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Search Engine Ranking Factors

Contents:

1. Introduction to Ranking Factors


2. Contributors
3. Most Important Factors
4. In-Document Factors Affecting Ranking (31)
5. Site Factors Affecting the Value of Hosted Documents (23)
6. Factors Affecting the Value of a Link (25)
7. URL, Technical, Hosting & Server Side Factors (12)
8. Detrimental Ranking Factors (12)

Introduction to Ranking Factors

This article contains a large list of the factors that can influence a web document's rank at the
major search engines (Yahoo!, MSN, Google & AskJeeves) for a particular term or phrase.
Although it is impossible to say for certain which of these items affects which search engine or
how important the factors are individually, I've created an estimated ranking importance scale as
indicated by the following symbols:

Exceptional Importance
These factors have primary influence in ranking search results
at the major search engines.

High Importance
These factors have a high impact on modifying rankings of web
documents in the SERPs.

Moderate Importance
These factors have a measurable level of affect on the rankings
in the SERPs, but are not major contributors.

Slight Importance
These factors carry some impact on rankings and could be
important when in a highly competitive area.

Inconsequential Importance
These factors are of low consequence in changing the ranking
positions of a web document. They may have some effect in
certain queries or documents.

For each factor, the 13 individuals (myself and 12 others in the field) voted on each factor's
perceived importance. I then averaged these votes to come up with the scores you see listed next
to the factors. In addition, the standard deviance (which measures how much fluctuation existed
between votes) is also listed and a scale has been created to show if there was wide
disagreement or general consensus on a factor's importance.

Highly Disputed
These factors have a wide variance of opinion on importance.
Somewhat Disputed
These factors have some dispute as to their importance.

Average Agreement
These factors have an average level of dispute/consensus.

Some Consensus
These factors have some consensus on importance levels.

High Consensus
These factors have a high level of consensus.

The factors listed herein provide a near-comprehensive list of factors which can positively or
negatively influence the rank of a web document. If you have questions or would like to contribute
additional ideas, please e-mail me.

List of Contributors

The following individuals made this project possible by submitting their opinions on each ranking
factor, and adding comments where they felt it important. I have taken note of many of these
comments in my description of the ranking factors and each score is representative of the group's
overall opinions. Many thanks to:

Danny Sullivan http://www.searchenginewatch.com

Dan Thies http://www.seoresearchlabs.com

EGOL Profile @ SEOmoz

Graywolf http://www.wolf-howl.com

Jill Whalen http://www.highrankings.com

Donna Fontenot http://www.seo-scoop.com

Michael Martinez http://www.michael-martinez.com/

Bill Slawski http://www.cre8asiteforums.com

Ammon Johns http://www.webmarketingplus.co.uk/

Scottie Claiborne http://www.successful-sites.com/

2K http://www.2kmediat.com/kkmediat/eng/

Todd Malicoat http://www.stuntdubl.com

Rand Fishkin My votes are also included in the avgs

Most Important Factors

The following are the top 10 ranked factors across the 5 categories:
1. Title Tag - 4.57
2. Anchor Text of Links - 4.46
3. Keyword Use in Document Text - 4.38
4. Accessibility of Document - 4.3
5. Links to Document from Site-Internal Pages - 4.15
6. Primary Subject Matter of Site - 4.00
7. External Links to Linking Pages - 3.92
8. Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community - 3.77
9. Global Link Popularity of Site - 3.69
10. Keyword Spamming - 3.69

In-Document (on-page) Factors Affecting Ranking:

The following factors are on-page items that affect the ranking directly by virtue of being a part of
the indexed and retrieved document. Many of these factors will not apply universally to all
documents, while others are standard.

Hide contributor comments

Factor Name Description

Title Tag Denoted by the <title> tags in HTML, this tag always shows at
Avg 4.57 | Std. Dev. 1.12 the top of a browser window and often appears in the SERPs
as the title of the web page.

Bill Slawski
In addition to the value of a title tag when a search engine determining what a page is about, people will
often use the title of a page when choosing anchor text to link to the page.

Michael Martinez
Should be unique for each page on the site. Use for branding a company name as secondary content is
okay.

Scottie Claiborne
Critical to ranking well.

Todd Malicoat
Also very important for those engines that track click through rates for natural SERPS.

Keyword Use in Document The use of queried terms (the keywords users search for)
Text appearing in the document text.
Avg 4.38 | Std. Dev. 1.00

Bill Slawski
While it isn't completely essential to have keywords appearing in the text of a document (search for "click
here"), it certainly can help to have those words appear on the document.

Michael Martinez
Establish relevance through on-page factors where practical.

Links to Document from Site- A specific page's importance in a site's overall architecture can
Internal Pages be measured by the the importance and depth of the other
Avg 4.15 | Std. Dev. 0.95 pages on on the site that refer to the page in question. An
internally well-linked to document is generally considered more
important than an obscured or buried page.

Bill Slawski
It can be tempting to relate number of links to a page with the number of valuable links to a page, but a
page on a site linked to by the three most important pages on a site may be more important than another
page linked to by hundreds of other pages.

Danny Sullivan
Disagree with this (RAND: Note, the above description has been changed since Danny's comment)

Scottie Claiborne
This is a factor the site owner has total control over and should utilize internal linking to enhance
relevance.

Todd Malicoat
Easily the most underrated criteria by web developers everywhere. Getting the proper ratios of keyword
anchor text with both internal and external links is crucial to good rankings.

Uniqueness of Document Text A document's unique elements are what is generally looked at
Avg 3.38 | Std. Dev. 0.92 by the search engines and if the unique elements of a
document (the body text or content) is an exact copy of another
document (whether that document is on your site or on
another), that page's value will often be deeply discounted or
even removed from the listings.

Bill Slawski
There may be more than one way of looking at duplicate content by the search engines. For instance, a
mirror site may be ignored completely and not indexed, while very similar content may be indexed but
filtered, and not served at the time of a query.

Scottie Claiborne
This may come into play in the future more than currently.

Todd Malicoat
Have thoroughly tested this, but my gut says if you beat the dupe filters you're probably going to be in
okay shape.

Related Term Use in Along with the actual targeted term/phrase, search engines
Document Text examine all of the text in a document to determine if the other
Avg 3.31 | Std. Dev. 1.06 terms used are related and whether they give the subject of the
document a specific slant as related to the primary subject.

Bill Slawski
Global text similarities probably play a larger role here than the description you have implies, and
similarities between documents can be helpful in defining the primary subject of a document. See Salton,
et al, in Automatic structuring of text files.

Dan Thies
likely to have an influence, in link analysis, use of related terms may help w/ topical factors

Scottie Claiborne
It's a good idea and tends to happen naturally when writing

Todd Malicoat
I would almost argue that this is more important than exact terms in the document text, though both are
very important

External Links in Document The sites and pages linked to from a document. These may
Avg 3.08 | Std. Dev. 1.14 positively or negatively influence rankings based on the quality
of the links, their relationship to the linking document and any
existing relationships between the sites hosting the documents.

Michael Martinez
Remove references to "quality". It's become an over-abused SEO buzzword.

Scottie Claiborne
We know analysis of external links happens when linking out.

Todd Malicoat
While relationships are important the actual ANCHOR TEXT is extremely important as well. Linking to
documents with the anchor text of the phrases you are targeting for a specific page is quite helpful
(though it may negatively impact visitor retention rate).

