Google Ranking Factors - SEO Checklist

There are "over 200 SEO factors" that Google uses to rank pages in the Google search results (SERPs). What are the search engine optimization rules? Here is the speculation - educated guesses by SEO webmasters on top webmaster forums. Should you wish to achieve a high ranking, the various confirmed and suspected Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Rules are listed below. Google Ranking Factor Checklist 1. Positive ON-Page SEO Factors. 2. Negative ON-Page SEO Factors. 3. Positive OFF-Page SEO Factors. 4. Negative OFF-Page SEO Factors. Brief Google Update List The Sand Box
The SEO Rules listed below are NOT listed by weight, and not by any presumed relevance - THAT exercise is left up to the reader!

1. Alleged POSITIVE ON-Page SEO Google Ranking Factors (38)
(Keeping in mind the converse, of course, that when violated, some of these factors immediately jump into the NEGATIVE On-Page Ranking Factors domain.) The term "Keyword" below refers to the "Keyword Phrase", which can be one word or more.
Green rows confirmed by Google patent of Aug. 10, 2006 Note Patent Claim #

Factor #

ON-Page SEO Factors

Brief Note
Google patent - Topic extraction For keyword selection, try Google Ad Words - Google Trends First word is best, second is second best, etc. Same as in page-name-with-hyphens


1 2

Keyword in URL Keyword in Domain name

Keywords - Header
3 Keyword in Title tag Keyword in Title tag - close to beginning Title tag 10 - 60 characters, no special characters. Shows theme - less than 200 chars. Google no longer "relies" upon this tag, but will often use it. Shows theme - less than 10 words. Every word in this tag MUST appear somewhere in



Keyword in Description meta tag



Keyword in Keyword metatag

HOT 6 7 8 9 10 11 Keywords .the keyword spamming threshold % varies with the topic. in large font - 12 Keywords .total page optimization score TPOS). H2 and H3 Keyword font size Use Hx font style tags appropriately "Strong is treated the same as bold.may still be in effect to some degree as a red flag.(all keywords/ total words) Some report topic sensitivity . and match word order.two or three hyphens only. it can be penalized for irrelevance.tripped a threshold . Can be important at top of page. it may be considered page deeper than 4 clicks Appropriate links between lower-level pages SITE 15 To internal pages.Body Keyword density in body text 5 . - 13 Keyword in alt text - 14 Keyword in links to site pages (anchor Links out anchor text use keyword? text) NAVIGATION .keywords? SITE SITE SITE 54 16 17 18 - All Internal links valid? Efficient . If not. Matt Cutts July 2006 Keyword proximity (for 2+ keywords) Directly adjacent is best Keyword phrase order Keyword prominence (how early in page/tag) Does word order in the page match word order in the query? Try to anticipate query. Use hyphenated filenames.INTERNAL LINKS Link should contain keywords.Other Should describe graphic .6% .tree-like structure Intra-site linking NAVIGATION . The filename "linked to" should contain the keywords. Use a free link checker. .20% . italic is treated the same as emphasis" . TRY FOR two clicks to any page . I like this one. If not.Do NOT fill with spam (Was part of Google Florida OOP . Individual keyword density 1 . .the body text. Validate all links to all pages on site. but not long ones . when summed with all other on-page optimization . No single word should appear more than twice.OUTGOING LINKS . Google purportedly no longer uses this tag. in bold.(each keyword/ total words) Keyword in H1. but others do.

Unfortunately. demotion probable? Google patent .Amount of Content Change 28 27 29 Freshness of Links - 30 31 32 Frequency of Updates Page Theming . you must devote the time necessary to police your outgoing links .Avoid "Link Churn" 56 61.Ratio of old pages to new pages Google patent . pets-mart) Four or more= BAD.Should be on sites seem to be the highest status . Less than 100 links out total OTHER ON-Page Factors . but readily accepts 2-3 times that sites seem to be given a high status . So do I. Do not link to link sites seem to be given a high status . Google patent .<update> .TLD - 25 File Size - 26 Hyphens in URL 6. CAREFUL . 62 22 23 20 Outgoing link Anchor Text 21 Link stability over time All External links valid? Validate all links periodically.May be good or bad Excellent for high-trust sites May not be so good for newer. resulting in site demotion.if news.55 19 To external pages. pet-smart. ref 2k - 24 Domain Name Extension Top Level Domain . such as this page. 13 8.Links can and do go bad. Preferred method for indicating a space. low-trust sites Frequent updates = frequent spidering = newer cache Page exhibit theme? General consistency? Keyword stemming Stem. descriptive Google patent . Smaller files are preferred <40K (lots of them). stems.. some subject matter. Spammers jumped all over it .info sites can rank highly.Link only to good sites. Not so much. starts to look spammy Ten = Spammer for sure. retail or auction! Google likes fresh pages. resulting in the need for the highest scrutiny/ action by Google. now . Perhaps one would do well with the new .Changes over time Newer the better .they are your responsibility. Try not to exceed 100K page size (however. 9 27 Freshness of Pages Freshness . 7 12. requires larger file sizes).no safe haven there.. Google says limit to 100.e. sites excel in encompassing all the spam/ crud sites.keywords? Google patent . New pages .info domain class. where there can be no actual space One or two= excellent for separating keywords (i. stemmer.

