Five Years of Google Ranking Signals

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Organic Search Google Ranking Signals

1. Domain Age and Rate of Linking
2. Use of Keywords
3. Related Phrases
4. Keywords in Main Headings, Lists, and Titles
5. Page Speed
6. Watch Times for a Page
7. Context Terms on a Page
8. Language Models Using Ngrams
9. Gibberish Content
10. Authoritative Results
11. How Well Databases Answers Match Queries
12. Suspicious Activity to Increase Rankings
13. Popularity Scores for Events
14. The Amount of Weight from a Link is Based upon the Probability that someone might click upon it
15. Biometric Parameters while Viewing Results
16. Click-Throughs
17. Site Quality Scores
18. Disambiguating People
19. Effectiveness and Affinity
21. Category Duration Visits
22. Repeat Clicks and Visit Durations
23. Environmental Information
24. Traffic Producing Links
25. Freshness
26. Media Consumption History
27. Geographic Coordinates
28. Low Quality
29. Television Viewing
30. Quality Rankings

Semantic Search Google Ranking Signals

31. Searches using Structured Data
32. Related Entities
33. Nearby Locations
34. Attributes of Entities
35. Natural Language Search Results

Local Search Google Ranking Signals

36. Travel Time for Local Results
37. Reverse Engineering of Spam Detection in Local Results
38. Surprisingness in Business Names in Local Search
39. Local Expert Reviews
40. Similar Local Entities
41. Distance from Mobile Location History
42. What People Search for at Locations Searched
43. Semantic Geotokens

Voice Search Google Ranking Signals

44. Stressed Words

News Search Google Ranking Signals

45. Originality

Additional Google Ranking Signals

46. Global and Local Scores, Relevance, and Reliability


Google Ranking Signals

Learning about SEO helps to understand what search engineers might consider when deciding how pages rank in response to search queries. So I’ve been trying to learn about Google ranking signals by reading and writing about patents from the search engine. I’ve blogged about patents from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple since 2005 while exploring what those might say are ranking signals for over a decade.

Spokespeople from Google have said, “Just because we have a patent on something, doesn’t mean we are using it.” The first time I heard that from them was after Go Daddy began advertising domain registrations of up to 10 years after a Google patent (Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data) said that Google might look at the length of domain registration as a ranking signal. This was based on the thought that a “spammer would likely only register a domain for one year.” (Actually, many people register domains for one year, and have their registrations on auto-renewal, so a one-year registration is not evidenced that a person registering a domain for just one year is a spammer.)

Trying to identify whether something is a Google Ranking Signal can mean more than reading patents from Google. It also means reading blog posts from Google and interviews from their webmaster evangelists. It also means testing what patents say, to see if something that might be a Google Ranking Signal affects the rankings of pages.

Sometimes Google does not put in place processes that they might describe in a patent. If I write about one here, it is often because it is recently released. They are worth testing to see if Google has implemented a Google Ranking Signal that may be described in a patent. I also like that patents tell about problems they perceive on the web, and those patents intend to solve those problems. So looking at patents to see the approaches used by the search engine to solve problems can be worth doing.

I’ve included Google ranking signals that are a little older, but most of the things in this post are from the past five years. They often point to blog posts about Google rankings and the patents that go with them. This list is a compilation of blog posts that I have been working on for years. It is based on:

  • Hours of searching through patent filings
  • Reading blog posts from within the Search and SEO industries
  • Reading through many patents that I didn’t write about
  • Reading many patents that I have written about.

If you have questions about any of the Google ranking signals I’ve listed, please ask about them in the comments.

Some of the patents I have blogged about have not been implemented by Google yet but could be. Google files patents to protect the intellectual property behind their ideas and the work that their search engineers and testing teams put into those ideas. It is worth looking at, reading, and understanding many of these patents because they provide insights into ideas that Google may have explored when developing Google rankings. They may give you ideas of things that you may want to explore and questions to keep in mind when optimizing a site. In addition, patents inspire people to innovate and invent and understand new ideas and inventions.

I have added a section to this post covering Additional Google Ranking Signals after realizing that I missed at least one that I thought was worth including and anticipating adding more to this page. I may have to create a part 2 to this post at some point in time. I will decide when it seems to make sense.

Organic Search Google Ranking Signals

Organic Google Ranking Signals can impact and influence the order of pages in Web-based search results. Those are results that aren’t narrowed down into more specific niches such as News or Local. News Results and Local Results are influenced by other ranking signals than other organic results. Understanding the differences can be helpful when you try to increase the visibility of sites in search results.

It isn’t unusual to see Organic search results blended with non-organic search results because of Google’s approach to Universal search and their use of a one box at the top of search results. This means that there may be many different ranking signal types used for any one query.

Some sites focus on providing informational results and transactional results for a query, and result from that blend both together.

1. Domain Age and Rate of Linking

Google has a patent called Document scoring based on document inception date. It tells us they will often use the date that they first crawl a site or the first time they see a document referenced in another site as the site’s age. The patent also says Google may look at the links pointing to a site. It will then calculate what the average rate of links pointed to a site may be to use to rank a site based upon that linking.

Action items: Create evergreen content that people will find value in over time and continue to link to. As people continue to link to it, Google will continue to see value in that content.

2. Use of Keywords

Matt Cutts wrote a newsletter for librarians where he explained how Google crawled the web and made an inverted index of the Web with terms found on Documents from the pages to match up with query terms when people searched. That shows us the importance of Keywords in queries and that Google finds pages that contain those keywords as an important part of performing searches. That newsletter is here:

Action items: Perform keyword research for every page of a site. Make sure that you use the keywords you have mapped out to specific pages upon those pages, and have used the keywords in important parts of the pages, such as:

  • Page titles
  • Main headings
  • Anchor text pointed to the pages
  • Body content on the page

There is no need to have a specific percentage of usage of those words on the page, but you need to include the keywords you have selected for a page to rank for that term or phrase.

Perform audience and keyword research, and use keywords that your targeted audience will use to search for your pages and expect to see those pages.

3. Related Phrases

Google Ranking Signals can change over time. Google recently updated its phrase-based indexing patent, which now tells us pages with more related phrases on them can rank higher than pages with fewer related phrases. That patent used to say that the number of related phrases on a page could lead to a page being boosted in search results or demoted. That patent is: Phrase-based searching in an information retrieval system. Related phrases are phrases that are complete phrases that may predict the topic a page appears upon. Google might look at the queries that a page targets. The highest-ranking pages for those query terms may be used to see which meaningful complete phrases frequently occur (or co-occur) on those high-ranking pages.

I wrote about an update of this patent in Google Phrase-Based Indexing Updated. Google tells us about how they are indexing related phrases in an inverted index (like the term-based inverted index from #2) in the patent Index server architecture using tiered and sharded phrase posting lists

Action Items: Look up the query terms you have mapped out to pages on your site and identify the most commonly occurring phrases on those pages. Consider adding some of those to your pages to capture semantic themes that happen on those pages. You can use some of those phrases as anchor text where appropriate, impacting acting as expert links from your pages. Don’t imitate the pages you find related words upon, but be inspired by them.

4. Keywords in Main Headings, Lists, and Titles

I wrote the post Google Defines Semantic Closeness as a Ranking Signal after reading the patent, Document ranking based on semantic distance between terms in a document. The Abstract of this patent tells us that:

Techniques are disclosed that locate implicitly defined semantic structures in a document, such as, for example, implicitly defined lists in an HTML document. The semantic structures can be used in the calculation of distance values between terms in the documents. The distance values may be used, for example, in the generation of ranking scores that indicate a relevance level of the document to a search query.