Age of Document Nearly every document has an "inception date" calculated by a


Avg 2.77 | Std. Dev. 0.97 search engine as the first time the spider noticed the page or a
link to the page. Older documents may be considered more
"authoritative", "trusted" and "valuable" than new documents,
particularly if they have continued to build links over a long
period of time. New documents may be considered more
"timely" or "relevant" to time-sensitive queries.

Danny Sullivan
I think fresh documents these days might get a boost, but ironically old pages might also get a boost
probably through looking at history of links. So no idea which way to go on this!

DazzlinDonna
Especially important to Google

Scottie Claiborne
I think the age of the domain may be more critical than the age of a specific document on that domain

Todd Malicoat
Definitely one of the hardest variables to manipulate. I think G is going overboard on it lately.

Citation Links or Sources Citations (as footnotes or endontes in a research paper) could
Avg 2.77 | Std. Dev. 1.19 be links to additional info or mentions of publications,
documents or papers from which information was drawn. This
factor may be more prevalent in queries focused on academic
or scholarly-type searches.

Scottie Claiborne
I'm not sure the difference between this factor and the outgoing links described earlier.

Todd Malicoat
There's definitely different values to different links. This is a trend that will continue. May qualify as a 3
now, but I think link quality will fall under much heavier scrutiny, thus giving it a 4 in the future.

Stemming & Plurality Terms used on a page or in a query may be considered the
Evaluation same or only related by search engines. If a term is stemmed
Avg 2.39 | Std. Dev. 0.74 to its root form (i.e. financing & finance to financ) it could be
that anchor text, queries, etc. containg that term would be
equivalent & interchangeable.

Michael Martinez
The meaning of "...would all provide equivalent value" is unclear. (RAND: Changed to make greater
sense)

Meta Description Tag The meta description tag is almost completely outdated in
Avg 2.39 | Std. Dev. 1.21 markup, but is still useful for describing your page accurately to
the search engines. In some cases, the engines may even use
this tag as the description of your site in the results page
listings, giving you greater control over your content and
message. It is questionable, however, that keyword use in this
tag has any influence, whatsoever, in affecting the rankings.

Danny Sullivan
but very important in terms of helping control a description, rather than ranking, in the right circumstances

Michael Martinez
Keyword use should be used where they stimulate user interest.

Scottie Claiborne
More important for getting people to click than for getting high rankings.

High Level Authorship Marks These are structural signs that a piece of content is of great
Avg 2.38 | Std. Dev. 1.21 merit. Although we may not be aware of all the factors that fit
into determining a document's quality through automated
analysis, it is presumed by many that the major search engines
have invested time and effort to find automated systems to
measure a document's relative quality.

Danny Sullivan
I think this is better said (RAND: Updated to make clearer)

EGOL
Examples would be a H1, H2, H3 hierarchy in headings/subheadings, ordered lists, quotations/citations,
onpage anchor links.... USED IN CONCERT. If you want to see "high level authorship marks" look at this
document... http://www.seomoz.org/articles/search-ranking-factors.php

Todd Malicoat
Hand edits are definitely a reality. Definitely important, but the prevalence will most likely always be fairly
small compared to the overall size of the web due to it's sheer magnitude.

Organization of Document In certain documents, particularly those with lengthy content


Text and an obvious hierarchy or structure, the ordering of words,
Avg 2.31 | Std. Dev. 1.26 phrases, sentences and concepts can be taken into account by
search engines.

Bill Slawski
Sequence, proximity, and adjacency of words are important, but a global analysis of similar documents is
probably a step taken long before an onpage analysis.

EGOL
Very little impact if we are talking about word order... but add a little HTML formatting such as headings,
bold, ordered lists, onpage anchor links, and organization then becomes very important.
Michael Martinez
Organization that survives linearization is best.

Scottie Claiborne
I believe the page contents are analyzed as a document without regard to what is first vs what is last.

Text in Alt/Img Title Tags The use of text in alt tags and image tags is figured into the
Avg 2.23 | Std. Dev. 0.97 overall text in a document, although it probably does not
undergo the scrutiny of body text in terms of quality, grammar,
reading level, etc. Both of these tags are more commonly used
for targeting image searches at the engines, along with the
filenames of the images shown.

DazzlinDonna
Sometimes helpful for secondary terms

Jill Whalen
Very important for clickable images. Not so much for non-clickable ones.

Scottie Claiborne
Only in images that are links. Images that are not links typically show no change when adding alt text
however for link images, it replaces the anchor text and as such, is very important.

Todd Malicoat
Alt text is actually important for using as repetitive anchor text for images. For instance the alt text of an
image.

Paragraph Headings Paragraph headings, either through Hx tags or simply through


Avg 2.23 | Std. Dev. 1.12 formatting may give detailed on-page emphasis to the topic of a
page and demonstrate that multiple aspects of a topic are
discussed - if the topics of these headings are diverse yet still
clustered tightly around a theme, it may be beneficial.

Bill Slawski
Attempting to understand a theme of a document (without looking at other documents) based upon
paragraph headings, especially based upon layout without the use of heading elements, is probably not
much of a relevance factor.

DazzlinDonna
Can be very important for less competitive terms.

Variety & % of Content Along with measuring historical and current rates of change,
Changes search engines watch for the amount of content that has
Avg 2.23 | Std. Dev. 1.19 changed in a document over the course of updates and which
specific pieces of content on a web page have experienced
change. For example, cosmetic changes (to color or fonts) may
be ignored along with changes to every document on a site
(during, for example, a template update). What search engines
want to measure is documents that "keep up with the times" by
adding new content and changing or removing old content that
becomes invalid over time.

2K
This is heavily linked to (internal and external) link data.
Bill Slawski
It's difficult to assign a value to this factor. Under the historic data patent from Google that this factor
appears to be taken from, amount and type of change may be more important for some queries than
others. For instance, a query for the "1998 superbowl"...

Scottie Claiborne
I don't see that this specifically affects rankings as much as it may change what the page ranks for. Any
time you change page text, it will have an affect on the rankings.

Document Language For obvious reasons, a document's language matching the


Avg 2.15 | Std. Dev. 0.95 query term and the user's location (by IP address or engine
version used, i.e. google.de, yahoo.jp, etc.) is significant in
making a document rank well.

Danny Sullivan
much higher if you are using a country-specific service, otherwise, nope

Keyword Use in URL Using the keyword term/phrase in the actual URL of the
Avg 2.15 | Std. Dev. 1.02 document may be assigned some weight by search engines,
whether used in hyphenation or strung together.

Dan Thies
people use the URL in links, don't they?

DazzlinDonna
Works better for non-Google search engines

EGOL
Probably does not help a lot if the KW is in your filename. However, IMO, owning the KW.com is kickass
for rankings and SERP clickthrough.

Michael Martinez
Hyphenated keywords seem to work better.

Scottie Claiborne
Minor and only in play if people link to the page using the page URL.

Todd Malicoat
It is actually important by default. If someone links to your site using the URL, you have the keywords in
anchor text rather than just a variable or arbitrary name.

Meta Keywords Tag Although largely a remnant of the early days of web markup,
Avg 2.08 | Std. Dev. 0.9 the meta keywords tag is still used by search engines as a
reference point for the terms targeted by the page. It can be of
value to place common misspellings of your primary targets, if
any, into this tag.

