The Google search ranking algorithm has hundreds of elements as to why one site appears higher than another in the search results. Bing and Yahoo! have similar factors for ranking as well.

Many of these factors are not set in stone or considered the law. More so, these are factors that I, along with others, have speculated and tested as to their validity towards ranking a website. There are no official posts or documents released by a search engine that states “You have to do this and this” to rank a site. Most of this information comes from a long history of research, private conversations, trade shows and good ole’ testing.

Could you and should you take all factors into account for your site? I cannot say for sure, however I’ll start off with a few factors that should be considered to help you properly “optimize” your site to be embraced in a positive way by a search spider.

TM’s Top 5 Ranking factors

  1. In-bound links to your site. Where they come from (TDL’s), frequency of newly acquired links and how long the links stay as signals to your site.
  2. Link Profile Diversity. Anchor text in links, inner-site linking, topical diversity, IP diversity and backlinks, and authority within networks of sites.
  3. Site Content. Proper title and meta description and other tags across the site. The actual content within the pages of your site, how often it is updated and saturation of keywords.
  4. Domain. The contents of your domain, keywords included, age and how/length it is registered for.
  5. Site Architecture. How the site is built in HTML, bloat and use of third party code.

While there is no one-trick pony, as Shoemoney likes to say, there are a number of factors that will contribute to your ranking success. Below are more detailed groups that are measured by the engines to determine your page ranking. Remember in the end of everything, we have seen websites that are horribly built and optimized that receive great traffic. Having good content that is frequently updated builds a strong following. Updating your site and adding relevant content is a signal that Google will answer to. The overall objective of a search engine is to provide relevant search results to an end user as quickly as possible without them having to refine their search. Doing so creates a loyal user and eventually one who will click on paid advertising.


  1. Domain age. Older sites tend to rank better often because they have authority and legacy juice that follows.
  2. Length of domain registration. The longer you register for the better.
  3. Registration type. Privacy vs. open will make a difference.
  4. Top level domain. A domain with a .com vs. a .info will rank better.
  5. Geographical domain. A .com vs a
  6. Past domain records. How many times a IP has changed.
  7. Past domain owners. How often a ownership has changed.
  8. Keyword in domain name.
  9. Domain IP.
  10. Domain IP neighbors.
  11. Domain external mentions. (non-linked)
  12. Geo targeting settings in Google Webmaster Tools.


  1. URL Structure:  using proper keywords in your links and auto-rewrite titles.
  2. HTML Structure:  please don’t use tables or in-line styles.
  3. Latent Semantic Index.
  4. Use of CSS and JS.
  5. Site Structure Accessibility.
  6. Canonical URLs.
  7. W3C compliance.

Server Side

  1. Server geographic location.
  2. Server up-time and accessibility.


  1. Content uniqueness.
  2. Amount of content (html vs actual static text).
  3. Content density (unlinked).
  4. Pure content ratio (exclude images, html and other file weight).
  5. Content topicality / timeliness.
  6. Semantic information (phrase-based indexing and co-occurring phrase indicators).
  7. Content flag for general category (transactional, informational, navigational).
  8. Flagged keyword usage (gambling, adult, etc.).
  9. Text in or surrounding images.
  10. Malicious content (injected by hackers or other).
  11. Keyword stuffing, repetition and variation of keywords and phrases.
  12. Use of absolutely unique /new phrases.

Internal Cross-Linking

  1. Number of internal links to a page.
  2. Number of internal links to a page and anchor text.
  3. Number of internal links to page from content (instead of navigation bar, breadcrumbs, etc).
  4. Number of internal links to a page using the No-Follow attribute.

Website Signals

  1. Use of a Robots.txt file.
  2. Site size (individual pages and overall number of pages).
  3. Site update frequency.
  4. Content duplication with other pages of the site.
  5. Page content reading level.
  6. Page load time.
  7. Page type / authority relevant to domain (about us page vs. home page).
  8. Page internal popularity. Amount of internal links.
  9. Page external popularity. Amount of external links.

Page Specific Signals

  1. Page Title.
  2. Page meta robots tag.
  3. Page age.
  4. Page freshness. (Frequency of edits and % of page effected ‘changed’ by page edits).
  5. Content duplication on page and in conjunction to other pages in the site. (internal duplicate content)
  6. Page content reading level.
  7. Page load time.
  8. Page authority: how many external links pointing in to specific individual pages.
  9. Page external popularity: how many external links it has relevant to other pages of this site.

