Google's mysterious search engine algorithm is what makes SEO so hard. Google uses over 200+ ranking factors and updates its search engine algorithm 600 times a year.
In 2018, Google's ranking algorithm is no more a half-secret as it used to be earlier but still, 1/4th part of Google's search engine algorithm is a secret.
Google keeps the list of all search engine ranking factors a secret. Still, we know over 120+ ranking factors that Google considers while ranking websites.
And these ranking factors are all enough for your business to rank 1 on Google. If you can optimize your website for all these known ranking factors, you will never need to worry about other unknown factors in the Google ranking algorithm.
So let's dive into the list of all known Google search ranking factors. The list contains both factors that positively and negatively affect your search rankings complete list of Google search engine ranking factors.
Note: The list is not arranged according to any specific priority order. I have introduced Google ranking factors randomly in this list.
Keywords in Meta Title tag
Including your focus keyword in the meta title tag of the page is still an important On-page SEO signal. This is always advised to include the keyword in your title tag.
Keyword position in Meta title tag
This is yet another factor that might be Google using to determine the keyword you want to rank for. If you use Yoast SEO, you would know when you place your focus keyword in the last of your title then Yoast SEO recommends you that it would be better if you place the keyword in the first position of the title tag.
Keyword in the description tag
That's another On-page SEO tactic that people use but your keywords in description tag will not do any good for SEO.
Google uses keyword density to find out what the content is all about. If the webpage will contain a specific keyword multiple times than most likely the page will be about that keyword.
Using keywords you want to rank your content for more often in your content is advised but overstuffing your keyword in an unnatural way is punishable by Google.
Content quality and length
I don't know how Google judge content quality still if you notice, most of the content ranking on 1 page of SERP is of better quality and detailed than content ranking on the 2nd page. Content quality has been identified to be a major ranking factor, especially after the panda update. In 2018, if you want to rank high in Google then you need high-quality content.
High-quality content refers to content which is super detailed, long and helpful for users. If you will analyze Google SERP for some competitive keywords, you will see each and every article ranking on the first page will be super detailed and long up to 3000 words.
LSI keywords stand for Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords. These keywords are other keywords related to or similar to your focus keyword. Using these keywords in your content is advised as Google will better understand your content with LSI keywords and thus can help you rank better. Using LSI keywords in your meta title and description may be even useful for Google.
Image alt text
Google can’t interrupt images visually but search engines can understand the image topic by seeing the image alt text and title thus it becomes helpful for SEO to include your focus keyword in image alt text.
Keywords in h2, h3 and h4 tags and table of contents
This is yet another popular Google ranking signal not as important but helps Google to understand page structure. Using the table of content is another good practice which can help search engine better understand your page content.
If your content was copied or scrapped form another site then it will negatively affect your search engine rankings. The scrapped page would not rank higher in search results. This may be possible that you can get penalized for plagiarism. This is rare still you should stay safe. Although, Google has not mentioned or announced anything about "how much plagiarism is accepted?" but you should always minimize the percentage of copied content.
Duplicate content on different pages of the same site
Same or similar content on more than one page of your website can affect your search engine rankings negatively.
You should always use keywords in your content in a natural way. With coming of Google hummingbird update which enables Google to understand the topic of a page even without searching for keywords, the importance of using keywords have reduced a little. Now you should focus more on the intent behind the keyword than keyword density.
The intent behind the keyword
If your content was created by understanding the intent behind the keyword, it may get a ranking boost. For example, if your content contains a comparison of top 10 web hosts then it may get rank for keywords like best web hosts even if you have not optimized your content for this keyword.
This tag is used to distinguish between duplicate and original content. Using this tag you can make search crawlers understand that this is original content and that is duplicate so pay attention to only original content.
Keywords in first 100 words of content
Using your focus keywords in the first 100 words of your content is a popular SEO tactic that can increase your chances for ranking for that keyword.
Quality Outbound links
When you link out to other quality sites, this shows your willingness to help your readers out in all possible ways thus this can gain you search engine trust and will help you rank better in SERP. Linking externally to other sites is a now a proven SEO tactic.
After coming of Google's Caffeine update, now fresh and updated content is more favored by Google than outdated content. So it is recommended to keep updating your existing content. How much your content has been updated can also affect content freshness and indirectly your page ranking.