If a list on-page has a heading on it, the items on that list are considered equal distances away from the list. The words in the main heading on a page are considered equal distances away from that main heading. All of the words on a page are considered equal distances away from the title to that page. So, a page that is titled “Ford,” which has the word “motors” on that page, is considered to be relevant for the phrase “Ford Motors.” Here is an example of how that semantic closeness works with a heading and a list:

Action Items: Make Sure that titles, main headings, and headings for lists on pages are descriptive of the content they head and include keywords and related phrases that fit in with the pages’ content they appear upon.

5. Page Speed

Google has announced repeatedly that they consider Page Speed to be a ranking signal, including in the Google Blog post: Using site speed in web search ranking, and also in a patent that I wrote about in the post, Google’s Patent on Site Speed as a Ranking Signal.

The patent assigned to Google about Page Speed is Using resource load times in ranking search results. The patent tells us that this load time signal may be based upon measures of how long it takes a page to load on a range of devices:

The load time of an online resource can be based on a statistical measure of a sample of load times for several different types of devices that might view the page or resource

Action Items: Review pages using tools such as Page Speed for Insights and GTMetrix, to find recommendations on how to speed up the pages of a site. These will include many things such as reducing image file sizes, and redirects and broken links, extending browser cache times, minifying CSS and javascript, and more.

6. Watch Times for a page

While it may appear to be based upon videos, a Google Patent tells us that it may rank pages higher if they are watched for longer periods than other pages. The post I wrote about this patent on is: Google Watch Times Algorithm For Rankings?, and the patent it is about is, Watch time based ranking.

A page may contain video or images or audio, and a watch time for those may make a difference.

Action Items: Keep an eye on the watch times reported upon for videos that you make to see if people stop watching them early, and identify where they might stop watching those. Then, make changes to make watching full videos something that people do.

7. Context Terms on a Page

I wrote the post Google Patents Context Vectors to Improve Search, about the patent User-context-based search engine.

The patent tells us that it may look at words with more than one meaning in knowledge bases. For example, a bank, could mean a building money is stored in, or the ground on one side of a river, or what a plane does when it turns in the air. Then, the search engine may take terms from that knowledge base that shows what meaning was intended and collect them as “Context Terms.” It might look for those context terms when indexing pages to see what page those words are on to index the correct meaning.

Action Items: Visit knowledge base pages about the specific meanings of words, and find terms on those pages that might give your pages about the same meanings of those words more context. For example. If you are writing about Jaguars, and it could be the Jacksonville Jaguars, the breed of Cat, or the Apple Operating system, make sure to use words that help explain the context of the meaning of Jaguars that you have intended to write about. Getting that context right can help the search engine to know what you meant when optimizing your page for that term.

8. Language Models Using Ngrams

Google may give page quality scores based upon language models created from those pages when it looks at the ngrams on the pages of a site. This is similar to the Google Book Ngram Viewer.

I wrote about this in the post Using Ngram Phrase Models to Generate Site Quality Scores based upon the patent Predicting site quality

The closer the quality score for a page is to a high-quality page from a training set, the higher the page may rank.

Action Items: Creating high quality content should become a priority. That may require hiring experienced copywriters or proofreaders or editing programs such as Grammarly or Hemingway.

9. Gibberish Content

This may sound a little like #8 above. Google may use ngrams to tell if the words on a page are gibberish and reduce a page’s ranking. I wrote about this in a post titled, Google Scoring Gibberish Content to Demote Pages in Rankings?, about the patent Identifying gibberish content in resources.

Here is an ngram analysis using a well-known phrase, with 5 words in it:

The quick brown fox jumps
the quick brown fox jumps over
the brown fox jumps over the
fox jumps over the lazy
jumps over the lazy dog

Ngrams from a complete page might be collected like that, and from a collection of good pages and bad pages, to build language models (and Google has done that with many books, as we see from the Google Ngram Viewer covering a huge collection of books.) It would be possible to tell which pages are gibberish from such a set of language models. This Gibberish content patent also mentions a keyword stuffing score that it would try to identify.

Action Items: Google has been performing ngram analysis on lots and lots of books and documents. Of course, some programs will spit out gibberish that you can purchase or hire someone to produce content for you. Still, the chances are good that Google and visitors to your site will recognize low-quality content, which may cause Google to consider your site to be low quality and not rank it highly. On the other hand, if you have quality content, people may find value in it, return to your pages, and refer others to your site.

10. Authoritative Results

In the post Authoritative Search Results in Google Searches?, I wrote about the patent Obtaining authoritative search results, which tells us that Google might look at the results of a search and if none of the Pages in the SERPs that appear are authoritative enough, it might search upon one of the query refinements that are listed with those results to see if they return any authoritative results.

If they do, they may merge the authoritative results into the original results. The way it describes authoritative results:

In general, an authoritative site is a site that the search system has determined to include particularly trusted, accurate, or reliable content. The search system can distinguish authoritative sites from low-quality sites that include resources with shallow content or frequently include spam advertisements. Whether the search system considers a site to be authoritative will typically be query-dependent. For example, the search system can consider the Centers for Disease Control site, “,” to be an authoritative site for the query “CDC mosquito stop bites.” Still, it may not consider the same site to be authoritative for the query “restaurant recommendations.” A search result that identifies a resource on an authoritative site for the query may be authoritative.

Action Items: Google has been publishing Quality Raters Guidelines where they define what they mean by such terms as Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It can be beneficial to go through those guidelines and understand what they mean by those terms. They update those guidelines on an occasional basis, and it is worth keeping an eye out for when a new version comes out, so you can keep aware of any changes they may make to those.

11. How Well Databases Answers Match Queries

This patent doesn’t seem to have been implemented yet. But it might and is worth thinking about.

I wrote the post How Google May Rank Websites Based Upon Their Databases Answering Queries, based upon the patent Resource identification from organic and structured content. It tells us that Google might look at searches on a site and how a site might answer them to see if they are similar to the queries Google receives from searchers.

If they are, it might rank results from those sites higher. The patent also shows us that it might include the database results from such sites within Google Search results. If you start seeing that happening, you will know that Google decided to implement this patent. Here is the screenshot from the patent:

Action Items: Google doesn’t appear to be using this patent yet, but they could. It ranks sites (potentially large sites such as job sites and travel sites) on the databases that supply answers to visitors of those sites. If the answers it returns are queries similar to the queries that users of a search engine perform, then the sites those databases are on will rank higher. You can get a sense of the questions that people may ask using Google’s keyword prediction tool. It is impossible to tell whether or not Google will implement this patent, but it is possible.

12. Suspicious Activity to Increase Rankings

Another time that Google publicly stated that “just because we have a patent doesn’t mean we use it came shortly after I wrote about a patent in a post I called The Google Rank-Modifying Spammers Patent based upon the patent Ranking documents.

It tells us about a transition rank that Google may assign to a site where they see activity that might be suspicious, such as keyword stuffing. Instead of improving the ranks of pages, they might decrease them or rerank them randomly. The motivation behind it appears to be to have those people making changes to do more drastic things. The patent tells us:

Implementations consistent with the invention principles may rank documents based on a rank transition function. They may use the ranking based on the rank transition function to identify subjects subjected to rank-modifying spamming. The rank transition may provide confusing indications of the impact on rank in response to rank-modifying spamming activities. Implementations consistent with the invention principles may also observe spammers’ reactions to rank changes to identify manipulated documents actively.