Keyword Usage

  1. Keywords in the title of a page.
  2. Keywords in the beginning of a page title.
  3. Keywords in ALT Tags.
  4. Keywords in external anchor text link tags.
  5. Keywords in internal anchor text link tags.
  6. Keywords in the anchor text of outbound links.
  7. Keywords in bold and italic text.
  8. Keywords in the beginning of body text.
  9. Keywords in overall body text.
  10. Keyword synonyms relating to page content keywords
  11. Keywords in file names (.html .bmp .jpg .gif .etc).
  12. Keywords in URL names.
  13. Randomness use of keywords in relevancy to site content.
  14. Use and abuse of keywords.

Outbound Links

  1. Number of outbound links per page.
  2. Number of outbound links per domain.
  3. Quality of pages the site links in to.
  4. Relevancy of outbound links.
  5. Links to bad neighborhoods.
  6. Links to 404 pages
  7. Links to SEO Agencies.
  8. Hot linked images to external sites.
  9. Hot linked images to internal site pages.

Back Link Profile

  1. Relevancy of sites linking in.
  2. Relevancy of sites linking in to specific pages.
  3. Quality of sites linking in.
  4. Quality of Site pages linking in to specific pages.
  5. Back links within networks of sites.
  6. Co-citations (which sites have similar back link sources).
  7. Link profile diversity:
    • Anchor text
    • IP
    • TDL’s
    • Geography
    • Types of sites linking in (Directories, blogs, etc.)
    • Link placements and types (anchor text vs. link images)
  8. Authority links (WSJ, EDU’s, GOV)
  9. Reciprocal link ratio.
  10. Social Media links.
  11. Backlink trends and patterns
  12. Wiki and DMOZ citations and links; age.
  13. Historical backlink profile.
  14. Social bookmarking links; age.

Separate Backlink Factors

  1. Authority of TDL’s (.com vs .edu vs. .gov)
  2. Authority of domain linking in.
  3. Authority of page linking in.
  4. Anchor of link.
  5. Location of link (content body in text vs footer).
  6. Title attribute.

Visitor Profile

  1. Number of visitors.
  2. Demographic of visitors.
  3. Bounce rate.
  4. Return ratio.
  5. Visitor trends and patterns.
  6. How often certain results are clicked vs. others.

Penalties, Filters and Manipulation

  1. Keyword over usage.
  2. Paid link flag.
  3. Link seller flag.
  4. Spam records.
  5. Cloaking.
  6. Hidden text.
  7. Duplicate content.
  8. History for domain.
  9. History for owner.
  10. Hacker attack records.
  11. 301 flags: double re-directs/re-direct loops, or re-directs ending in 404 error.

Misc. Additional Factors

  1. Domain registration with Google Webmaster Tools.
  2. Domain notice in news sites.
  3. Domain notice in Blog search, other serach sites ( etc.).
  4. Domain notice in AdWords / AdCenter.
  5. Domain notice in Analytics.
  6. Business name / brand name external mentions.
More so, these are factors that I, along with others, have speculated on and tested as to their validity toward ranking a website

3 responses to “What Makes a Site Rank in Search Engines?

Posted by Andy Makar

Thanks for the great advice! I was immediately able to implement the GEO Target recommendation!
I do need to investigate it my Joomla 301 redirect component is accurately passing the search engine value to my redirected link.

Have you leveraged Hubspot’s Websiter Grader tools?


Posted on May 7, 2010 at 10:36 am

Posted by Dwight Zahringer

To an extent Andy however over the past years I have found many other resources that help me grade, or determine what needs to happen to help a website along in rankings. It’s no secret that I am big on links, links and more links to your site. You have a great opportunity to seek out some really good EDU and .GOV links, I suggest you spend some time there – they will pay back huge dividends!

Posted on May 7, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Posted by meeting room

Hey there exceptional website! Does running a blog similar to this take a great deal of work?
I’ve very little understanding of programming however I had been hoping to start my own blog in the near future. Anyways, if you have any recommendations or techniques for new blog owners please share. I understand this is off topic however I just had to ask. Appreciate it!

Posted on July 30, 2013 at 10:33 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read Related Posts