Search engine rankings of the parked domain have been negatively affected after a Google update in December 2011.
Number of outbound links
When you link out to others, you share your DA with them but linking to many other sites on your page is not advised. You should not include too many outbound links on your page. Moreover, too many outbound links may distract your reader's attention from the main topic. Thus a page with too many outbound links is often not likable by Google.
With Google Caffeine update, it may look like that page age does not matter in 2018 but it does. An old page which is regularly updated can rank better in search results than a new page. This is a weak ranking signal.
Page importance in the sitemap
How much priority the page has been given in your sitemap.xml file can influence rankings. However, I think this is a weak ranking signal which may often get disregarded.
Page load time
Site loading speed has been identified as a ranking factor that most search engines use. Thus fast loading website is more favored by Google than slower ones. A search engine may estimate your page load time by your HTML code and by using chrome user data.
Google AMP framework
Implementing AMP on your site will be helpful if you want to rank better on mobile devices. This will not affect your search rankings on desktop results and if your site loads fast on mobile devices without AMP then I don't think you need AMP. So AMP is not a direct ranking signal that search engines use.
For ranking better on mobile devices, your page should be optimized for mobile device after the obliged on the update.
Websites that are easy to use on mobile devices rank better than websites that are not.
Using videos and multimedia
Using videos and other multimedia is not a direct ranking signal still it can help indirectly by acting as a content quality signal.
Using Internal links on a page is advised for better user experience and low bounce rate. Internal links help distribute your domain authority throughout your site. You should use some internal links but not too many.
Number of Internal linking pointing to the Page
If a page has more internal links than this shows the importance of that page on the domain thus can helps you rank better.
Broken links negatively affect your search rankings. So you need to minimize the number of broken links as this gives a bad user experience.
Readability of your page can affect your user experience and thus can indirectly affect your search rankings.
Proper HTML code
A better and nicely coded website is always favored.
Affiliate link does not affect your rankings but using too many of them can compromise with content quality and thus indirectly affect your rankings.
A page on higher DA site would perform better than a page on less authoritative domain. This is usually the case but not always. While Google does not look for their Moz DA(most probably) while ranking sites but still, higher DA means better rankings.
A page on higher authority site would have a higher PA also so higher PA pages rank better than lower ones.
Pages with Short URL's with focus keyword tend to perform better than pages with long ugly URLs without focus keywords. Not a strong ranking signal still worthwhile to pay attention.
Bullet and numbered list
Content quality is important and everything that improves the content structure and quality is worth using for SEO. That's why the table of content, number, and bulleted lists are some minor things that can affect your search indirectly and slightly.
Sites with useful content
Sites with useful and quality content are always favored by Google and Google has stated this again and again. So, thin websites with scrapped content or thin affiliate sites are going to be penalized sooner or later.
About us and contact us page
Google likes transparency and sites with a good about and contacts us page. So it becomes worthwhile to invest in these pages.
The more trustful a domain is in eyes of Google, the better it will rank on SERP. This is true and a major ranking signal.
A site with good XML file can help search crawlers and spiders better crawl and understand your site. So for SEO, this is always good to have XML sitemap.
Google does not directly use publishing frequency as a ranking factor. But many SEO including me believe that creating fresh content regularly will help your site grow faster.
If your site remains unavailable several time no matter what the reason behind it, this can affect your search ranking negatively. It is always advised to use a web host with least downtime.
This may affect your rankings for local searches and geo-specific searches.
When your site uses SSL certificate, it becomes more secure and uses the HTTPS protocol which is secure. Using HTTPS is a ranking signal as confirmed by Google.
Duplicate meta description
As warmed by search console, using duplicate meta description on several different pages of the same site is not advised for SEO.
This is helpful for SEO as this would help both your users and search engine better understand your site structure.
Site optimized for mobile devices tend to rank higher on mobile devices than sites not optimized for mobile devices.
Site structure and design
A site will well and easy to use design and structure is favored more than sites without a good design and structure.
More usable sites have low bounce rates and high session durations and thus site usability indirectly affect your search ranking especially after coming off the rank braid update.
A site with do-follow links from high DA websites tends to rank higher in search results and backlink quality is a known ranking factor search engines use.