less than 100 is good. Overuse of H1 tags has been mentioned.cookie-cutter sites with massive inter-linking. Too high keyword repetition (keyword stuffing) may get you the OOP. top of page 2. Meta-tag stuffing. Subsequent updates have also targeted affiliates. age of site - Note: For ALL the POSITIVE On-Page factors listed above.stemming. accepted web optimization practices. Old is Golden.size for the sake of size. BAD 39 Text presented in graphics form only No ACTUAL body text on the page BAD 40 Affiliate site? BAD 41 Over optimization penalty (OOP) . Google likes LARGE sites. and therefore better sites.Old is best. Applied Semantics Synonyms. Google patent . for various reasons. less is even better 5 36 Site Size . The Florida update went after affiliates with a vengeance . but little unique content. This has resulted in the advent of machine-generated 10. not all positive. CIRCA white paper LSI Latent Semantic Indexing . no proof Keep it minimized . Age of page vs.000-page spam sites . Alleged Negative ON-Page SEO Google Ranking Factors (24) Factor # NEGATIVE ON-Page SEO Factors Note Brief Note Text represented graphically is invisible to search engines. stemification 33 34 35 URL length OTHER ON-SITE Factors Larger sites are presumed to be better funded. better organized. age of other pages on site Newer pages on an older site will get faster recognition.use somewhat less than the 2.Speculation. or made them supplemental. So can Google-Bombing. PAGE RANK can OVERRIDE them all.000 characters allowed by IE .Google likes big sites 4 3 37 Site Age 38 Age of page vs.flower and travel affiliates were hit hard . stemmist. Penalty for over-compliance with well-established. Google has caught on and dumped millions of pages. better constructed.

FFAs (Free For All's) Also. This was possibly implemented to frustrate SERP manipulators. which would detract from theming. Google patent Google is now switching between a "newer" cache. This penalty has been loosened . and several "older" caches. = demotion Targeting too many unrelated keywords on a page. alt text. Paranoia. and you can end up being penalized. "This does not apply to a small number of sites" . or caution? You decide.BAD 42 Link to a bad neighborhood Don't link to link farms. Also. A site may go "bad". Here is my list of Poison Words for Adsense. I always want to try to put my "best foot forward".many of these words now appear in normal context. ref egol File Google DMCA In body. using meta refresh. frequently drawing from BOTH at the same time. Including the George Carlin 7 bad words you can't say on TV. author's guess) with the same web host. This is not good for you.within the same C block (IP=xxx. which when used together. .CCC.ethnic slur BAD 45 Poison words BAD 46 Excessive cross-linking BAD BAD ?? 47 48 49 Stealing images/ text blocks from another domain Keyword stuffing threshold Keyword dilution ?? 50 Page edit .can reduce consistency . (this author guesses the number 10. Easy to spot. if you are linking to the originally legitimate URL. But watch your step. and reduce the importance of your REALLY important keywords. Did your last edit substantially alter BAD 43 Redirect thru refresh metatags BAD 44 Vile language . meta If you have many sites (>10. with no problems. some failed real estate sites have been switched to p0rn by unscrupulous webmasters. etc.Google responds strongly if you are reported. and less of democratic web voting. don't forget to check the Google status of EVERYONE you link to periodically..such as the word juice. . See why I wrote that zero? I don't even want to get a proximity "hosted on a local server". easy to penalize. become something else entirely . and the word l0ve. Don't immediately send your visitor to another page other than the one he/ she clicked on. for the traffic. avoid combinations of normal words. plus the 150 or so that followed. Don't shoot yourself right straight in the foot. even though you did nothing. For instance. either. The word "Links" in a title tag has been suggested to be a bad idea. Matt Cutts July 2006 Copyright violation . . prolific cross-linking can indicate more of a single entity. . JAWG) .

