyword that you are targeting is in their domain name or page. Links coming from domains or webpages including your target keywords is proving to be highly effective.
3. Keyword in Title Tag
Type your targeted keyword phrase in ANY search engine and notice how 9 of the top 10 sites have that targeted phrase somewhere in their title tag.
*Learn from your competitors and remember keyword density and prominence.
4. Non-Exact Keyword Anchor Text
For years, it was all about getting keywords saying your exact target keywords. Now Google and the other engines are looking for variations as well. Too high a percent of exact match anchor text is starting to trigger red flags and manual reviews.
5. Page Authority
What kind of authority your page has is extremely important. Sometimes this can be measured by a combination of metrics such as PageRank, MozRank or TrustFlow. Or it can be measured based on other metrics against your competitors in your niche. New factors in authority are also starting to include Google Authorship and social shares. (Not to be confused with domain authority)
6. Keyword in Anchor Text of Incoming Links
Originally, if someone linked to your site, that someone was a different person with a different website giving you a link titling your company name. So if someone Googles your company name, you’d be the first to show up because other sites said that’s who you are. But, new potential customers aren’t looking for your web site. People are searching for your services. So you have to find ways to get links describing the services you offer.
This way other sites are vouching that you are “men’s clothing”. The SERP’s already know you’re Men’s Ware House.
7. Number of Page Google +1s
How many times your page is +1’d counts as how many ‘votes’ people cast for that page. And since Google + is Google’s social network, it pays to get involved.
8. Authority of Linking Domains
It might have been more appropriate to list this factor above #5 Domain Authority, because it usually takes links from authority sites to build authority. But those links are just means to the goal to be an authority, so that you rank because you are an authority. But in short, which sites link to you plays a major role in your site’s success.
9. Number of Linking Domains to Page
YES, the number of linking domains to your target pages still matters. The more links you have, the better. BUT, the more relevant links from the greatest variety of sites, the better. You need links from blogs, forums, authority sites, educations sites, local area sites, industry sites, etc. They all must be relevant to you. The more accurate the relativity, the more closer you are to being the most relevant site to the searcher’s query. The more (relevant) links, the merrier.
10. Number of Non-Keyword Anchor Text Links from Domains to Page
The percent of links that aren’t keyword links (IE: click here, http://www.yoursite.com, learn more, Your Brand, etc.) plays a role in helping search engines identify your natural link acquisition.
11. Number of Links to Pages
This factor is very similar to #9 Number of Linking Domains. But it is slightly different. What makes this factor different is total link count instead of total referring domains, or referring IP’s. One domain can give you several links.
12. Age of Site
Arguably, this is the deciding factor when picking between 2 sites with great stats. Search engines trust websites that have been around for a long time. This is because if the site wasn’t valuable, it would not be on-line any longer. Even though this factor is a huge factor, it’s only a factor for old active domains. Old, yet active domains that have history of constant updates and consistently acquiring links are the hardest sites to beat.
13. Average Time on Site
One factor that helps Google determine if your site is a site that will give visitors a pleasant user experience is to record how long visitors stay at your site. The longer you can keep a visitor on your site the more likely you are providing that user with an experience worth sticking around for.
14. Bounce Rate
Like Average Time on Site, Bounce Rate is a metric that measures the worth of your page. Do visitors come to your site and click the back button more often than not? Normally if 80% of the people visiting your site are clicking the back button, that site is not relevant to what they were searching for.
15. META Description
This is now important because it plays a role in your website’s CTR (click-through-rate). If Google keeps displaying your listing but people keep skipping over it, they will assume that that listing is irrelevant. It also plays a role in if it’s misleading to users, forcing them to click back button. Also, if written poorly or inaccurately, it can be substituted with a snippet that may not be the best representation of that page.
16. PageSpeed Insights Score
Google has made it clear that it wants the web faster and to deliver what the searchers are looking for as fast as possible. They’ve put more emphasis on page speed to get their point across. They’ve even come out with a page speed testing tool to help us out with this.
17. Mobile & Tablet Friendly
More and more people are using smart phones and tablets. The search engines know this. They want to make sure that the sites they deliver are ready for any browser thrown their way. Consider making sure your website is SEO and customer friendly on all devices.
18. Facebook Shares
Of course, FaceBook made the list. It’s only the most popular website on all the internet. How often your pages gets shared is a top 20 ranking factor. If this list was “The Top 35 Factors”, you’d see Number of Domain FB Shares, Number of Domain FB likes, and Number of FB comments make the list.
19. Total Search Queries Conducted After Leaving Site
If the user searches for that same term over and over again, they must not have found what they were looking for. Your site should answer the visitors query by proving data to the engines that proves that visitor don’t need to look any further.
20. Strength of Competition
Technically, this really isn’t a factor in its own. The strength of the competition is probably the backbone of every factor. Ranking results are based on a comparative scale. Meaning the number 1 site is more relevant then the number 2 site based on ALL of these factors. Good ways to measure the strength of the competition is analyze their Alexa Rank, Total Pages Indexed, Total Backlinks and their Google PageRank.
Other Factors that Almost Made the List
- Keyword in Heading Tags (H1, H2, H3)
- Images Found on Page
- Document Character Count
- Number of Domain Google +1s
- Linking Website Diversity
- Domain Authority
- Number of Domain Shares
- Number of Domain FB likes
- Number of Facebook Comments
- Page MozRank or PageRank
- Number of Page Tweets
- Majestic SEO Trust Flow
- Keyword Placement
- Navigation and Architecture
- Percent of Return Visits
- Total Pages Indexed