DazzlinDonna
Can be more important in distinguishing a spammy site than anything else.

Scottie Claiborne
If it plays a role in ranking for misspellings, than it plays a role, period. You can't say it works for
misspelled words but not for others. Personally, I don't believe it works for misspellings. I believe Google's
habit of suggesting a correction for a misspelling or semantic analysis is more likely to be the source of
"misspelled" traffic than including the misspellings in the meta keywords tag.

Depth of Document in Site The depth of a document in a site's structure measures the
Avg 1.92 | Std. Dev. 0.92 minimum number of clicks (links that must be followed) in order
to reach that document.

Bill Slawski
A location metric (directory level depth) can be important to whether or not a page gets crawled, but it is
possible for internal pages to rank higher than the home page of a site based upon the importance of links
to that page.

Dan Thies
I don't like this description - depth within a site is not a "ranking factor" - link analysis is based on the
relationship between all documents, not just those on the site - inbound links to an interior page, even if
that page is 5 clicks from the home page.

EGOL
Deep pages can rank very well if lots of internal pages link to them, even at the same level, or if external
links hit the page.

Use of H1, Bold & Other Visual Another pre-cursor of modern on-page optimization was the
Tags use of Hx, Bold, Strong and other accent tags to indicate the
Avg 1.92 | Std. Dev. 1.44 particular importance of a term or phrase to a search engine.
This technique is not yet completely without merit, and it may
be useful to highlight popular search terms for visitors to a site,
hence the practice is still widespread. How search engines use
this data is questionable, as it has been a source of so-called
"over-optimization".

Bill Slawski
There still is some merit to this approach, however, when you emphasize everything, you emphasize
nothing.

DazzlinDonna
Great for less competitive terms, but may trigger over-optimization filters for competitive terms

EGOL
I think that this is still very important.... strong anchor text is powerful - especially for secondary keywords.

Michael Martinez
H1 and BOLD are still vital indicators of important factors.

Scottie Claiborne
Easy to abuse, I think the importance is downplayed, possibly when the amount of text on the page is
compared to the percentage of "emphasized" text.

Todd Malicoat
Much less value now from abuse, but still more value than Meta tags.

Use of In-Document Links & Search engines may use named anchor data, particularly in
Anchors longer documents or those carrying a consistent structure (as
Avg 1.85 | Std. Dev. 1.10 with many Wikipedia entries) to help with classification and
ranking.
EGOL
Great for KW reach and can boost rankings on secondary terms. e.g. RED widgets vs widgets

Rate of Updates to Document Over time, a document may experience changes in content or
Avg 1.85 | Std. Dev. 1.10 links and search engines, who regularly re-spider pages (how
frequently depends on both their perceived importance and
their rate of changes) may place value on regularly updated
pages. The rate of updates is not simply a measure of how
often change occurs, but a tabulation of all changes to a
document historically.

Bill Slawski
It's difficult to lump all of these factors together, and by itself this rate of updates may not be that large a
factor. Some documents retain their value while not changing, especially important historical documents,
while others derive their value from frequent updates.

EGOL
Might give you a small and temporary "bump".

Todd Malicoat
This is relative to the query itself I think, as searches are categorized by type, freshness may be a very
positive factor for a site ranking for news type queries, whereas staleness may be only a marginal factor
for a page ranking for a history question.

Document Length The length or size of a document, both in terms of KB size and
Avg 1.54 | Std. Dev. 0.63 number of words or characters may be used by the search
engines to influence rankings. In some instances, search
engines may guess that a shorter or succinct document is
preferred based on the query, while in other instances, a
longer, more detailed article may be desirable. Document
length and size does not have a optimum level, but can be
used by search engines in the rankings.

EGOL
I don't think that this counts for a lot because I see pages with a couple of sentences or less at TopSERP
for lots of moderate difficulty terms.

Todd Malicoat
Probably important but highly query relative in my mind, and thus very difficult to make observations
about.

Document Type Document types such as .pdf, .doc, .txt and others may be
Avg 1.54 | Std. Dev. 0.84 included or given more or less favorable ranking treatment
based on the query and a search engine's perception of what
the user is seeking. When searching for research papers, for
example, PDF and MS Word documents may be more
desirable.

No Comments

Quality of Document Text Although highly subjective, there have been many proposed
Avg 1.46 | Std. Dev. 0.75 methods for automatically measuring document text quality,
most frequently by measuring (in large quantity) a variety of
high quality documents against low ones to find natural
indicators of one or the other, then using those to attempt to
classify future documents. Whether and how soon this could
impact rankings is debatable.

No Comments

W3C Validation The W3C organization of web standards issues requirements


Avg 1.46 | Std. Dev. 0.93 for validation. These standards are used by many websites to
construct "proper" markup in the HTML document type of their
choice. Whether search engines measure proper validation is
up for debate, but could be considered a ranking factor.

Bill Slawski
Validation by itself is unlikely to be a ranking factor, however, a valid, error free page following standards
may rank better than one that isn't because a defined DTD and charset may reduce the possibility of
errors in interpreting a page.

Dan Thies
Does any search engine's home page validate yet?

Danny Sullivan
i wish you had a zero, because that's what I’d be voting here.

DazzlinDonna
Only useful in making sure spiders can index the page. May have some merit with MSN.

EGOL
Has anybody tested this to see. Sounds like something very easy to test and settle all questions.

Todd Malicoat
Would be pretty hard to do from an SE standpoint, but would logically be a factor.

Grammar Use in Document Grammar use by the search engines is questionable, but it has
Text been noted by academic papers and research as a possible
Avg 1.46 | Std. Dev. 1.08 method to determine the relative quality of a document. Those
documents which take care in preserving grammatical
guidelines (my supposition is that these will not be strict) could
be rewarded with greater weight in the rankings.

2K
Basic markov chaining laws apply here.

Bill Slawski
A sentence may be semantically correct, and completely meaningless.

Michael Martinez
Identifiable grammatical and idiomatic structures distinguish natural content from spam.

Scottie Claiborne
It's possible that it helps. I've not tested this theory. It's definitely critical to conversions.

Internal Links in Document The relevant internal documents pointed to by a page may help
Avg 1.3 | Std. Dev. 0.6 to indicate to a search engine the subject of the page and the
general subject of the content therein. Persitent navigation links
(those in a menu or footer nav) will generally be ignored.

Bill Slawski
Persistent internal links do have the potential to make a page appear relevant for a particular query,
especially if there is a correlation between the anchor text within those and such things as page titles, and
words upon the pages.

Dan Thies
once again, you're mixing two things, and making an assertion (nav links will be ignored) - what am I
rating?

DazzlinDonna
Can be more important for less competitive terms

EGOL
Small for your main term of attack but this can greatly increase the keyword reach of your document (get
you ranked for lots of related terms)!

Jill Whalen
no idea what you mean here

Scottie Claiborne
Goes back to internal linking question.

Todd Malicoat
I don't think the anchor text of navigation links is always ignored. Perhaps the passing value, but the
actual text still plays a role I think.