Action Items: Learn about the Google Webmaster Guidelines, and avoid doing things that Google might consider to be manipulative. If you make changes to your site to try to improve the SEO of the site, and you don’t see any impact from those changes, don’t panic, and don’t take any actions that Google might perceive to be negative.

13. Popularity Scores for Events

Might Google rank pages about events higher based upon how popular it might perceive that event to be? I wrote the post Ranking Events in Google Search Results about the patent Ranking events which told us about popularity of an event being something that would make a difference. The following Screenshot from the patent shows some of the signals that go into determining a popularity score for an event:

Some patents provide a list of the “Advantages” of following a process in the patent, as does this one:

The patent describes the following advantages in following the approach it describes.

  1. Events in a given location can be ranked so those popular or interesting events can be easily identified.
  2. You can adjust the ranking to ensure that highly-ranked events are diverse and different from one another.
  3. Events matching various event criteria can be ranked to easily identify those popular or interesting events can be easily identified.
  4. You can provide the ranking to other systems or services that can use the ranking to enhance the user experience. For example, a search engine can use the ranking to identify the most popular events relevant to a received search query and present the most popular events to the user in response to the received query.
  5. A recommendation engine can use the ranking to provide information identifying popular or interesting events to users that match the users’ interests.

Action Items: The things mentioned in the patent drawing are worth paying attention to Times mentioned, Page selections (in search results), entity popularity, ranking score, venue score. Also, finding ways of increasing those things might help increase how your event may rank in search results.

14.The Amount of Weight from a Link is Based on the Probability of Clicks On It

I came across an update to the reasonable surfer patent, which focused more upon anchor text used in links than the earlier version of the patent, and told us that the amount of weight (PageRank) that might pass through a link was based upon the likelihood that someone might click upon that link.

The post is Google’s Reasonable Surfer Patent Updated based upon this patent Ranking documents based on user behavior and/or feature data. Since this is a continuation patent, it is worth looking at the claims in the patent to see what they say it is about. They mention how ranking is affected, including the impact of anchor text and words before and after a link.

identifying: context relating to one or more words before or after the links, words in anchor text associated with the links, and a quantity of the words in the anchor text, the weight is determined based on whether the particular feature data corresponds to the stored feature data associated with the one or more links or whether the particular feature data corresponds to the stored feature data associated with the one or more other links, the rank is generated based on the weight; identifying, by the one or more devices, documents associated with a search query, the documents, associated with the search query, including the particular document; and providing, by the one or more devices, information associated with the particular document based on the search query, and the generated rank.

Action Items: When you find ways to link to other pages, the more likely it is that someone may click on those links, the more weight those links will likely pass along. One of my favorite pages on linking focuses on User Experience because it aims to create links that people will find value in clicking upon. The post is Getting Confidence From Lincoln, about using the right trigger works as anchor text in a link and giving confidence that they will find what they are looking for on your pages. Placing links in places such as footers instead of in the main content of a page may also be something that could give them less confidence about clicking through and decrease the likelihood that they will.

15. Biometric Parameters while Viewing Results

This patent was one that I wondered about whether or not Google would implement, and I suspect that many people would be upset if they did. I wrote about it in Satisfaction a Future Ranking Signal in Google Search Results?, based upon Ranking Query Results Using Biometric Parameters. Google may watch through a smartphone’s reverse camera to see the reaction of someone looking at results in response to a query. If they appear unsatisfied with the results, they may demote those in future search results.

Action Items: How people react to seeing your site in search results may have an impact, as described in this patent. Even if this patent isn’t implemented, having people respond positively to seeing your site in search results could increase the number of people clicking through those results. So make sure that your page titles and snippets (meta descriptions that contain the query terms your page is found for) are engaging and persuasive. Finding ways to have those snippets be rich can also increase satisfaction with people seeing your page in search results. Target that as a goal for your site.

16. Click-Throughs

Google Spokespeople have told us that click-throughs are too noisy to use as a ranking signal, and yet a patent came out which describes how Google might use them in such a way. Some thresholds, like clicks not counting until after the first 100 or a certain amount of time passes. The post I wrote about it in was Google Patents Click-Through Feedback on Search Results to Improve Rankings, based upon Modifying search result ranking based on a temporal element of user feedback

Rand Fishkin sent me a message saying that his experience has been that clicks counted as ranking signals, but he also saw thresholds of around 500 clicks before clicks would make a difference. It’s difficult to tell with some signals, especially when Google makes statements about them not ranking signals in use.

Rand's tweet in response to my post, about his experiment.
Rand’s tweet in response to my post, about his experiment.

And Rand responded about what I said in the post about thresholds as well:

Action Items: There are a few ways to improve click-throughs to your site potentially. These can include making your titles and your snippets more persuasive and engaging. Making sure that site links show for your site in search results. Making sure that a knowledge panel might show for your site. Finally, building your brand to be one that people recognize and look forward to seeing something from.

17. Site Quality Scores

If you search for “seobythesea named entities,” it is a signal that you expect that you can find information about named entities on the site

If you do a site operator search such as “site: named entities,” you again show that you expect to find information about a particular topic on this site. These are considered queries that refer to a particular site.

They are counted against queries that are considered to be associated with a particular site. So, if there are more referring queries than associated queries, the quality score for a site is higher.

If there are fewer referring queries than associated queries, then the quality score is lower. The post I wrote about this was How Google May Calculate Site Quality Scores (from Navneet Panda) based upon the patent Site quality score. A lower site quality score can mean a lower rank, as the patent tells us:

The site quality score for a site can be used as a signal to rank resources or to rank search results that identify resources that are found in one site relative to resources found in another site.

Action Items: If your site can be perceived as one where people can find answers to questions that they may have in your industry, it may be targeted by queries that are intended to find information about specific topics, as if people might have expectations that they can find information or answers on your site. That is the sign of a high-quality site that this patent aims at uncovering. So, look for the kinds of questions that people in your audience may want to know more about and work on answering the questions they may have or writing about topics they interest in. The more you can do that, the higher the quality of your site might appear to be.

18. Disambiguating People

Like the patent about covering terms with more than one meaning by including context terms on their pages, when you write about people who may share a name with someone else, if they are also on sites such as Wikipedia, and disambiguated entries, make sure you include context terms on your page that makes it easier to tell which person you are writing about.

The post I covered this in was Google Shows Us Context is King When Indexing People, based upon the patent Name disambiguation using context terms

Action Items: If you are going to write about a person, search to make sure there aren’t other people with the same name on the Web, and if there are include information about them that makes it easy for a search engine and visitors to understand which person you are writing about. For example, you could include a person schema on that page that helps to identify which person your page is about.

19. Effectiveness and Affinity

If you search for something on the phone, such as a song, and you have a music app on that phone that has that song upon it, Google may tell you what the song you are searching for is and that you can access it on the app that you have loaded on your phone.

Social network affinities seem to be related to this. If you ask a question that might involve someone you might be connected to on a social network, they might be pointed out. See Effectiveness and Affinity as Search Ranking Signals (Better Search Experiences) about Ranking search results.

Action Items: There may still be value in using places such as Google+ and Twitter to share and show off your expertise on specific topics that you may be known for and connected to other people on those networks. For example, Google authorship markup was something that they showed for people whom they considered authoritative on specific topics. You may not get value for that authoritativeness from search results anymore, but word of mouth may still have some value. For example, Google was still holding on to authoritativeness in the patent I wrote about in the post Has Google Decided that you are Authoritative for a Query?< In addition, >. Google still shows that they value expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness in the Quality Raters Guidelines. If you build those traits into the social media sites, you maintain and cross into your website, that may have continued value.


Google seems to know who said what and has a patent on it.