33 ?? ?? ?? ?? 53 54 55 56 57 58 51 Frequency of Content Change 52 Freshness of Anchor Text Google patent .one reason only .not only does the Multiple entrance pages in the top ten SERPs . Google used to reward these pages. blatant exceptions to these official pronouncements. with their twin at #5 page gets pushed down.Google advises against this.Google advises against this. (I see changes here .Google advises against this. but the main it daily.STILL Intentional self-exclusion A red flag .No penalty .I see doorway page disappear. (The big G does not even use Simple HTML verification is NOT required (but DOCTYPE declarations. OK . reduce variables (".) I believe Google does penalize for hidden text.Too frequent = bad Google patent . OK .know pitfalls . or hiding links Most (all-?) SE spiders can't read Flash content Provide an HTML alternative. The fallacy of this is that attentive webmasters can readily observe continuing. 6-7 32. this works pretty well to keep webmasters in line. Although they don't catch everyone.) OK . All over the place . is a welcome fix.your keywords. (The text is the same color as the background. since it is an attempt to manipulate rank. Spidering Problems with Frames .Too frequent = bad Problematic .this 6 months now.a sneaky link. Doesn't matter . no more than 2 or 3". Google picks one (usually the oldest).) quality factor . as well . M. HTML code violations Unless of course. doorway page Dynamic Pages Excessive Javascript Flash page . Reported numerous times. and shoves it Duplicate content (YOUR'S) to the top. or experience lower SERP positioning.but nothing is ever done. and hence cannot be seen by the viewer. I would like to add this comment: There are many things that Google would LIKE to have webmasters do. Since the above 4 items are so controversial. required for advised.PQF). and pushes the second choice down.shorten URLs. Gateway.Cutts July 2006). . or theme? Expect noticeable SERP bouncing. This Duplicate content (THEIR'S) below has been a big issue with stolen content .No penalty . but can be visible to Invisible text the search engine spiders. the page is totally FUBAR. lose the session IDs Don't use for redirects. There they are at #2. since it could contribute to your page W3C validation.NOT Use of Frames Robot exclusion "no index" tag Single pixel links - 59 - 60 - 61 - 62 - - .Google advises against this. IN GENERAL.No penalty .the thief (Highjack) usurps your former position with YOUR OWN content.

000 links - 65 Incoming links from high-ranking In 2004. penalties Feb. Google states that they do not provide hand-tweaked "boosts".G is fixing these Current TYPICAL Backlink Reporting Ratios Google . type in: linksite:www. you tell me.domainname. for sure.domainname. filters.Yahoo (parent) broke it. No more . Their only alternative is to foment fear and doubt by implying that any violation of their "suggestions" will result in swift and fierce demotion.but that they simply cannot control. Google reported only a small fraction of the .1. They occur. top of page 3. It is becoming easier to determine the best thing to Try MSN http://beta. due to logistical considerations. and they are NOT just greater than PR4 . HOT 63 Page Rank - 64 Total incoming links ("backlinks") Historically.30 links MSN .msn. (This is somewhat dated linkdomain:www. Google used to count (report) the links pages from all PR4+ pages that linked to you. 119 - Phrase-based ranking.Google patent granted. Alleged POSITIVE OFF-Page SEO Google Ranking Factors (43) Factor # POSITIVE OFF-Page SEO Factors Note Brief Note - INCOMING LINKS : Based on the Number and Quality of links to you Google link reporting continues to display just a SMALL fraction of your actual backlinks. In 20052006.3.) There are many anecdotes about Goggle "taking care" of a problem. or you will be penalized. but are silent about hand-tweaked are mixed. 2007 . To believe otherwise is naive. Do not use phrases that have been associated and correlated with known spamming techniques.000 links Yahoo . What phrases? Ahh. Wouldn't YOU swat the most obnoxious flies? I would. In Yahoo search. Try to avoid any Google penalties or demotions. FAST counted best ( Use link:www.