The number of backlinks your site has does affect your rankings directly but when weighed against quality of backlinks, quantity is less important than the quality of backlinks. Your aim should be to get few backlinks from high DA websites as links from low DA spammy websites may affect your ranking negatively.
Linking domain age
If your website has got links from aged domains then it’s better for SEO as aged domain usually have higher domain trust than newer domains.
Backlink anchor text
Not as important as used to be but still keyword rich anchor text is effective.
EDU and.Gov backlinks
Links from.GOV and.ORG are nothing special in eyes of Google.
Authority of linking pages
The more page rank and authority the linking page has, the more authority and link juice it will provide to your page thus the authority of linking page does matter in SEO.
Guest blogging links
Google has stated many times that he is not a big fan of guest blogging still, links you get from guest blogging are valued but large-scale guest blogging can get your site in danger.
Google does not follow no-follow links so they most probably do not affect your rankings.
Links you get from articles are the most powerful type of links and passes more authority to your site that links from an empty page or snippets.
Linking domain relevancy
If the domain that links to you is from your niche or similar niche than it is most valued. If you own a site is on fitness and you get a link from an SEO blog than that link will not do much good for you. Try to get links from sites in your niche as these links will definitely affect your rankings.
Links that appear on all pages of the website like footer are sitewide links. According to Matt cut, sitewide links are now counted as a single link.
Quality of linking content
If you get a backlink from quality will do you much good than links from scrapped or copied content. So linking content quality does matter in SEO.
Linking content length
Long content is normally super detailed content and thus of high quality. Getting links from long content is often better for SEO than getting links from snippets or short articles.
Links from forums
Forum links are now devalued by Google so you should not target this type of link building in your link building campaign.
Number of outbound links on linking page
If the page that links to you have a lot of other outbound links than this would mean that the linking page's page rank that is limited is being shared between more sites an this would reduce your share of page authority that gets passed to you. If the linking page has only a few outbound links than this would mean you will get more of the link juice passed on to your website.
Trust of linking domain
Getting a link from a trusty domain is always a better option. When you get links from a trusty domain, you get some trust passed onto your domain thus helping you gain trust in eyes of Google.
Although, there is no evidence to prove that schema markup is used as a ranking factor directly still Using Schema markup is beneficial for your website in the age of hummingbird and rankbrain era. Using schema markup can help your search result look prominent in SERP and boost your CTR.
301 redirecting backlinks
Earlier it was believed that 301 redirects result in some of the page rank being lost but recently, Gary Illyes cryptically 301 redirects no longer lose PageRank at all.
Links created by users
Google can distinguish between links created by admin on a site and links created by users so these links are valued accordingly.
If Google finds excessive link exchanging between two sites than Google may consider the two sites as a part of a blog network and thus you can get penalized.
White hat link building
No need to say that Google likes white hat techniques to build links and thus Google will definitely rank sites with healthy link profiles high in SERP.
Google has to say on this that older backlinks weigh more when compared to newly created backlinks.
Words around backlinks
Moz believes that the word that appears around your backlinks may be used as anchor text.
Linked to as Wikipedia links are no-follow still some SEO's believe they do matter a little.
Links from high authority sites
The links you get from high authority sites within your niche are more powerful for some obvious reasons like authority sites have more domain trust and age.
Growing link profile
If your link profile keep on increasing positively than this may give you some boost on SERP whereas negative link velocity can get you in danger
Keyword in linking page's title
If you get a link from page targeting the same keyword as you do then this type of links are more powerful.
Country TLD links
I have no proofs for this but still, some people believe that when you get links from country specific domain(.in, .de, .co.uk) then this may help you in ranking in that country.
Ad links are not valued by Google and Ad links should be no-followed according to Google.
If you get a link in the form of an image than the alt text of image will act as anchor text for your backlink.
Domain age of your website matters in SEO but not much. A domain that is 4 years old is more trustworthy than domain that is just 1 year old. That does not at all mean that 1 year old domain cannot rank in SERP.
Keyword appearing in Domain
Not as important in 2018, still having your business keyword in your domain may help you in ranking for your main business keywords. Domain starting with keyword will be even better.
Domain registration length
This not at all a major ranking factor but according to Google, can be used to measure legitimacy of a domain. Domains that are registered for long-term are considered as more legitimate by Google.
Keyword in subdomain
If your subdomain contains your keyword then this can help you with your rankings.
