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Expert SEO Q&A: What Are Google’s Ranking Factors?

Lots of people around the Internet make a big deal about Google’s 200+ ranking factors. But all of that gab masks a fact that most expert SEO guys don’t want you to know: we don’t know what they are. There are dozens of lists around the Internet that claim to be able to explain them to you, but they’re all simply supposition.

The Ranking Factors Claim

The initial claim that Google had 200+ ranking factors to begin with stemmed from their <a href=” http://www.google.com/intl/en/press/pressday.html”>Press Day webcast in 2006</a>, in which they revealed that there were “at least two hundred” ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.

Putting the Lie to the Lists

So all over the Internet, you can find lists of these 200 factors — but here’s the problem. The initial claim said “over 200 ranking factors,” but more importantly than that, in 2010 Matt Cutts clarified that not only are there all those factors, but many of those factors can have up to fifty variations. So if you really want to get nitty-gritty, that’s ten thousand potential things to keep track of.

Factors That Aren’t

Complicating all of this is the huge number of straight-up myths that surround SEO and the ranking algorithm. For example, for the better part of a decade, everyone in the SEO world was obsessed with keyword density. Back in the 20th century, the number of times that a keyword appeared in a block of text was thought to be important — but we know now that Google has literally never used keyword density as a ranking factor except to penalize people who pack keywords in too tight.

So How Do You Know What To Pay Attention To?

You might think that if there are no actual lists of ranking factors, there’s no way to know what your SEO guy should spend his time doing all day.  The truth is that while we have no definitive list of ranking factors, we do have huge, powerful expert SEO organizations that have devoted themselves to reverse-engineering Google’s algorithm through testing.

We’ll get into some of their most important results next post.

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