See Google Searching Quotes of Entities on the patent Systems and methods for searching quotes of entities using a database.

Action Items: The claims for the patent tell us that they might try to understand who the entity is from by looking at Google’s Knowledge Graph, so using Schema to identify that entity might not be a bad idea.

21. Category Duration Visits

Could visits to specific categories of a site positively affect the rankings of those visited sites? We know that people from Google have said that use behavior signals like this tend to be noisy, but what are you to think when the patent I was writing about describes ways to reduce noise from such signals?

The post is A Panda Patent on Website and Category Visit Durations, and it is about a patent co-authored by Navneet Panda titled Website duration performance based on category durations.

Action Items: Finding relevant and meaningful information and images and videos that might cause people to stay on a page longer, which can create a positive visitor experience and be a good idea. We see Google doing this in search results with “People also ask” questions and answers. If people have their informational and situational needs met and have positive experiences on the pages that Google sends them to, that seems to be a positive experience.

22.Repeat Clicks and Visit Durations

I want to believe when Google Spokespeople say that Google doesn’t use click data to rank pages. Still, I keep on seeing patents from Navneet Panda that Google’s Panda Update was named after, which describes user behavior that may impact ranking signals. So when looking at Google Ranking Signals, you may see someone from Google saying that they don’t use certain information and see patents that appear to say the opposite. Ensure you understand the context that the person from Google was making his or her statement and how the patent might seem to say something different.

The post is Click a Panda: High Quality Search Results based on Repeat Clicks and Visit Duration, and the patent it is about is one called Ranking search results

Action Item: The Patent tells us that repeat clicks are from when the same people perform the same searches and select the same pages in search results to return to a page that they had visited before. The patent takes that kind of search behavior as a positive sign and long visits on pages. Do you have content on your site that people might perform the same searches for and revisit your pages to get to? It might be worth creating some content like that if Google will consider it to be high-quality content.

23 Environmental Information

Google can listen to a television playing and respond to a question such as “Who is starring in this movie I am watching?

I wrote about it in Google to Use Environmental Information in Queries, and the post is based upon the patent
Answering questions using environmental context

Action Items: I asked Google Now three times this morning if it knew what song was playing on my desktop computer. It didn’t have an answer for me. Nevertheless, I keep on trying because I expect that it one day will. It’s impossible to tell when features like this might happen, but it interesting seeing when Google might be able to recognize songs you listen to or Movies that you might watch. I anticipate it will develop an ability to do something like this. Until it does, I plan on testing Google occasionally.

24. Traffic Producing Links

Google might attempt to estimate how much traffic links to a site might bring to that site. If it believes that the links aren’t bringing much traffic, it may discount the value of those links.

I wrote about this in the post Did the Groundhog Update Just Take Place at Google?
It is about the patent Determining a quality measure for a resource

Action Items: Pursuing high-quality links to content on your site should ideally target places that might deliver traffic to your site, rather than just link equity. This might work effectively by pitching content to media sources or sharing information about content to places that might consider sharing a link to others. Ideally, a link that delivers traffic would be the best place to receive links from.

25. Freshness

I wrote a post about this Google Ranking Signal called New Google Freshness-Based Ranking Patent.

There I wrote about how a search engine might try to determine that a query is of particular recent interest by looking to see if there has been a number of occurrences of the query:

  1. Being received within a recent time period
  2. On blog web pages within a recent time period
  3. On news web pages within a recent time period
  4. On social network web pages within a recent time period
  5. Requesting news search results within a recent time period
  6. Requesting news search results within a recent time period versus requesting web search results within the time period
  7. User selections of news search results provided in response to the query or
  8. More user selections of news search results versus user selections of web search results within the time period

The patent that this one was from is:

Freshness based ranking

Action Items: I was reminded of how John Kleinberg defined burstiness, and how Microsoft came out with a similar patent in the past. Burstiness is a good concept to know if you do SEO.

26. Media Consumption History

If a person has a history of interaction with specific media, such as watching a particular movie or video or listening to a specific song, their searches may be influenced by that media, as I described in Google Media Consumption History Patent Filed.

That is based upon this patent, Query Response Using Media Consumption History.

It is one of a series of patents which I wrote more about in How Google May Track the Media You Consume to Influence Search Results

Action Items: This is another patent that doesn’t appear to have been implemented yet. But thinking of the possibilities of Google featuring celebrities in knowledge panels, which sometimes have advertisements in them, and a possibility of cross-channel advertising, this does seem like something we will see implemented if possible. In addition, apps such as Google Lens may be leading in this direction, as well as actions associated with voice searches. Plus, Google has patents on things such as Google Cross-Device Tracking and Audio Watermarks.

27. Geographic Coordinates

A patent called Determining geographic locations for place names in a fact repository was updated in a continuation patent, which I wrote about in Google Changes How they Understand Place Names in a Knowledge Graph.

Updated claims from the patent include many mentions of “Geographic Coordinates,” which indicated that including Latitude and Longitude information in Schema for a site might not be a bad idea. Of course, it’s impossible to say, based upon the patent, that they use those signals in ordinary websites that aren’t knowledge base sites like Wikipedia or an IMDB or Yahoo Finance. But it seemed very reasonable to believe that if they were hoping to see information in that form in those places that it wouldn’t hurt on Web sites that were concerned about their locations as well (especially since knowledge bases seem to be the source of facts for many sites in places such as knowledge panels.)

Action Items: It is possible to include latitude and longitude geographic coordinates in Schema vocabulary on a site, to indicate location.

28. Low Quality

Some patents covering Google Ranking Signals may point out negative signals that could cause a page’s rank to be lower. For example, a post that looks at links pointed to a site, such as from footers of other sites, and might discount those, and links from sites that tend to be redundant, which it may not count more than once are the one at How Google May Classify Sites as Low-Quality Sites.

It is based upon the patent at:

Classifying sites as low quality sites

Action Items: If you control the links used from one site to another, reviewing those may be a good idea. For example, the links from Page footers or that appear on every page in redundant ways may have been discounted and may have very little to no value.

29. Television Watching

Google may try to track what is playing on television where you are located, and watch for queries that look like they might be based upon those television shows, which I wrote about in Google Granted Patent on Using What You Watch on TV as a Ranking Signal.

It is based upon the patent System and method for enhancing user search results by determining a television program currently being displayed in proximity to an electronic device

Action Items: Google may become much more aware of what is playing when on television where you live. That awareness may impact what you see when searching for something related to that television content. That may be worth testing and being aware of.

30. Quality Rankings

We know that Google uses Human Raters to evaluate sites. Their rankings of pages may influence the rankings of pages, which I wrote about in the post How Google May Rank Web Sites Based on Quality Ratings The post identifies and explains a few quality signals that might include in raters evaluations, such as whether it has a broad appeal or a niche appeal, what the click rate or blog subscription rate or PageRank Score might be.

The patent this ranking signal is based upon is Website quality signal generation

Action Items: I recommended this above, but it fits well here, so I’ll make the same recommendation. Read the Google Quality Raters guidelines about how quality raters review sites. It seems to make sense to understand what they are judging sites on as you build them.

Semantic Search Google Ranking Signals

31. Searches using Structured Data

Google recently published a patent that showed how they might look at structured data in the form of JSON-LD on a page and might cause Google to search for values of attributes of entities described in that structured data, such as what book was published a certain author during a specific period. The patent explained how Google could search through structured data to find answers to a query like that. My post is Google Patent on Structured Data Focuses upon JSON-LD, and the patent it covers is Storing semi-structured data.