Spelling Accuracy in As with grammar, spelling accuracy may be measured by the


Document Text search engines to determine quality. This factor will most likely
Avg 1.23 | Std. Dev. 0.58 be applied relative to the query entered so that sites in
particular categories, such as humor, culture-specific, artistic
and other areas where misspellings are intentional do not get
filtered.

2K
Basic markov chaining laws apply here, too.

Scottie Claiborne
Not for SEO. but for professionalism and conversions

Stopword Frequency Stopwords (common non-noun or descriptive words such as


Avg 1.23 | Std. Dev. 0.58 the, it, can, been, where, how, up, etc.) are measured by
search engines to determine the style of writing the content of a
document is using. A high frequency can mean a lengthier,
article style of writing, while very low frequency typically
indicates more bullet points and promotional writing (non-
paragraph form). This would most likely be a query dependent
factor - affecting those searches where one type of writing was
clearly preferable to another.

2K
Depends on language used.

Bill Slawski
"To be or not to be" holds quite a lot of meaning, regardless of the fact that it is completely constructed of
stopwords.

Scottie Claiborne
Again, not as a ranking criteria but important for natural language overall. This isn't something that has to
be

Reading Level of Document Reading level is typically calculated by measuring the words in
Text a document and measuring their syllables or obscurity against
Avg 1.08 | Std. Dev. 0.27 wordlists from educational guidelines. Thus, complex
documents might be considered to be at a 12th or 13th grade
level (high school senior or college freshman in the US) while
low-level, simplistic documents would be at a 5th or 6th grade
reading level. A higher or lower level does not necessarily
indicate a better result, but based on search terms, it could be
more or less likely that a higher or lower reading level
document would be preferable.

Dan Thies
I'm tempted to vote for this factor to trick people into writing better copy.

Danny Sullivan
i don't know any search engine doing something like this

Todd Malicoat
I think this will actually become increasingly important as SE's try to further remedy the problems
associated with duplicate content.

Site Factors Affecting the Value of Hosted Documents:

The following factors affect all documents hosted at a particular website. These factors influence
the overall strength and focus of the site where documents are hosted, thereby affecting any
page at the site.

Hide contributor comments

Factor Name Description

Primary Subject Matter of A website's primary topic (as determined through analysis of the
Site content of its hosted documents) may influence how well it is able
Avg 4.00 | Std. Dev. 1.11 to rank pages on similar, corresponding or off-topic subjects. If a
site is particularly focused in one niche or another (from finance
to politics to restaurants), documents hosted at that site on
specific subjects encompassed by the broader topic may have a
better chance of ranking well. There are also many sites on topics
like news or general information distribution (e.g. CNN.com,
Topix.net, etc.) that encompass all or many subjects equally and
may be able to rank documents for a wide variety of topics.

EGOL
This might be one reason that some of the specialty sites rank higher than Wikipedia. Don't know for sure
but this is my analysis.

Link Popularity of Site in Topical communities are measured by the search engines as
Topical Community groups of websites who interlink to and with one another
Avg 3.77 | Std. Dev. 1.48 frequently and carry a similar topic or theme. Since topical
communities are relevant and "on-topic", the links from them
carry great weight. A site that is included in a topical community
by way of links from many other members may be considered
more relevant and authoritative on the community's subject
matter.

No Comments

Global Link Popularity of Global link popularity simply measures the importance of all the
Site links to a unique domain, with more links from more important
Avg 3.69 | Std. Dev. 1.49 sites (relative to their own link popularity) typically having stronger
influence.

EGOL
This is what makes an "authority site"..... and I am suspicious that if "global" means "worldwide" also then
you go up to another level... such as links from other countries and languages .ca, .jp .uk .etc

Michael Martinez
Appears to be relevant for standalone domains and sub-domains.

Internal Link Structure A site's internal link structure may influence the rankings of its
Avg 3.23 | Std. Dev. 1.12 pages by virtue of its organization. Search engines and visitors
alike typically expect a persistent set of navigation elements as
well as a hierarchy from broad subject matter to narrow. Sites
exhibiting these types of linking structures may be rewarded with
better rankings.

2K
perfect tool for document popularity control

Dan Thies
Sites that point more links at important pages magically discover that those important pages get more
clicks from visitors and rank better.

EGOL
I think that the benefit here is in quantity of internal backlinks.

Rate of New Incoming Links The links pointing to a document over time may be measured and
to Site have data extrapolated by the search engines to help the
Avg 3.08 | Std. Dev. 0.73 determine the legitimacy and value of new links. This may in turn
affect the rankings of any documents hosted at the site, whether
they are directly receiving external, inbound links or not.

Jill Whalen
Only in terms of those who try to artificially inflate their links.

Todd Malicoat
Highly relative to query type.

Topical Relevance of The links pointing to a site may be considered relevant or off-
Incoming Links to Site topic. In the latter case, their value may be discounted. This could
Avg 3.08 | Std. Dev. 1.21 be determined by looking at what other links are being pointed to
on the linking pages, the subject matter of the linking site/page
and the relationship between the two sites. If many relevant, on-
topic links from relevant, on-topic sites point to the website,
documents there could rank higher as a result.

Danny Sullivan
Though I'd say link to a page, rather than to a site

Todd Malicoat
It will be a 4 soon, though probably a 3 now. Improving the topical nature of links is most likely one of the
strongest focuses by engineers currently I would assume.

Anchor Text of Incoming In determining a site's subject matter, both the text of the site's
Links to Site hosted documents and the text of links pointing to the site may be
Avg 3.08 | Std. Dev. 1.59 contributing factors. If many links point to a site with anchor text
that is "on-topic" for a document hosted at the site, that document
may have a better chance of ranking well for the query.

Bill Slawski
Site or document? (Rand: Anchor text of all links to a site would impact the rankings of documents hosted
there)

Age of Site A site's age may influence the value and trust placed upon
Avg 2.92 | Std. Dev. 1.14 documents hosted there by search engines. Older sites are
generally considered more trustworthy than newer sites as they
have established a record of legitimacy.

Ammon Johns
The age of links, and that links continue to grow, is important. The age of a document is not.

DazzlinDonna
Especially important for Google.

Site Language The language focus of documents at a website may make


Avg 2.62 | Std. Dev. 0.92 documents hosted there rank higher or lower for language-
specific or engine specific queries (i.e. Google.de, Yahoo.jp, etc.).

No Comments

Historical User-Action The primary user-action in the SERPs would be a click-through to


Metrics Related to Site a search result. If a site receives a high click-through rate in the
Avg 2.62 | Std. Dev. 1.00 natural results and few searchers return to the engine
immediately to select an alternate result or conduct a new search,
the website and any hosted documents may benefit.

Dan Thies
What do YOU think "user acceptance" means?

EGOL
If they are not using this then they need to have their heads examined!

Rate of Expiring/ Removed As links are found by the search engines pointing to a site and
Links to Site others that are removed disappear from the cached pages, data
Avg 2.31 | Std. Dev. 0.99 about link fluctuation, generation and dissipation can be stored in
the search engines' repositories. This data may then be used to
analyze future activity, make predictions, compare against other
sites and find abnormalities. Sites that receive very few
permanent links may be ranked lower than those whose links
remain. Other websites where link stagnation is fast may be
compared against others in the industry to see if this
phenomenon is normal. All of these factors of link gain and loss
over time may result in higher or lower rankings for hosted
documents.

