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

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

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

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

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

3.msn. filters. To believe otherwise is naive. for sure. type in: linksite:www. No more . It is becoming easier to determine the best thing to do. Google states that they do not provide hand-tweaked "boosts".but that they simply cannot Try to avoid any Google penalties or demotions.000 links Yahoo . Google reported only a small fraction of the . In 20052006. 2007 . penalties Feb.they are mixed.alltheweb. Wouldn't YOU swat the most obnoxious flies? I would. Their only alternative is to foment fear and doubt by implying that any violation of their "suggestions" will result in swift and fierce Current TYPICAL Backlink Reporting Ratios Google . FAST counted best (www.domain-name.domainname.1. (This is somewhat dated . They occur. Google used to count (report) the links pages from all PR4+ pages that linked to you.) There are many anecdotes about Goggle "taking care" of a problem. In Yahoo search.G is fixing these things. 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. due to logistical considerations. or you will be penalized.000 links - 65 Incoming links from high-ranking In 2004. 119 - Phrase-based linkdomain:www. but are silent about hand-tweaked Try MSN http://beta.Google patent granted. and they are NOT just greater than PR4 . Do not use phrases that have been associated and correlated with known spamming techniques. top of page 3. you tell me. HOT 63 Page Rank - 64 Total incoming links ("backlinks") Use link:www.Yahoo (parent) broke it. What phrases? Ahh.30 links MSN .

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

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

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

Query meaning changes over time. affiliates BAD 113 Penalties . and HOSTS it elsewhere. WMG is the worst offender . Just one of the sandbox factors. but don't do it when caught. 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. Should result in IMPRISONMENT. 100 queries per day for the same term. because you can't control them. Did you get tons of links in a short time period? 3. However. What is your uptime? Ever notice a daily time when your server is unavailable. accomplished through the tactic of link buying. a few changes. 1. Google patent . Get a Google API. with . esp.S/B >99. mandatory minimum sentence. of just aren't there! An ISP maintenance interruption can cause delisting. such as web rings. due to current events You MUST have at least 1 (one) incoming link (back link) from some website somewhere. new links are not. that Google is aware of. I think that Google will spank you when you cross the threshold. some speculate otherwise.. Google can block your IP. The 232 problem . to REMAIN in the index. from the same IP.3 Gigabyte address space wall. 42 BAD 110 Prior Site Ranking 111 Cloaking Google patent .2229 106 Temporal Link Analysis In a nut shell. forthwith! Grand Theft. Ideally. Does your page have links it really doesn't merit? 2.9% ?? 116 - No more room Pages being dropped from large sites . this would be true. old links are valued. . Thousands of pages are disappearing from various ?? 112 Links from bad neighborhoods.High = Good Google promises to Ban! (Presenting one webpage to the search engine spider.Google hates link-buying. like about 1:30 AM? How diligent must Googlebot be? This is the worst reason to get dropped .resulting from Domain Hijacking (work with Google to fix) Penalty . This is intended to thwart rapid incoming link accumulation. . and another webpage to everybody else..) 41. Google even mentions them by name.) Google says that incoming links from bad sites can't hurt you. The criminal COPIES your entire website. when other associated factors are thrown into the mix.Google has hit the 4.Google TOS violation 114 - 115 Server Reliability . the penalty isn't worth it.gobbles up tons of Google server time by nervous Nellie webmasters. because it corrupts their PR model in the worst way possible. Bull! Google now has over 8 Gigs of indexed pages. Do you have links from high-PR.

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