There are over 100 SEO factors used by search engines to rank pages in search results. Here is a checklist of some of the most popularly cited factors. Please be aware that these rules are ever-changing. What may help you today may hurt you tomorrow!
For information on how to drive more traffic to your website through Google and other search engines, contact us.
Positive On-Page SEO Ranking Factors
Note: The term “Keyword” below refers to the “Keyword Phrase”, which can be one word or more.
- Keyword in URL – First word is best, second is second best, etc
- Keyword in domain name – Same as in page-name-with-hyphens
- Keywords – Header
- Keyword in title tag
- Keyword in Title tag – close to beginning
- Title tag 10 – 60 characters, no special characters
- Keywords in description and Meta tag – Shows theme
- Less than 200 chars.
- Google no longer relies upon this tag, but frequently uses it
- Keywords in keyword Meta tag – Shows theme
- Less than 10 words
- Every word in this tag MUST appear somewhere in the body. If not, it will be penalized for irrelevance
- NO single word should appear more than twice in the Meta tag as it is considered spam
- Google purportedly no longer values this tag, but others do
- Keywords – Body
- Keyword density in body text – 20% (all keywords/total words)
- Individual keyword density 6% – (each keyword/total words)
- Keyword in H1, H2 and H3 – Use H1 font style
- Keyword font size – In strong, bold, italic, etc.
- Keyword proximity (for 2+ keywords) – Adjacent is best
- Keyword phrase order – Anticipate query – match word order
- Keyword prominence (how early in page/tag) – Most important at top of page, in bold, in large font
- Keywords – Other
- Keyword in alt text
- Should describe graphic – Do NOT fill with spam
- Keyword in links to site pages (anchor text)
- Keyword in alt text
Navigation – Internal Links
- Link should contain keywords
- The filename “linked to” should contain the keywords
- Use hyphenated filenames, but not long ones
- All internal links valid
- Continually validate all links to all pages on site
- Efficient – tree-like structure
- Two clicks to any page – no page deeper than 4 clicks
- Intra-site linking
- Appropriate links between lower-level pages
- Breadcrumb style links where possible
Navigation – Outgoing Links
- Link only to good sites. Do not link to link farms
- Outgoing link Anchor Text – Should be on topic, descriptive
- Link stability over time – Avoid “Link Churn”
- All external links valid – Validate all links periodically
- Less than 100 links out total
- Google says limit to 100, but readily accepts 2-3 times that number
Other On-Page Factors
- Domain Name Class
- .edu seem to be given the highest status
- .org sites seem to be given high status
- .com sites excel in encompassing all the spam/crud sites, resulting in the need for the highest scrutiny/ action by Google
- File Size
- Absolutely do not exceed 100K page size
- Small files preferred <40K (lots of them)
- Hyphens in URL
- Preferred method for indicating a space, where there can be no actual space
- One or two= excellent for separating keywords
- Four or more= BAD, starts to look like spam
- Ten = Spammer for sure, demotion probable?
- Freshness of Pages – Changes over time
- Newer the better – if news, retail or auction!
- Google likes fresh pages
- Freshness – Amount of Content Change
- New pages – Ratio of old pages to new pages
- Frequency of Updates – Frequent updates = frequent spidering
- Page Theme – Page exhibit theme? General consistency?
- Keyword stemming – Stem, stems, stemmed, stemmer, stemming, stemmist, stemification
- Applied Semantics – Synonyms
- URL length – Keep it minimised – use somewhat less than the 2,000 characters allowed by IE – less than 100 is good, less even better
Other On-Site Factors
- Site Size – Google likes big sites
- Larger sites are presumed to be better funded, better organized, better constructed, and therefore better sites.
- Site Age (URL AGE) – Old is best
- Age of page vs. age of site
- Age of page vs. age of other pages on site
Negative On-Page SEO Ranking Factors
This is list of things to avoid when designing and/or grooming a site for SEO. Keep in mind that a lot of these items are not only unhelpful but in some cases they can be harmful to page rank.
- Text presented in graphics form only
- No ACTUAL body text on the page
- Text represented graphically is invisible to search engines
- Affiliate site are not all good
- Recent Google updates went after affiliates with a vengeance.
- Avoid flower, real-estate and travel affiliates.
- Avoid cookie-cutter sites with massive inter-linking, but little unique content.
- Recent Google updates went after affiliates with a vengeance.