Todd Malicoat
This will probably become more important as "advertising links" are targeted.

Domain Extension .com, .net, .biz are all commercial extensions, freely available to
Avg 2.31 | Std. Dev. 1.20 anyone. But, domains like .gov, .mil or .edu may only be
purchased and operated by those with special privileges. As
such, a domain carrying one of these extensions may be
considered more "trustworthy" and therefore receive a boost in
ranking.

2K
country domains affect serps way too much!

Dan Thies
Pure and utter rubbish nonsense jibba-jabba...

Michael Martinez
The self-policing of the .org top-level domain may explain its apparent quality boost. Strict requirements
for .edu, .gov, and .mil may explain quality boost for those TLDs.

Semantic Connections of The semantic connections between documents hosted on a


Hosted Documents website may influence their respective rankings. If, for example, a
Avg 2.15 | Std. Dev. 1.17 high correlation occurs between topics or terms in many
documents on a site, that site may be perceived by a search
engine to be particularly on-topic for a subject and thus have its
documents rank better.

2K
will be a big player in future.

Dan Thies
You keep saying "the site may be perceived" when this isn't necessarily how it works. TSPR accomplishes
this without having a concept of a "website."

Keyword Use in Domain Search engine may consider the value of a keyword or related
Name term/phrase in the actual domain name of the site. Relevant
Avg 2.08 | Std. Dev. 1.14 terms/phrases would thereby benefit sites with those
terms/phrases in their name.

Dan Thies
People use the URL in links, right?

EGOL
Yes... but more important... owning the KW.com attracts natural links like bugs to a Georgia porchlight.

# of Hosted Documents The size of a website as measured by the number of documents


Avg 2.00 | Std. Dev. 1.41 hosted on the site may raise or lower rankings depending on
whether a search engine has a query-dependent or universal
preference for larger/smaller sites.

2K
not the number, but the linking structure....

Ammon Johns
Where this increases link counts it positively affects the site. Where it does not, it does not.

Dan Thies
larger sites have more of a presence not because search engines "like" larger sites, but because they
have more love to spread around

EGOL
I don't think that this in itself gets you a ranking boost. But it gets you more internal backlinks.

Scottie Claiborne
I don't think the numbers of pages in a site matters as much as the impact of the additional internal links
created by those pages.

Historical Rankings of Site A site's rankings(and its hosted documents') in the search results
in SERPs over time may be used by a search engine to influence ranking
Avg 1.92 | Std. Dev. 0.73 ability up or down over new documents or documents suddenly
ranking much better than before. This is most often used in cases
where large jumps in rankings over a short period are seen and
the engine wants to investigate whether that jump was natural or
the result of spamming, but other uses for the data are also
possible.

Ammon Johns
A site that has been found over time will usually attract more links than a site which has not.

DazzlinDonna
Especially used by Google.

Hyphens in Domain Name It has been noted on several occasions that 2 or more hyphens in
Avg 1.92 | Std. Dev. 0.73 a domain name may indicate a lower-quality or spam-ridden site.
This data may be used by search engines to reduce the rankings
of a site or its hosted documents.

Dan Thies
Overhyphenation, sure, why not. Show me ONE quality site with 5 hyphens in the domain name.

Danny Sullivan
So I think hyphens are a BAD thing and may be fairly important in marking down. Others think they are
good. I assume those who think they are good will mark this as a LOW factor.

Existence of Sitemap Page A sitemap page, particularly one noted as such via anchor text or
on Site title may boost the crawling speed and thus ranking effectiveness
Avg 1.92 | Std. Dev. 1.07 of documents at a website.

Dan Thies
Again, you add a little extra speculation when it's not needed. The words "particularly one noted" tempt
me to rate this as a 1, but I'm ignoring those words to give proper respect to sitemaps.

Scottie Claiborne
Only because it adds an additional keyword rich internal link, not because there is any sort of magic in a
sitemap

Todd Malicoat
Adding a sitemap to sites that DON'T have one has always produced very tangible results from my
experience.
Membership in Using programs like Google's Sitemaps or Yahoo!'s paid inclusion
Sitemaps/Paid Inclusion supposedly do not influence search engine rankings, but they do
Programs influence the crawl speed and depth, giving your documents a
Avg 1.77 | Std. Dev. 0.89 better chance of receiving boosts for fresh content or timely,
relevant content to a searcher's query.

Dan Thies
Y! is a double-edged sword. It's not really about better rankings, it's the speed with which testing can be
completed.

Todd Malicoat
More important for Yahoo, with Google it just to assist in getting all pages IN the index.

Rate of Document A site's overall rate of document flux (new documents added and
Additions/Change older ones removed) may impact the rankings of documents
Avg 1.615 | Std. Dev. 0.74 hosted at the website. Over time, this changing acceleration or
deceleration may be used by the search engines to positively or
negatively affect the rankings of particular documents based on
their own ages in comparison to the data about other documents
at the site.

Ammon Johns
Frequently changing documents may gain more links through updates than a more static, less
changeable document.

EGOL
I don't think that this is extremely important. If it was then EBay should hold TopSERPs everywhere!

Todd Malicoat
Another highly relative variable which is stronger/ weaker based upon the type of query.

Use of re-direction The use of re-direction directives such as 301 (permanent) and
directives 302 (temporary), may impact ranking results based on their
Avg 1.46 | Std. Dev. 0.75 frequency of use, the source and target. websites which have
recently been re-directed from another site may have lower trust
placed on them by search engines.

Dan Thies
AFAICT... it's a crapshoot. Y has used assumptions about redirection in the past, but they seem to have
listened to reason. Google just wants the world to follow the spec. SEOMoz's problems were more likely
due to having a lot of documents added all at once.

Todd Malicoat
Can potentially have LARGE impacts on rankings, but in itself not a huge variable if done correctly.

Size of Hosted Documents The relative size of hosted documents at a website may help a
Avg 1.31 | Std. Dev. 0.61 search engine predict the scope and type of site - for example, if
a large number of documents are extremely lengthy research
work, it could be used to influence rankings for those types of
queries at the engine.

2K
very small (<10 words) documents do seem to be outranked in all cases.

Shifts in Rate of Change to The average rate of changes to all documents hosted on the
Hosted Documents website may be used to construct information about the changes
Avg 1.15 | Std. Dev. 0.53 and updates most recently found on the documents. THis may
help certain documents rank better or worse than others against
one another or external documents.

Dan Thies
It's going to be important, but the engines have to figure out what to do with it - G has patented every
possible interpretation, pro and con.

Factors Affecting the Value of a Link:

These factors influence the power, relevance and rank boosting effect a link carries with it when
pointing to a particular document. Note that all links, in addition to being influenced by these
factors, are affected by many of the site and page factors above. These are mentioned below
where they are of particular importance.

Hide contributor comments

Factor Name Description

Anchor Text of Link The phrasing, terms, order and length of a link's anchor text is
Avg 4.46 | Std. Dev. 0.93 one of the largest factors taken into account by the major search
engines for ranking. Specific anchor text links help a site to rank
better for that particular term/phrase at the search engines.

No Comments

External Links to Linking The external links that point to a document can have a strong
Page effect on the power and relevancy that links from that document
Avg 3.92 | Std. Dev. 0.92 to other documents carry.