Action Items: Visit the website and look at some of the example Schemas and the different types of markup examples of those. Also, consider joining the community and joining the community mail list. Schema extensions will make schema grow, and being part of the community gives you a chance to be part of that and learn about how it happens.

32. Related Entities

Searching for an entity with a property or attribute that may not be the most noteworthy but can be known may be findable in search results. In a post about this, I used an example query about “Where was George Washington a Surveyor?” since he is most well known for being president. The post is Related Entity Scores in Knowledge-Based Searches, based on the patent Providing search results based on sorted properties.

Action Items: it is worth doing some searches for different entities, and seeing what else is included in knowledge panels for those, such as the ones for Tom Hanks and William Shakespeare.

33. Nearby Locations

I stood in front of a statue in my town and asked my phone what the name of the statue in front of me was. It didn’t give me an answer, but I suspect we may see answers to questions like this in the future (and information about stores and restaurants that we might be standing in front of as well. I wrote about how this might work in the post How Google May Interpret Queries Based on Locations and Entities (Tested). It is based upon the patent Interpreting User Queries Based on Nearby Locations. This is worth testing again, I am traveling to Italy in November, and I’m hoping it works for my trip then to ask for reviews of restaurants I might stand in front of when there.

Action Items: Google will keep track of the locations of different entities (points of interest and local entities, such as businesses). It’s worth opening your phone in front of places and asking it if it knows what entity you might be in front of. I know that Google has an idea of what I am near when I take some photos because it asks me if I would like to submit my photos taken at a place or just outside of it to Google Maps. If Google knows a location for Google Maps, it can know what is at a location for Google Search with some work. We will see how long it takes Google to start returning search results based upon locations.

34. Attributes of Entities

Asking questions about facts from entities such as movies or books and Google being able to answer such queries is a good reason to make sure Google understands the entities on your web pages. I wrote about such searches in the post How Knowledge Base Entities could be Used in Searches.

It is based upon the patent Identifying entities using search results

Action Items: It is possible to ask questions about books and movies and facts related to them. And get search results that sometimes search results, and sometimes featured snippets, or carousels. One of the best ways to learn about these may be to ask lots of questions about books and movies, such as “What town did the movie Footloose take place in? or “Who Starred in Barney Miller?

35. Natural Language Search Results

Google may answer featured snippets from high authority Pages (ranking on the first page for a query) that show the natural language question answered and a good answer to that question. The questions follow a common pattern for questions on the web, such as “What is a good treatment for X?” I wrote about such search results in the post Direct Answers – Natural Language Search Results for Intent Queries.

It is based on the patent at Natural Language Search Results for Intent Queries

Action Items: Google Spokespeople have hinted that there have been a few different approaches behind displaying featured snippets. My post and the patent that goes with it is just one approach. There likely are other approaches, and this is an area that is still in its infancy when compared to link-based rankings of search results.

Local Search Google Ranking Signals

36. Travel Time for Local Results

How far someone may be willing to travel to a place may be a reason why Google might increase the ranking of a business in local search results. I wrote about this in the post Ranking Local Businesses Based Upon Quality Measures including Travel Time based upon the patent Determining the quality of locations based on travel time investment.

Would you drive an hour away for a slice of pizza? If so, it must be a pretty good pizza. The abstract from the patent tells us this:

…the quality measure of a given location may be determined based on the time investment a user is willing to make to visit the given location. For example, the time investment for a given location may be based on comparing one or more actual distance values to reach the given location to one or more anticipated distance values to reach the given location.

Action Items: Sometimes Google Maps navigation doesn’t work correctly and will tell you in the middle of a highway that “You have arrived.” The place you were trying to get to isn’t in sight. Try it with your business and make sure that it works correctly to get people to your business. Showing up highly in search results in Maps listings is good, but not if Google loses people trying to get to your door. It’s worth checking upon if you haven’t. It does work most of the time correctly, but not all of the time. If it is having problems getting people to your door, make sure that the directions to your business on your site are straightforward to follow and that signage for your business is easy to see from the street.

37. Reverse Engineering of Spam Detection in Local Results

In the post How Google May Respond to Reverse Engineering of Spam Detection, I wrote about the patent Reverse engineering circumvention of spam detection algorithms. I remembered how Google responded when people brought up the Google Rank-Modifying Spammers Patent that I wrote about in #13, telling people that just because they had a patent doesn’t mean they necessarily use it.

This patent is slightly different from the Rank modifying spammer’s patent. It only applies to local search, and it may keep a spamming site from appearing at all or appearing if continued activity keeps on setting off flags. As the patent abstract tells us:

A spam score is assigned to a business listing when the listing is received at a search entity. A noise function is added to the spam score such that the spam score is varied. If the spam score is greater than the first threshold, the listing is identified as fraudulent, and the listing is not included in (or is removed from) the group of searchable business listings. If the spam score is greater than a second threshold, Google may flag the listing for an inspection less than the first threshold. The addition of the noise to the spam scores prevents potential spammers from reverse engineering the spam detecting algorithm. More listings submitted to the search entity may be identified as fraudulent and not included in the group of searchable listings.

Action Items: The Google support Page titled Improve your local ranking on Google introduces the things that Google looks at when ranking Local results in Google Maps. Google may look at rankings differently in Was Google Maps a Proof? of Concept for Google’s Knowledge Base Efforts?, which focuses upon structured data. When specific facts about a local entity are spammed, it throws off the consistency of those facts.

38. Surprisingness in Business Names in Local Search

Another patent that is about spam in local search is one I wrote about in the post Google Fights Keyword Stuffed Business Names Using a Surprisingness Value written about the patent Systems and methods of detecting keyword-stuffed business titles.

This patent targets keyword-stuffed business names that include prominent business names to try to confuse the search engine. Examples include such names as “Locksmith restaurant” and “Courtyard 422 Y st Marriott.”

Action Items: The Google Local Guides program puts feet on the street to answer questions about places with unusual names, which is something that Google didn’t have and which can be helpful. If you haven’t looked into the local guides program, you should think about joining. Participating in it will give you an idea of the questions that they ask about businesses. It’s worth checking out.

39. Local Expert Reviews

I’ve heard people suggest that reviews can help a local search rank higher. I have seen reviews considered equivalent to a mention in the Google patent on Location Prominence. But, I’ve now also seen a Google patent which tells us that a review from a local expert might also increase the rankings of a local entity in local results. My post was At Google Local Expert Reviews May Boost Local Search Results on the patent Identifying local experts for local search.

Action Items: People do perform searches to find reviews. If there aren’t reviews about a business type that I might be interested in, I will sometimes ask people whose opinions I value. Word of mouth can be valuable, and people often will look for opinions from people they perceive to be like them. One of the last reviews I left was at a tire store, which had a sign suggesting that people leave a review on their yelp page. The service was good, and they gave me a good deal. I left a review. This was interesting that Google might consider some reviewers to be local experts.

40. Similar Local Entities

When you search for a local coffeehouse, Google may decide to show you similar local businesses. It may include some other coffee houses or other similar results in what you see also. I wrote a post on this called How Google May Determine Similar Local Entities, from the patent Detection of related local entities.

Action Items: It’s good knowing that Google is willing to show similar businesses in searches that you might search for. Finding something that makes your business stand out in a way that could cause people to drive further to get to you is probably a good idea. I see that happen near me with many restaurants on Historic Highway 101 and are modeled after diners or historical places. Not necessarily an SEO approach, but what do you do to stand out?