Legitimate sites CAN'T GET IN But you can't. 2. In Feb. This 5. 1. most Flawed concept . Corrupt Editors 4. .attempt to hide link? DIRECTORIES : 81 Site listed in DMOZ Directory? This is a tough one.Big time boost (Hilltop Algorithm) Recently reported to give a big boost ! HOT 77 78 79 80 Referrer page . key phrase? inbound link to you #1 result in SERP does NOT EVEN need to have the keyword(s) on the page. in what seemed like an almost random manner.links.Same theme From the same or related theme? BETTER Referrer page . Why would you do that? Popularity of referring page Popularity = desirability. 2007. 66 Acceleration of link popularity (". Google's directory comes STRAIGHT from the The "Secret Hand" DMOZ Issues DMOZ directory. . after waiting over 2 YEARS (33 months). ANYWHERE!!! What does that tell you? (Enables Google-bombing search for "miserable failure") 28 71 72 73 74 75 69 70 Age of link Google patent . used to be a good thing" .speculative Too fast = artificial? Cause of -30 penalty? Sandbox penalty imposed if new site? HOT Anchor text of Contains keyword.communism insignificant category.Different theme From different or unrelated theme? WORSE Image map link? Problematic? Javascript link? Problematic..Old = Good. Frequency of change of anchor text Google patent . Not even in the lowest.Not good.makes yours more important Position of link on referrer page Early in HTML is best Keyword density on referring page For search keyword(s) HTML title of referrer page Same subject/ theme? 76 Link from "Expert" site? Google patent . Dirty Tricks Employed 6. I guess .. Martha) FOR EACH INCOMING LINK : 67 68 Page rank of the referring page Based on the quality of links to you Google patent Link acquisition speed boost . Competitive Sites Barred Formal DMOZ Bribe Instructions. "Personal Pages". Rude dmoz editors site cannot get in. You should try to get into dmoz. Google markedly upgraded (increased) the number of links that they report. respect # of outgoing links on referrer page Fewer is better . No Accountability Be careful whom you approach with the old spondulix 3. It is almost impossible to get into DMOZ.

due to proliferation of computer-generated pages.many swear it isn't. AOL is making millions. Google needs to DO SOMETHING about populating its own directory with the skewed.000+ sites in the personal category. ungoverned. Bigger sites = better SERPs Now. unpoliced.conferred authority upon site. conventional Complete . and acceptable. Site listed in LookSmart Directory? Boost? Another great vote for your site.doesn't work Free editing? Nothing is free. poorly determined results from the dysfunctional Open Directory Project .Tree Structure Site Map and more site map Site Size - 93 Site Theming . Temporary boost for very new sites . and needs to police it's run-amok entity.Old shows stability Large-sized site. new pages indexed easily The opposite of the sand box. consistent. consisting of profiteering powerego editors feathering their own nests . What a waste of time! UPDATE: This page (not site) finally got indexed in June 2007. this must be positive. many pages preferred . retaliatory. etc. thanks to a legitimate editor. Google has been dropping pages like crazy. Enough already! 82 I just don't "measure up" to the other 20. DMOZ Sucks Discussions DMOZ Problems Discussions The Google Directory is produced by an unknown. ill-intentioned.Very New Boost - 90 91 92 Site Directory .the ODP.keywords in anchor text Previously.the ODP! Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely DMOZ category? Theme fit category? General or geographic category? Both are possible.) Expert site? (Hilltop or Condensed Hilltop) 88 Site Age .I estimate that this boost lasts from 1 week to 3 weeks Yahoo does it too. Big boost . incomplete. thus page. fewer pages preferred.) directories link to you. Site listed in inktomi? Inktomi has been absorbed internally by Yahoo.You can get in by paying $299 each Site listed in Yahoo Directory? year. BOTW.I kissed them off long ago. I'm not the suck-up type . Site listed in other directories Directory listing boost (If other RESPECTED (About. Many swear it is worth it . No money was paid.logical. quality incoming links Google patent Boost for long-established sites. Influences SERPs . monopoly enterprise. Site exhibit theme? Use many related terms? Have you used a keyword suggestion tool? HOT HOT 83 84 85 86 87 - 89 Site Age .

Google knows you are Domain Registration Time serious.# of visitors. etc.Recent = Good? How they left. 35 15. with a zero conversion rate. 37 45.USER BEHAVIOR: Currently implemented through the Google tool bar? Page traffic Google patent . Register for 1 year.16.CTR Google patent . SITE METRICS .21 36. is it a throw-away domain? Are associated sites legitimate? Google patent . Relatively long time = indicates relevance hit Add brownie points. link clicked. Some providers of traffic for traffic's sake may be considered "bad neighborhoods".Bookmark = Good Bookmark add/ removal frequency Google patent . because they know it's mostly phony? Have you read about Traffic Power? - 120 Traffic Buying (added) .How often is a page clicked on? Time spent on page Google patent .A thesaurus? 34. 40 104 39 105 top of page 4. increasing trend = good Referrer Authoritative referrer? Keyword Keyword searches used to find you Time spent on domain DOMAIN OWNER BEHAVIOR : Google patent .USER BEHAVIOR : Site Traffic Currently implemented through the Google tool bar? Google patent . Can Google discount your traffic (for true popularity). ownership. trend Page Selection Rate .Domain Expiration Date Register for 5 years. 35 38 100 101 102 103 99 94 95 96 97 98 PAGE METRICS .# of visitors. 46 47 34.No spam. where they went Back button. etc.Relatively long time = indicates relevance hit Did user Bookmark page? Google patent . Alleged NEGATIVE OFF-Page SEO Google Ranking Factors (13) Factor # NEGATIVE OFF-Page SEO Factors Note Brief Note Have you paid a company for web traffic? It is probably low quality traffic.