No Comments

Global Popularity of Site The global link popularity of a website affects the value of all the
Avg 3.85 | Std. Dev. 1.41 links in hosted documents on the site. Highly linked to sites will
provide more value in their links than sites whose link popularity
is low.

Dan Thies
oversimplification is rampant in this section...

EGOL
This is what makes an "authority site"..... and I am suspicious that if "global" means "worldwide" also then
you go up to another level... such as links from other countries and languages .ca, .jp .uk .etc

Popularity of Site in Topical As mentioned before, topical communities created by sites on a


Community specific subject linking back and forth with one another can
Avg 3.77 | Std. Dev. 1.25 influence the rankings of a document included in this
"community" positively. Likewise, links from these "in"
documents/sites can carry additional weight with search engines.
A link from a site/page that is particularly well linked to within its
own topical community may be of especially high value.
Dan Thies
It's probably not the site, more likely it's the page, except maybe @ Ask.

Scottie Claiborne
Matters more on some engines than others.

Text Directly Surrounding The greatest text analysis for a link, next to the actual anchor
the Link text, is the text directly surrounding that link. This is more true for
Avg 3.54 | Std. Dev. 0.84 links embedded in content than those which float outside primary
content areas. It often includes, in the case of lists of links, the
description about the linked to document/site.

No Comments

Anchor Text of All Links to The anchor text of links pointing to a document could influence
Site/Document its relevance and may directly carry the value of those anchor
Avg 3.46 | Std. Dev. 1.28 text links over to the pages and sites it points to.

No Comments

Location of Linking Page in The location of the linking page in the website's site architecture
Site Structure can impact its effect. For example, a link that is buried 4-5 levels
Avg 3.31 | Std. Dev. 1.07 away from the home page may not be as valuable as a link
prominently placed on the home page or a page directly linked to
it.

EGOL
Other factors override this easily.

Affiliations of Linking Site Affiliations between websites via reciprocal linking, shared
with Target Site hosting, shared domain registration affiliations or other methods
Avg 3.00 | Std. Dev. 0.56 may impact the value of a link from any documents at one site to
the other (typically by dampening their effectiveness). This is
done to minimize so-called "incestual" linking from sites owned or
controlled by the same entity or from sites whose links are not
given out of editorial "respect".

2K
depends on language /country once again...

Dan Thies
You're overloading this factor - reciprocal linking is not the same as RED FLAG linking, like sharing the
same IP address with everyone who links to you.

EGOL
These are the types of inbound links that can hurt you if done to excess.

Existence of Rel=Nofollow The "nofollow" tag indicates to a search engine that the link to the
tag tag is applied to is not "vouched for" by the creators of the site.
Avg 3.00 | Std. Dev. 1.36 Typically, this means that the link was not editorially approved
and may, therefore, have been created by a site visitor, or even
an automated spam program.

Dan Thies
True, but how is this supposed to influence rankings, unless you’re texas hold’em guy?
DazzlinDonna
If it does exist, the link is essentially worthless.

Text on Linking Page The quality and features that can affect the text analysis of a
Avg 2.92 | Std. Dev. 0.83 page also influence the value of links from that page, both in
terms of weight and relevance to a particular subject, phrase or
term.

No Comments

Semantic Relationship of The relationships of the topics and text content of the linking
Linking Page page and the target page are considered when determining the
Avg 2.92 | Std. Dev. 0.83 relevancy and value of a link.

Dan Thies
this one you may have under-simplified. :D

Age of Link A link's historical presence on a document may be considered


Avg 2.85 | Std. Dev. 1.03 when analyzing its value. Older links are typically thought to
provide greater value than newer links.

Ammon Johns
Older links will suggest past relevance as many stories and articles are temporal, and technically expire.
Newer links indicate current trends.

Dan Thies
The age of links is a factor. but what am I rating? "Older links are typically thought to provide greater
value than newer links" or newer links may indicate an important resource, or...

Implicit Trust of Site There is speculation that some websites have gained the implicit
Avg 2.77 | Std. Dev. 1.12 trust of search engines. Educated guesses on their identities
range from places like CNN.com to DMOZ.org to
Whitehouse.gov, all in varying degrees, and all purely
hypothetical, unknown in truth to all but a few engineers. Links
from these sites may carry special weight and rank boosting
power, although it will probably never be possible for SEOs to
correctly identify or quantify them.

Dan Thies
I don't buy this, all the "example" sites have plenty of authority because they're authorities... but there is
"explicit mistrust" of certain sites. Did WSJ linking to SEOBook.com mean more than me linking to it? Not
likely.

Additional External or The internal and external links on a document may influence the
Internal Links on Page value of new outgoing links on that page, either positively or
Avg 2.69 | Std. Dev. 1.14 negatively, based on both quality of the documents being linked
to and their subject matter.

Dan Thies
yes, some of this is part of the PageRank algo... add a link, the rest are diluted

Shared IP Address or C- If a site shares an IP address or a C-Block of IP addresses with


Block Address the target linked-to site, a document's link may be devalued
Avg 2.62 | Std. Dev. 0.92 partially or entirely.

Dan Thies
assuming we ignore the tremendous value of internal links within a site, and pretend that there's
something wrong with having >1 domain

Related Term Use in Linking If on-topic, related terms are used with frequency on the linking
Page page, this can indicate to a search engine that the link carries
Avg 2.54 | Std. Dev. 0.63 higher relevancy to the page's text. Likewise, if a link is entirely
off-topic as compared to a page's content, that link may carry
less weight.

Ammon Johns
This may already be counted partially in the text near links part.

Rate of All External Links to A linking document's rate of external links that point to it or link to
Site/Document the hosting site can strongly influence the power a link from that
Avg 2.38 | Std. Dev. 0.92 document carries, both positively and negatively.

Dan Thies
what is the "rate of external links?" how fast they move, how many there are, how it changes over time?

Michael Martinez
Not clear on what you mean by "rate". (RAND: I'm referring to both the number over time and the
acceleration or deceleration of that rate - the 'calculus' of the measurements)

Domain Extension The extension of a site may impact the value of its links - .edu,
Avg 2.38 | Std. Dev. 1.39 .gov & .mil have all been surmised to carry stronger weight in
their links than ordinary commercial documents (.com, .biz, .net,
etc.).

Dan Thies
Utter nonsense, well, except for commercial sites that use .org names - that's definitely screwy and no
doubt will be deal with harshly. 8)

Scottie Claiborne
I do believe some tld's have more impact.

Todd Malicoat
I'll take three strong .edu's vs. 6 strong .coms any day:)

Link Relationships Between If two websites link to one another's documents, subsequent links
Sites between the two or to a third party site which the other has
Avg 2.31 | Std. Dev. 0.91 already linked to may reduce the value of the link partially or fully.

2K
I doubt, because this is natural in topical communities.

Ammon Johns
Creating 'pockets' of links, cyclic linking structures, can make the link structure look artificially inflated.

EGOL
Sites of the highest quality link to each other all of the time.

Existence of Link on Other If a link to a website's documents already exists on other


Pages of Site documents of the linking site, further links from other pages may
Avg 2.15 | Std. Dev. 0.95 not be as valuable or may be discounted entirely.