- Link to a bad neighbourhood
- Don’t link to link farms, FFAs (Free For Alls)
- Don’t forget to check the Google status of EVERYONE you link to periodically. A site may go “bad”, and you can end up being penalized, even though you did nothing
- Redirect thru refresh metatags – Don’t immediately send your visitor to another page other than the one he/she clicked on.
- Vile language
- Ethnic slurs
- Foul language
- Also, avoid combinations of normal words, which when used together, become something else entirely – such as the word juice, and the word love.
- Excessive cross-linking – within the same C block (IP=xxx.xxx.CCC.xxx) The client have many sites with the same web host, prolific cross-linking can indicate more of a single entity, and less of democratic web voting
- Stealing images/text blocks from another domain
- Copyright violation – Google responds strongly
- Keyword stuffing threshold in body, meta tags, alt text, etc. = demotion
- Keyword dilution – Targeting too many unrelated keywords on a page, which would detract from the theme, and reduce the importance of your REALLY important keywords
- Page edit – can reduce consistency
- Google is now switching between a “Newer” cache, and an “Older” cache, frequently drawing from BOTH at the same time. Did your last edit substantially alter your keywords, or theme? Expect noticeable SERP bouncing
- Frequency of Content Change – Too frequent = bad
- Freshness of Anchor Text – Too frequent = bad
- Dynamic Pages are problematic – know pitfalls – shorten URLs, reduce variables, lose the session IDs
- Use mod_rewrite
- Flash page – NOT GOOD
- Most (all?) SE spiders can’t read Flash content unless accompanied by an xml feed.
- Provide an HTML alternative, or lose out
- No Frames
- Robot exclusion “no index” tag Intentional self-exclusion
- Single pixel links – A red flag – one reason only – a sneaky link
- Invisible text (Google is now devaluing some pages) – Google advises against this. We see this all over the place – but nothing is ever done unless someone reports it. (The text is the same colour as the background, and hence cannot be seen by the viewer, but is visible to the search engine spiders.)
- Gateway, doorway page – Google advises against this
- Multiple entrance pages in the top ten SERPs – Google advises against this
- Duplicate content (YOUR’S) Duplicate content (THEIR’S) (Highjack)
- Google picks one (usually the oldest), and shoves it to the top, and pushes the second choice down. Currently a big issue with stolen content – the thief usurps your former position with YOUR OWN content
- HTML code violations – Google advises against this
Positive Off-Page Google Ranking SEO Factors
- Page Rank – Based on the Number and Quality of links to you
- Total incoming links (“backlinks”)
- Historically, FAST counted best
- Incoming links from PR4+ pages
For Each Incoming Link
- Page rank of the referring page
- Based on the quality of links to you
- Anchor text of inbound link to you contains keyword, key phrase?
- Age of link – Old = Good
- Frequency of change of anchor text – Not good
- Popularity of referring page – Popularity = desirability, respect
- Number of outgoing links on referrer page – Fewer is better – 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?
- Link from “Expert” site – Big time boost
- Referrer page – Same theme BETTER
- Referrer page – Different theme WORSE
- Image map link – Problematic
- Site listed in DMOZ Directory – HUGE boost
- Google’s directory comes STRAIGHT from the DMOZ directory
- Site listed in Yahoo Directory – Big boost
- Site listed in inktomi – Use Pure Search to check your inktomi position
- Site listed in other directories (About, etc.)
- Directory listing boost (If other respected directories link to you, this must be positive.)
The Google Sandbox
Spammers generate thousands of new pages daily, along with millions of new links to go with them. Consequently, Google witholds high ranking ability on new sites, by ignoring any new links for 2-4 months. If the domain and backlinks have existed for a certain length of time (4 months), then you are ok and escape from the sandbox. This penalty is new-site based. Long-standing sites have no trouble ranking new pages. Over time, the newly generated links are given weight, and eventually the sandbox effect is lifted.
Two methods are currently being used to get around the sandbox penalty for new sites. One method is to join the Google Adwords or Adsense program, in which case your pages get spidered in minutes. Your site will be checked initially with an algorithm or human test. Good rankings will follow (provided of course, that you have good on-page SEO, and a few good backlinks). If you are a Google partner (“approved”), then you are not going to be penalised, unless you subsequently “go bad”. The second method is to buy an old domain, just for it’s longevity, and old backlinks. Many have bought up old domain names for this purpose.