gobbles up tons of Google server time by nervous Nellie webmasters. Query meaning changes over time. with . some speculate otherwise.Google TOS violation 114 - 115 Server Reliability . Google can block your IP. to REMAIN in the index. affiliates BAD 113 Penalties .3 Gigabyte address space wall. Just one of the sandbox factors. a few changes. accomplished through the tactic of link buying. the penalty isn't worth it.) 41. Get a Google API. mandatory minimum sentence. . forthwith! Grand Theft.Google has hit the 4. The criminal COPIES your entire website. because you can't control them. 42 BAD 110 Prior Site Ranking 111 Cloaking Google patent .) Google says that incoming links from bad sites can't hurt you. 100 queries per day for the same term.Google hates link-buying. this would be true. Ideally. because it corrupts their PR model in the worst way possible. 1. However. Bull! Google now has over 8 Gigs of indexed pages. WMG is the worst offender .S/B > just aren't there! An ISP maintenance interruption can cause delisting. but don't do it when caught.. Do you have links from high-PR. Thousands of pages are disappearing from various ?? 112 Links from bad neighborhoods. Google even mentions them by name. Does your page have links it really doesn't merit? 2. The 232 problem . What is your uptime? Ever notice a daily time when your server is unavailable. old links are valued.High = Good Google promises to Ban! (Presenting one webpage to the search engine spider. Should result in IMPRISONMENT. such as web rings. and another webpage to everybody else. Google patent .. unrelated sites? 18 BAD 107 Change of Meanings 108 Zero links to you BAD 109 Link-buying (Very good IF you don't get caught. Did you get tons of links in a short time period? 3.resulting from Domain Hijacking (work with Google to fix) Penalty . that Google is aware of. new links are not. esp. like about 1:30 AM? How diligent must Googlebot be? This is the worst reason to get dropped . I think that Google will spank you when you cross the threshold. of say. when other associated factors are thrown into the mix. and HOSTS it elsewhere.9% ?? 116 - No more room Pages being dropped from large sites .2229 106 Temporal Link Analysis In a nut shell. due to current events You MUST have at least 1 (one) incoming link (back link) from some website somewhere. from the same IP. This is intended to thwart rapid incoming link accumulation. .

Multiple changing factors are applied daily. Not only are the "weights" of the factors changed.when it doesn't matter. Change is the only constant.) to harm your ranking .. but the formula itself changes. . I put this in the negative factors section. People are still However.. by dumping computer-generated pages. 117 Rank Manipulation by Competitor Attack HOT Impossible by Google definition (except for a few nasty tricks. your only alternative to first page SERP exposure may be Google Ad Words (you pay for exposure).huge websites. right before our very eyes.hats off to Google. some the above factors are being "tweaked" daily. Content theft causing you to get be link spammers) a duplicate content penalty. an astute observer noticed that Google stealing my content. . but nobody changed their website to read : trumps me (in Google) with my Old verbiage = "There is nothing a competitor can do own content . Fun stuff. and often 3 identifiable Google Search Algos are currently in use. you are huge (PR=7 or greater)." New verbiage = "There is ALMOST nothing a competitor can do . even Ideally. I think that we are witnessing the evolution of search engine anti-seo sophistication. there will always be new ones! Examples Site-Wide Link Attack and 302 Redirect Attack and Hijacker Attack 118 Bouncing Ball Algorithm At least 2. The keyword density rules are flipped upon their noggins. there SHOULD be nothing that your though your content is the original competition can do to directly hurt your rankings. BUT. but I think that it is G just cleaning house.Google has problems tracking original authorship.. because your position is never secure." An obvious concession that Google thinks that at least some dirty tricks work! Of course. and less becomes more. If you simply cannot achieve top position. alternating pseudorandomly through the data centers. if they know the on-page rules. unless of course. GOOD LUCK NOW on trying to figure things out! IN ADDITION. YOWSA! Today's theory . I searched for an extremely competitive "2word term". like making your competition appear to (1. anybody can get #1 in a second. after a certain "commercial competitive level".. Today. An algo change can boost or demote your site. and I found that NOT ONE of the top ten Google SERPs had even one of the words on the page. the "semantic analysis" algo kicks in. G has moved to a daily dance.

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