Dan Thies
Why would the engines do this? Links to a page from multiple pages implies that the page is more
important, additional links allows for broader keyword coverage in link text

Scottie Claiborne
Not sure - are you talking about sitewide links from external sites? Assuming this to be true. (RAND:
Sitewides or simply multiples)

Rate of Content Changes to The rate of new content and content updates on a document may
Linking Page affect the value of links they pass. Freshly or frequently updated
Avg 2.15 | Std. Dev. 1.10 documents may provide greater value than older documents, or
older documents may offer more stable, trustworthy links,
depending on how the search engines view this data.

Ammon Johns
As before, changeable documents may gain greater link popularity thereby, which has a direct effect.

Dan Thies
Are you going to add "broken links on the linking page" to this some day?

Location of Link on Page A link that is visually closer to the top of a long page may be
Avg 2.15 | Std. Dev. 1.35 ascribed greater value depending on the format of the page and
the visual presence of other links.

2K
not valid question at the moment... should be "location of link in code"

Ammon Johns
Block level analysis, or indications that a link is in the footer will devalue the link considerably.

Dan Thies
oversimplified, but probably true with some caveats

DazzlinDonna
May be more important with MSN

Todd Malicoat
Becoming increasingly important I think, though probably not yet highly influential.

Updates/Changes to Link The updates or changes to a link itself, including title, anchor
Avg 2.15 | Std. Dev. 1.35 text, the link's location in a document or the document it points to
may be factors influencing its weight and relevance.

Dan Thies
yeah... switching a link often enough can probably make it nearly useless @ Google, but Y & M both
seem to love DigitalPoint link boxes

Scottie Claiborne
This question is a little misleading- changing the anchor text is important, but I don't think it's position on
the page matters, personally

Todd Malicoat
"link shadow" is an interesting variable...how long after a link is removed does it retain it's value.

Visual Tags Affecting Link Bold, Hx or other tags ascribing greater visual import to a link
Text may be used to determine if a link's value should be greater than
Avg 1.69 | Std. Dev. 1.14 other links on the page.
Scottie Claiborne
Possibly true. I believe it would depend on the overall markup of the page.

Link Title The link title attribute may be used by some search engines as a
Avg 1.54 | Std. Dev. 1.08 factor in rating a link's relevance or effect. This factor may be
more relevant if the anchor text is nonexistent or without meaning
(i.e. an arrow -> or "click here").

Dan Thies
Link titles are not visible to users

Jill Whalen
These don't appear to be indexed by engines.

URL, Technical, Hosting & Server Side Factors:

These factors affect a document's rankings by virtue of their affect on technical,


spidering/indexing or trust areas of the search engines' rankings.

Hide contributor comments

Factor Name Description

Accessibility of Inaccessible documents could be due to 404 errors, server mishaps,


Document plug-in requirements or other technical issues. Accessibility can also be
Avg 4.31 | Std. Dev. 1.32 compromised by using URL re-directs that search engine spiders
cannot follow, hiding content behind select forms, javascript or other
hard-to-spider forms of navigation.

Ammon Johns
Depends on the issue in question.

Danny Sullivan
not a ranking issue; an indexing issue, same for most of rest below

Scottie Claiborne
If they can't access them... they can't index them.

Todd Malicoat
If they can't spider you, you can't rank.

Session ID Variables Session variables can produce hazardous search rankings as


Avg 3.62 | Std. Dev. 1.08 duplicates of a URL's contents are indexed hundreds or thousands of
times, diluting the incoming links and ranking power of the page as a
stand-alone document.

Dan Thies
Feeding session IDs in URLs to spiders is one of the dumbest things you can do to a website

Noarchive/NoIndex The noarchive and noindex directives instruct search engines not to
Use & Robots.txt cache the page in their index or save its content. This can impact site
Avg 3.31 | Std. Dev. 1.54 rankings for that content as the search engines bypass cannot rank
content that they are unaware of. Robots.txt can also be used to issue
these commands.

Ammon Johns
The use of those directives in Robots.txt would be invalid. Those arguments can only be correctly used in
the Robots meta tag.

Bill Slawski
These are two separate issues, and should probably be separated.

Dan Thies
beyond the obvious, overuse of noindex (instead of robots.txt) can be as bad as duplicate content -
picture the spider fetching 500 pages and finding a noindex on 400 of them - you think they'll be back for
the other 10,000 on the site?

Jill Whalen
Well of course if an engine can't access the site, they can't index it, so it has the most influence of
anything!

Dynamic Parameters in Multiple parameters in a dynamic URL can often mean that a search
URL engines spider will choose to ignore the document. SE reps have long
Avg 3.23 | Std. Dev. 1.19 urged site creators to limit dynamic parameters to 2, optimally to 1 so
that spiders will easily crawl them.

Dan Thies
Wanna see a URL with 5 variables in the top 3 on all major search engines for a $5 search term?

Jill Whalen
only matters if the search engine can't spider it

Scottie Claiborne
This only seems to affect very complex URL's these days

Use of Web Page Frames can impact many SEO-related issues as the separation of
Frames URLs can devalue the links coming to the page(s) and dilute the
Avg 3.15 | Std. Dev. 1.10 ranking power of a single document over multiples. There are
technology solutions like CSS that can make framed pages usable, but
classic HTML frames are particularly difficult to rank at the search
engines.

Dan Thies
Indexing isn't the problem, it's navigability - dumping searchers into a framed page without the frames can
leave them stranded. Basic link analysis will inherently devalue traditional framesets, because the global
navigation links are only on one "page".

Hosting Uptime If a site's hosting is inconsistent and frequently not returning pages, the
Avg 3.00 | Std. Dev. 1.18 search engines may devalue the rankings of documents at the site, or
worse, may not spider many pages. Reliable uptime could have the
opposite effect, engendering the site to search engines via its
accessibility.

Dan Thies
Yahoo hates spotty hosting, unless you buy it from them....

Michael Martinez
I think the issue of valuation should be treated as separate from crawlability.
Geographic Hosting Geography of hosting may play a small role in determining language or
Location country specific targeting and relevancy at the search engines.
Avg 2.54 | Std. Dev. 1.39

2K
MSN uses this heavily, google also has a small, but still clear difference.

DazzlinDonna
Occasionally, a site will ranked top 10 in the hosting country, but not at all worldwide.

Scottie Claiborne
May have an affect for regional variations of engines but not for the primary index, it seems.

IP-Based Content Although difficult to detect, search engines finding evidence of IP-based
Delivery content delivery on a website are likely to penalize or devalue that site
Avg 2.08 | Std. Dev. 1.21 in the results.

2K
very true...

Dan Thies
I assume we're rating whether "getting banned for cloaking" would be a major factor in your site's
rankings?

Todd Malicoat
A very in depth hand check is the only place I can see this having strong significance.

Domain Registration The domain registration information may be used by search engines to
Information identify spammers or violators of guidelines and reduce or penalize the
Avg 1.69 | Std. Dev. 082 value of their sites in the SERPs.

EGOL
Only for very new sites of less than a year or two.

Todd Malicoat
The Wayback Machine is one of the first things I check when looking at a new site.

Domain Registration The length of time a domain has been registered for may be used to
Length determine the legitimacy or trust given to a site. Longer registration
Avg 1.62 | Std. Dev. 0.74 periods may denote greater trust placed in the site.