41. Distance from Mobile Location History

Google keeps track of places that you may visit using a mobile device such as a phone. It may return results on searches based upon distance from you. It will look at the relevance of a business name to your search. It also looks at the location prominence of a local entity to its location. The distance used to be from where you were searching, but it may now be based upon a distance from your location history. I wrote about this in Google to Use Distance from Mobile Location History for Ranking in Local Search

This is based upon a patent called Ranking Nearby Destinations Based on Visit Likelihood and Predicting Future Visits to Places From Location History

Action Items: If your business is located near a busy corridor that many people travel down for their daily commutes, your business may show up as near them, when they search for different types of businesses if Google is showing them places based on a distance from a location history. I like having a directions page that shows how to visit local area landmarks – this doesn’t necessarily help your ranking. Still, it may help deliver visits to you from familiar with the area and know where the local highways and airports are.

42. What People Search for at Locations Searched

Search for a place that you might visit, and the query refinements that you might see may be based upon what people at that location you are considering visiting may have searched for when they were visiting that place. For example, the “Leo Carrillo” example above is for a ranch converted into a state park where many people get married, and chances are the queries shown are from people searching from that park.

This doesn’t affect the rankings of the results you see, but instead the query refinements you are shown. See Local Query Suggestions Based Upon Where People Search based on Local query suggestions.

Action Items: If you are considering visiting a place you haven’t been to before, looking at the query refinements that appear at the bottoms of searches can give you ideas on what else people might search for when they are at that location. Knowing that may surface ideas for content you create on your site or marketing you might do in your area. It is a good thing to know about your location.

43. Semantic Geotokens

A semantic geotoken is a standardized representation for the geographic location, including one or more location-specific terms for the geographic location. My post about geotokens provides details on how much an impact they might have when shown in different ways, at Better Organic Search Results at Google Involving Geographic Location Queries

These are based on a patent named Semantic geotokens

Action Items: There may be ways of including geographically relevant content on the pages of your site that can help it rank better for organic searches. Conversely, having your business rank well for map results and organic results can make it more likely that your business is seen in search results. Aim for both.

Voice Search Google Ranking Signals

44. Stressed Words in spoken queries

This may not be something you can optimize a page for, but it does show that Google is paying attention to voice search and where that might take us. In the post Google and Spoken Queries: Understanding Stressed Pronouns based upon the patent Resolving pronoun ambiguity in voice queries, we see that Google may be listening for our voices to emphasize certain words when we ask for something. Here is an example from the patent:

A voice query asks: “Who was Alexander Graham Bell’s father?”
The answer: “Alexander Melville Bell.”
A follow-up voice query: “What is HIS birthday?”
The answer to the follow-up query: “Alexander Melville Bell’s birthday is 3/1/1819”

Action Items: If you are interested in voice search at Google, you should read a case study they published in 2010: Google Search by Voice: A case study It is about some of the technological issues that Google faced when setting up voice search. It also discusses some of the metrics that Google uses to determine the quality of its voice search. Language modeling and location impact on those language models makes a difference, too.

News Search Google Ranking Signals

45. Originality in News Search

Google has a few patents that focus specifically on Google ranking signals for news results. They have updated some of those patents with continuation patents that have rewritten claims in them. I came across one that once focused upon geography as a critical signal but appears to pay much more attention to originality now. I wrote about that change in the post Originality Replaces Geography as Ranking Signal in Google News

The updated patent is Methods and apparatus for ranking documents

Action Items: The patent says “originality” but tells us that freshness and recency are also important. It looks like being the first to get a scoop on a topic and having the most original takes on that story still has a lot of value in news results. That probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone covering the news. Making sure that it translates well to the written word is important.

Additional Google Ranking Signals

46. Global and Local Scores, Relevance, and Reliability

Part of this approach is one that reminded me of Topic Sensitive PageRank. Some of it is based upon a global ranking for a site and onsite rankings for pages of a site. Different types of relevance may matter under this approach. This can include a Topical Relevance to other sites, Authoritative Relevance to other sites, and Off-site factors that indicate authority on site. Reliability is also a concern as well. Nevertheless, this does appear to be an alternative to PageRank that is worth considering as a ranking signal.

I wrote about this in a post titled A Replacement for PageRank?, and it is based upon the patent Onsite and offsite search ranking results.

Action Items Carefully consider the themes presented in the site and how much of the site covers each of those. Work to improve the relevance and authority, and reliability of all parts of a site.

Google Ranking Signals Conclusion

I have mostly focused upon including google ranking signals that I have written about in this post going back five years. I may have missed some, but I ideally wanted to provide a list that included ranking signals that I have written about and could point to patents about. I’ve mentioned that Google spokespeople have sometimes said that “Just because Google has a patent on something doesn’t mean that they are using it.” That is good advice, but I do want to urge you to keep open the idea that they found certain ideas important enough to write out in legal documents that exclude others from using the processes described in those documents, so there has been a fair amount of effort made to create the patents I point to in this post.

I will be thinking about going back more than 5 years to cover some other Google ranking signals that I have written about. I did want to include some posts I had written about ranking factors that search engines use when they might rerank search results:

Google Ranking Factors versus Google Ranking Signals – It was a little difficult deciding what to call this post because I have heard people use both factors and signals. Then, I remembered a Search Engine Strategies Conference session with several search engineers speaking, and I asked a question during the Q&A section about a certain search ranking factor. They started to answer by telling me that they always referred to Google ranking factors as Google ranking signals. So I try to use search ranking signals since learning about that.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the Google ranking signals I covered in this post.

Last Updated June 8, 2019

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204 thoughts on “Five Years of Google Ranking Signals”

  1. Hey Bill

    In number 8 ranking factor, the link in the following anchor text is not working properly : “Using Ngram Phrase Models to Generate Site Quality Scores”

    Thanks for this great article

  2. Hi again

    The same is happening in Ranking factor 27, anchor text “Determining geographic locations for place names in a fact repository”, the hyperlink is broken

    Thanks again

  3. Thanks for this informative article! Questions that I kept asking myself but hadn’t found a well drafted reply, until today. Especially “how to rank organically on google”. So many interesting posts, though a little technical for me to grasp at one go…I will have read them a few times more.

  4. Hi Kaya,

    It’s something I’m looking back at in retrospect, after keeping up with new patents every week and writing about them. Some of the changes and updates were pretty surprising.

  5. Hi Luis,

    You’re welcome. The links were still good. The formatting of my HTML was to blame with some href+ instead of href= in place. :( Thanks for pointing those out to me.

  6. Hi Jude,

    You’re welcome. I am curious about the questions you might have, but that was the reason why I wrote this. I wanted a resource that people could turn to when trying to learn about how Google Search Algorithms work, and wanted them to see some of the variety and scope of what was going on.

  7. you really brought out your time to elaborate these tips . they are helpful .thanks for sharing. some of the tips above, i do use them and the they really work, though they take tim to be mastered

  8. Hi Patrick,

    True, many of them do take time to master, but knowing that they even exist can be a challenge. Hopefully, awareness of them will pay off.

  9. Hello,
    This is nice post for ranking signals and having right to see you here and thanks a lot for sharing with us .

  10. Great post! Thanks so much

    It would be great if you could add some actionable insights as well.
    For example – how to optimize for context and user intent.

  11. Best SEO post of the year, instant classic. It’s amazing to see all your great work summarized and paints an amazing picture in its totality. Please keep this post update over time (begging).

  12. Hi Ivan,

    Thanks. I wanted to make sure that I had something that people could look at to find out about how Google ranks things. While many of my posts are often about that, I wanted to put those on one page.

  13. One of the best summaries of the question: What and where to find the ranking factors signals. Thank you Bill, you are great and I’m glad to have the pleasure of reading all your academic work.