Who has owned the domain can matter as domains that are penalized before can carry the penalty over to the new site.
Exact Match Domain
Exact match domain is the domains that contain the exact keyword you want to rank for. This not as important after the EMD update still you can get some advantage over others if you a EMD. But EMD will not do any good if your site is not optimized for other ranking signals.
Hiding Whois Info may be sign of operating an PBN or so. But there is no evidence to show that whois info can positively or negatively affect your site rankings.
Country TLD extension
If you want to rank more in the UK the .co.uk domain will be better similarly if you wanna rank in India more than .in domain is better but .com domain also work everywhere.
Rank brain has to deal with how a search user interacts with your site's search results and using this info, Google may rank you higher or down in search results. 89. Organic CTR
Although not considered as a direct search ranking factor, this is something you should pay attention to. High bounce rate may be a sign of bad user experience which is a direct ranking factor.
The traffic you directly gets from the browser without a search engine or referring site is called direct traffic. The amount of direct traffic you get may be used by Google to perceive your site as a quality site.
Same website visitors
If the same website visitors visit your site often than this may be a sign for Google that your site is something useful thus it can help you with your rankings indirectly.
Pogostick refers to a bounce condition where a searcher clicks on your site's search result and after landing on your site he/she clicks the back button and clicks o other search result. This may affect your rankings negatively as pogo sticks may be a sign for Google that your content is not what searchers are looking for.
Number of comments
Not a direct ranking signal. Still Google may use it to determine your content quality and user interaction with your site.
Visit spend time
The more time people spend on your site the better is it for you. As Google watches your sites dwell time and if Google looks at your dwell time that mean it has to do something with your rankings.
User search history
This is something not in your control. Google may personalize search results for some repeat users. For example, if a user clicks a result on SERP for some keyword and after some time performs the same keyword search, the result that he previously clicked on may get a boost on SERP.
If searches are area specific then Google may give more preference to country-specific domains and server location.
Some keywords need expertise
Google has stated that Google want to show only expert content on certain topics like investing and pharmacy.
A site with many DMCA complaints would mean a site that uses plagiarism often. Thus many DMCA complaints against your site can get you in trouble.
This update diversified the search engine results page with more results being added.
After this update, Google gives more preference to big brands for some keywords.
When searchers search for with a intention of shopping, Google shoes them the Google shopping results.
Temporary link schemes
Using temporary link scheme can affect your rankings negatively on SERP.
Selling and buying links is a big NO for link building and this can again get you penalized.
Links from Press release
Links from press release are now devalued by Google and moreover more of these links can get you penalized.
It is illegal in eyes of Google to operate a PBN and thus PBN links can get you penalized.
Directory links are not as powerful in 2018 as they used to be it. Added to this, links from low quality directories can get you penalized.
Links from non-relevant website
You should aim for backlinks from websites within your niche. When you get a lot of backlinks from non-related websites then this can get you trouble.
Sudden influx of unnatural links
If your link profile graph shows a sudden influx than this can get you in trouble as Google may seem this as unnatural link building scheme,
IP address of your site
This may affect your rankings indirectly. If your IP address was used for spamming then this can have a bad effect on sites on that IP.
Page rank sculpting
Your outbound links should be followed if you no follow your outbound links then you can get penalized for that.
Computer generated content
Using auto generated content on your site is bad for SEO and can get you penalized.
Cloaking is black hat SEO thus affect negatively your rankings.
Lot of ads
A site with lot of ads will definitely be a site with a bad user experience and again user experience is a ranking factor.
Using Doorway page is black hat SEO tactic show it will definitely affect your site's rankings negatively.
Using sneaky redirects is always bad for you SEO and this can also get you trouble.
Spammy outbound links on your site
If you link more to spam sites than this may ruin your domain trust and can affect your rankings negatively.
Social signal like number of shares a page gets, number of followers site's official social media page has and some other social media signal affect SEO. So make sure you use SEO+SMO combination for your site.
While Only a few direct ranking factors are explained, on the basis of these we can conclude that what things affect your site search rankings positively and what affects your search rankings negatively.
The major search ranking factors are:
1. Content quality
2. Backlink profile
3. User experience
4. On-page SEO
5. Domain trust
6. Social signals
That's all. I hope this list will help you a lot for ranking 1 on Google.