Todd Malicoat
Seems like a pretty logical quality indicator to me

URL Length The overall length of a URL may be used as a component in trust or
Avg 1.46 | Std. Dev. 0.63 value - exceptionally long URLs might be viewed as unusable and more
likely to be spam.

2K
it's not the length, it's the levels that can harm.

Dan Thies
We've done research on this - SERPs don't look different from "the web" in terms of URL length.

Robots.txt Presence The existence of a robots.txt file indicating that crawling and caching by
Avg 1.31 | Std. Dev. 1.07 search engines is permitted may have influence at any of the major
search engines.

Dan Thies
jibba jabba

Detrimental Ranking Factors:

These metrics measure certain factors that are perceived to negatively affect rankings in the
search engines. These include specifically prohibited activities and those that can damage
reputation or ranking based on their lowering of trust, quality or relevance inputs.

Hide contributor comments

Factor Name Description

Keyword Spamming Stuffing, stacking or overusing key terms in an attempt to appear


Avg 3.69 | Std. Dev. 0.91 "relevant" for terms/phrases may negatively affect rankings.

Ammon Johns
Greatly increases the chance of a spam report, all of which are followed up to some extent.

Dan Thies
Wanna watch me over-optimize a page from #1 to "not in top 1000?"

Scottie Claiborne
This can cause issues

Delivery Disparities One of the most penalized tactics used both by savvy, malicious
Avg 3.54 | Std. Dev. 1.22 optimizers and unaware web coders is separation of content delivery.
This can be done by user-agent, IP address, geography or other
factors and involved delivering one set of content to one user and
another to others. If "others" includes search engines and this
process is detected, it may results in harsh bans or devaluations in
the results.

Ammon Johns
Depends on extent, and also on method of detection.

Jill Whalen
Only a factor if there's deception.

Scottie Claiborne
Assuming you mean detected cloaking... not undetected cloaking. It can't affect you if they can't find it

Todd Malicoat
Seems very similar to "IP-Based Content Delivery" listed above.

Duplicate Content Prevalent on the web as a source of lower rankings, duplicating a


Avg 3.38 | Std. Dev. 1.15 large portion of a web site or page's content onto another page/site
can be harmful to one or both sources. Whether this duplication is in
violation of intent or copyright has little to do with how search engines
evaluate and list duplicate content.
DazzlinDonna
Dup filters are often adjusted and can cause huge swings in rankings.

Jill Whalen
Only means one or two instances of the content will generally show up.

Canonical Issues A highly dangerous and frequent problem with large website in
Avg 3.31 | Std. Dev. 1.20 particular, canonical issues stem from duplicates of data existing on
multiple URLs, typically all controlled by the same entity. For
example, url.com and www.url.com and www.url.com/index.html all
hosting the same content, receiving multiple links to each and being
listed separately in search listings may negatively affect the rankings
of the intended single page of content.

Dan Thies
a special case of duplicate content, but thanks for separating these two issues

DazzlinDonna
Can often, though not always, cause huge problems with Google.

Jill Whalen
A problem in that only one instance would generally show. Which shouldn't really be a problem in an of
itself.

Todd Malicoat
I think SE's are improving their handle on this consistently

Link Spamming Whether via automated blog or guestbook spamming, hexcode


Avg 3.23 | Std. Dev. 1.05 submissions to site searches or other, less nefarious methods, any
links garnered via automated or "unnatural" systems or perceived to
be obtained thusly by search engines may hurt ranking abilities of
websites or individual pages.

Dan Thies
They'd love to make this a factor, but how can a search engine determine the responsible party?

Scottie Claiborne
I think it simply isn't counted, but does not cause a penalty

Todd Malicoat
Excessive reciprocal linking, exceptional off topic links, Un-natural anchor text ratios, excessive "links
page" links could all be considered in this

Linking to "Bad The outbound links on a website could indicate a low quality
Neighborhoods" document, or worse, participation in manipulation or link schemes.
Avg 3.08 | Std. Dev. 0.73 Search engines have been known to harshly penalize these tactics -
even banning some sites on a first offense.

Todd Malicoat
It would make sense that being associated with gambling, porn, payday loans, or other "spam" words
could have serious detriment. Having a link to your site NEAR these links could potentially be detrimental
eventually I would assume as well (if not currently used).

Illegal Content Content which violates a local, regional, national or international law
Avg 3.00 | Std. Dev. 1.47 (most often child pornography, defamation, or promotion of criminal
or terrorist activities) can be banned from search engines.
Bill Slawski
Also copyright infringement under the DMCA.

Invalid Code The use of code which may not be readable or spiderable to search
Avg 2.85 | Std. Dev. 1.17 engine bots, or which creates infinite loops or other hazards could
affect rankings directly, or by causing lost indexing of pages by
search engines.

2K
Bad markup => poor content semantics/structure.

Ammon Johns
Depends on the extent of the problem. Sending a spider into a loop would not be good and would likely
prevent indexing of that page and others.

URL Hijacking URL Hijacking includes the infamous use of 302 re-directs to assume
Avg 2.69 | Std. Dev. 0.72 control via the search results of a well listed domain. This issue can
cause ranking issues over the short term for the hijacked site and
long term potential problems for the hijacking site should the attempt
be discovered.

Dan Thies
Assuming that the search engine could catch it, and determine the intent? Most "hijacking" is just
someone trying to count the clicks on a link, which is perfectly legitimate. 302 bugs belong to the search
engines, not the web.

DazzlinDonna
This can either be non-important or very important depending upon how the search engine deals with it at
any given moment.

Scottie Claiborne
The traffic is still delivered to the hijacked site, and should the 302 be dropped, the changed page is
usually caught quickly.

Unethical Practices This can range far and wide by the search engines' definitions but
Avg 2.62 | Std. Dev. 1.21 includes providing false information, engaging in bad business
practices, cheating or using fraudulent methods to profit from your
website, business or search listing, etc.

Ammon Johns
Only where this increases the likelihood of spam reports, or otherwise draws unwanted scrutiny.

Dan Thies
If someone catches you and decides to take action?

Jill Whalen
The engines don't generally make judgments about a site's content.

Broken Links Linking to documents or URLs that return 404 may negatively impact
Avg 2.54 | Std. Dev. 1.28 search rankings for the linking documents or the website as a whole.

Bill Slawski
A different impact based upon whether the links are internal or external.

Dan Thies
you finally got to it... I've got plenty of cases where broken links took pages down @ G and Y. Fixing the
problem brought the pages back up quickly @ G, Y was much slower... this can be reproduced, but who
would want to?

DazzlinDonna
Sometimes this is the only thing that has caused my site rankings to fall. Removing dead links brought the
rankings right back.

Todd Malicoat
Seems like a fairly good "quality indicator" of the staleness of a page, though I don't think it's used as
often an extensively as it probably should be.

Un-"safe" Content Content which is deemed "unsafe" for minors in a region may be
Avg 2.46 | Std. Dev. 1.15 penalized or wiped from the normal search results.

Michael Martinez
This is really dependent upon user SafeMode settings.

NOTE: These represent the opinions of myself (randfish) and those who have checked the work
of this document, including contributors from SEOChat and colleagues from around the SEO
world who have contributed via e-mail.

Special Thanks (in addition to the contributors) go to the following:

• Dave
• rmccarley

For questions, comments or to contribute to this article, please e-mail me - rand@seomoz.org.