  14. Hi Marshall,

    Thank you. I hope that people get value from seeing all of these on the same page, and from the action items that I am adding to the ranking signals. :)

  15. Hi Nikola,

    Thank you. I had been getting disappointed by a number of the pages that people were writing about ranking signals, and decided that I had no right to complain about any of them until I had tried to write about them all together.

  16. Hi Bill,
    Awesome Work is done. I am bookmarking this post for the future reference and I think it is worth sharing as a resource on my blog.
    Thanks for the share. Keep up the good work.
    Have a good week ahead.

  17. Great post, as always Bill. Interestingly on the point of stressed words in voice search I was just reading a paper which featured some researchers on the Google team on stressed words also. I will find it and share it.

  18. Hi Robin,

    Thank you. I’m still working on making improvements to this post, with action items for each of the ranking signals. You have a good week, too. :)

  19. In these kind of posts you can basically skip until you see the blue underline from links with the words “here is my training course” or “here is my book where I explain it all”. Never fails

  20. Hi Janha,

    No training course nor book offered in my post. Not sure why you are acting as if I included something like that, but I didn’t. It bothers me to see posts that do that, too. Which is why I wrote this post, and didn’t include that kind of garbage in it. The SEO industry doesn’t need people publishing stuff like that. I don’t feel bad about that at all. :)

  21. Impressive as always Bill. I really appreciate your effort in compiling five years worth of information regarding Google ranking signals. Thank you so much.

  22. One of the things I love most about ranking signals is that they can be dialled up, or dialled down, to create specific ‘flavours’ or biases to better match the intent of certain queries or types of queries.

    Much in the way that QDF (Query Demands Freshness) dials up the ranking factor of how recent a document may be, you can imagine that looking at factors such as the recency and freshness of just links might be a useful balancing factor, helping to surface older documents that still serve that ‘fresh’ need or application, attested to by recent link growth.

    I think at least a few of the times Google have said “Just because we patented something doesn’t mean we use it” might well be regarding situational and conditional signals. After all, I have never heard them state as clearly something we often see “Just because we use something sometimes, doesn’t mean we use it all the time”. :)

  23. Hi Ammon,

    Thank you for sharing those observations about ranking signals. As I was writing action items for the organic signals, it was a little challenging because there weren’t any set numbers indicating how much of an impact any specific signal might have. There is a lot of flexibility as to how specific documents might end up being ranked.

    Good point on the use of patents, too. :)

  24. Es el mejor análisis que he leído en mucho tiempo sobre SEO. No hay ni un solo punto que no se haya tratado.
    Pero Google cada día saca nuevas “reglas de juego” en su batalla contra los SEOS…y no tardará mucho en meternos en breve otra actualización de su algoritmo.

  25. This one is very insightful, I think that this one is must read for any SEO that wants to be an expert in this field.

  26. Hi Bill,
    Lots of nuggets and information to digest here. Nowadays I come to articles like this from someone sharing it through a FB group rather performing a query in the serps.

    Thinking along the lines of Rand’s comment about seeing positive effects after you 500+ clicks. In your opinion, do you think algos can detect traffic from social to create signals even if you are not using a Google product (i.e. Chrome, Analytics, etc)?

  27. Hey
    Nice to see this post having great experience to see this thanks for sharing this information with us

  28. Thanks for providing these awesome Google ranking signals. They are exactly what I need.

  29. Thanks to giving us great google ranking signals,i really need these signals,i appreciate that.

  30. Hi,
    This is nice post for google ranking signals and having right to see you here and thanks a lot for sharing with us.

  31. Thinking beyond the keyword to satisfy the intent and serve the best content possible is the aim, this has just become another source of reference for me when clients ask about specifics. Thanks for the time and effort into this one Bill.

  32. Hi Bill,
    This is awesome. I’ll be keeping this for future reference. Thank you for the effort and for sharing this to us.

  33. Hey Bill, I am new to this field and learning about Google ranking signals. Just found your post. It is really helpful for beginners like me to understand Google ranking signals. Thanks for sharing it with us. Good work, Keep writing.

  34. W-o-w, what a list! Bringing up Google’s patents was really something. Thank you, veeery long but veeery interesting article.

  35. Its awesome. Such rich content on google ranking. Thanks for such wonderful article. It could be good text book for SEO Exam. Thanks tons for providing such rich information. You are doing great job.

  36. I am digesting this article one piece at a time and ended up landing on I find the actual patent excerpts fascinating. It’s interesting how the information is presented academically, like solving a very complex mathematical word problem, yet Google is a business, so the goal is ultimately profitability. Still, I haven’t compared these to other patents. Do you ever review other patents?

  37. Hi AJ,

    Many of the posts on this site are about patents from Google or Bing or Yahoo. I also write on the Go Fish Digital blog as well, often about patents there, too. That one is at:

    Google’s roots are in Academia, having started when Lawrence Page and Sergey Brin were Students at Stanford University, and the original PageRank patent was assigned to Stanford since it was worked upon while Page was a student before Google was incorporated. There are a number of papers that influenced how Google was developed in the earliest days on the Stanford site, and Stanford used to have a page filled with a list of those papers, which I came across once. I didn’t save a copy of it, even though I immediately went and read most of those papers. A lot of what Google is doing can be said to be complex mathematical word problems. That is part of the fun of reading though their patents, and trying to get a sense of how they are developing patents to try to solve problems.

  38. Thanks for that informative and good post. Its of so much help. These will surely help improve.

  39. Too many ranking signals with very deep information! Really awesome work. I learned many new things from each topic. Thanks for sharing this article!

  40. Thanks for putting this together Bill!

    Love the action points and already started to cross check against what we preach and do for clients in our own agency.

    Keep up the good work :)

  41. Hi Charlie,

    Happy to hear that you enjoyed my post, and the action items (they were an addition based upon a suggestion made in an early comment on this thread).



  42. Hi Sam,

    Happy hearing that you enjoyed this post. I thought I had a lot of new things that I hadn’t been seeing in pages about ranking signals, so I was thinking that it might be helpful to people. It’s great getting feedback like yours. Thank you.


  43. Too many ranking signals with very deep information! Really awesome work. I learned many new things from each topic. Thanks for sharing this article!

  44. Hi kulwinder,

    You are welcome. Good to hear that you have been getting value from my writeups of these patents. There is a lot to learn about how search engineers view the Web, and search, and searchers. And patents are published to help people learn from them.

  45. This “Biometric Parameters while Viewing Results” is total insanity … I had no idea it could go that far, and in this case, probably too far ! I’ve read an article presenting over 200 “key” parameters, so I already knew a bunch, but this article taught me news one, like the TV programs thing, so thank you for sharing this precious information.

  46. Hi Arnault,

    Thanks. I didn’t anticipate seeing the Biometric parameters patent, and began wondering how many people would stop using Google if they thought that the search engine was watching their reactions to search results through a camera on their phones. I decided to focus upon the signals from patents because many of them are surprising and unique. I also didn’t feel that I had to prove that Google was likely using any of these, because it was more important to show that they had researched and considered them, so knowing what were potential possibilities I though was a good starting point.

  47. Hey Bill, wow. What an amazing resource for anything SEO related. You seem to cover everything in here. However, under your local section it appears you have missed out ‘citations’?! I’ve been using a software called Local SEO Pro to find really good sites in which I can publish citations on. It’s been really effective so far with the Google Snackpack. Any reason why you don’t mention citations in your post?

  48. Hi James,

    I limited this post to ranking signals from the last five years. I uncovered a Google Patent in 2006 that told us about location prominence and the role that citations play in building that up. Since that was around 12 years ago, I didn’t include that ranking signal in this post, but here is the blog post I wrote about citations as a ranking signal back then:

    Google Local Search Patent Application on Ranking Businesses at a Location

    The local SEO signals I wrote about in this post are newer ones, but I am thinking about a follow-up to this post that will cover some of the ranking signals that are more than five years old, because many of those are still valid and useful, like citations for local search.

  49. Thank you bill for sharing this post because I used these steps and get positive result and improve my websites ranking in google.

    Thanks again

  50. This can be a very informative and helpful post, very genuine and practical advice. Is actually very ideal . Specially this information be supporting to the beginner. Thanks a lot! complete

  51. Hello,
    This is nice post for Google ranking signals and having right to see you here, Thanks a lot for sharing with us .

  52. Hi,
    Well written and informative post. Your points are clear and easy to understand. Thank you so much for this remarkable piece of content.

    Well appreciated, and looking forward to more of such article.

  53. Hi Hope,

    Thank you. I added the action items sections after the post was written, because someone in the comments suggested them, and it sounded like a good idea. There is value in having comments and thinking about them. Thank you for yours.

  54. Helpful Article, thanks a lot for making this article available. The points are straight forward and easy to understand.

  55. yes Google changed all rules 2018 ,new deal ,Best SEO post of the year, instant classic. It’s amazing to see all your great work summarized as said one commentor above.

  56. Hey Bill,
    Really like your share of ranking signals. One, namely “#41. Distance from Mobile Location History”.
    Any thoughts about the need to mention “near me” within content to help support a “near me” query? I think this one covers that… thoughts?

  57. P.S. Hope for the follow-up you are thinking about. Also, I have successfully used “font size” as a ranking factor…

  58. Hi David,

    Google knows what “near me” means when they see it in a query. I don’t think it is essential to include “near me” in content. You aren’t searching for a page that has the words “near me” repeated frequently as a searcher – you are looking for a nearby place.

  59. This is like a treasure for everyone working online. So much useful information, written in such an understandable way. Your content never fails to amaze.

  60. Hi Adwait,

    There wasn’t a patent from Google on this topic, so it isn’t something that I wrote about. It appears, from things in the Google Blog, and from Statements from Google Spokespeople that https may have some impact on rankings, but they seem to have backed off on saying it had too much of an effect. They have said that Chrome will show a warning that a site is unsecure if it is not https, and have said that may have an impact on rankings.

  61. Wow, Bill this complete guide I have seen on any forum. Thanks for putting this together. I have a question for you. What is your opinion on Local Search Ranking Signals is affecting local service business reach(nation or international) in a google search?

  62. Hi Bill, I just want to say thank you for making my life easier by your article.

  63. So much useful information, written in such an understandable way. Your content never fails to amaze. thank you sharing this wonderfull information with us.

  64. This is really an awesome SEO blog post we have here! Thanks Bill. Now i need to find 1 hour to read and understand correctly everything :)

  65. Thank you Bill Slawski ! for your research base and resourceful case study. I always focus for local search, because of my local business. This article really helpful to learn more about SEO, it is never ending process. I really appreciate for your hard work and hope for regular update.

  66. So exciting and informative post. Very well published post and your collection is really too much helpful for Interested people.
    Thanks for sharing.

  67. Let me just put another pot of coffee on and re-read this – Bill, this is without any doubt the most useful post I’ve read in months, thank you so much! I am already quoting you on the two very interesting points you make about links – about the way the likelihood of inspiring a click might influence their value, and the value of links that don’t bring in any traffic. Will definitely have to dig a bit deeper on the subject!

  68. Hi Andrea,

    Thank you. I’m thinking about how to add to this post, as I uncover new ranking signals. I’ll probably retain the formatting I am using now for those, but it makes sense to keep this growing, and so I probably will.

  69. There is so much useful information that I just gathered today, your blog is written well that anyone can understand on point. Your content never fails to amaze. Amazing blog! Keep it up. Thanks for sharing this post.

  70. Hi Alexane,

    Thank you. I’m afraid that I am not going to be able to add to this particular post. (I am going to have to start a Part 2 for it instead because it is so long.) Glad to hear that you are getting a lot from this post.

  71. Hello Bill,

    I have to admit you do have a huge knowledge when it comes to SEO and the site’s name makes sense now. Thanks for sharing the post. It’s incredible.

    Appreciate it.

  72. Hi Jon,

    Thank you. I think I’ll be coming out with a part 2 to this post soon, so that I can add to it on an ongoing basis. I’m coming across some interesting things to write about and add to those ranking signals.


  73. Hello Bill,

    Just found your website and this has to be one of the best articles written about the subject. Looking forward in spending time looking at your other posts.


  74. wow, really find this article interesting, have been looking for something like this, thanks very much for sharing

  75. Hey man, this post is 100% clear, keep up the good work, really enjoyed reading the article

  76. I am new to this field and your post helps me a lot. It is really helpful for the beginners like me. Thanks for sharing it with us. Keep writing.

  77. Thank you for sharing excellent information. Your website is very cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this blog, the post is 100% clear. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject means really enjoyed reading the article.

  78. Hi Bill

    Thanks for sharing awesome post. I really appreciate your work and its quite useful for SEO factor.

    Thanks for sharing valuable information.

    Keep it up!!

  79. I am new to this field and learning about Google ranking signals. Just found your post. It is really helpful for beginners like me to understand Google ranking signals.This can be a very informative and helpful post and practical advice. Is actually very ideal . Specially this information be supporting to the beginner. Thanks a lot!

  80. Hey Bill great post,
    I see so many factors being mentioned here, however if we have to focus only on 1 or 2 of them
    which ones you will recommend so that we have maximum impact? Thank You

  81. Hi Superbsys,

    That is one of the points behind being an SEO – being able to diagnose issues and problems with a site. Being aware of potential issues, and being able to look at a site, and decide which things to try and implement is one of the things that makes SEO challenging, but there isn’t one cure for all sites – there are a lot of different things that can go on with a site. Ideally, you want to make sure that a site is relevant for the right terms, the ones that your audience will search with to find you site, and expect to see on your pages, and you want to build traffic and links to your site. Those are the right steps to take to start with, but that is why I wrote up a post that included a lot of things, to make people aware that there are potentially a lot of things to consider, not just one or two.

  82. HI Alan,

    Thank you for your suggestion. If you have specific questions or problems, and tell me what those are, it is more likely that I will write about them, instead of a broad “write about all the things.” :)

  83. Hi Bill,

    This one really rocks, you are really specific in your articles, this one helped me to clarify a few doubts, looking forward to other amazing posts from you.


  84. Hi,
    This is nice post for google ranking signals and having right articles to see you here and thanks a lot for sharing with us.

  85. Seriously if someone want everything about all updates which google changed who should have here its take time to read complete the articel but after completing the article you can find a lot things which you have been ignoring till now but that one also a ranking factor for google thanks admin for this post please keep sharing these kind of post regularly

  86. Thank you for this great content. You know, people always talk about that there are hundreds of ranking signals / factors for Google but it’s really hard to find what those are. SEO work becomes tougher every day, this is especially clear for me too now in terms of local search ranking signals.

  87. This is a great post Bill! Thank you so much. It is funny – I have been doing SEO for over 10 years now and have been pretty successful with it both for clients and in the affiliate space. But the way I do it now versus 10 years ago is NOT that different! Yes, there are new applications and methods that came along the way like structured markup and things – but the core was always write great content and network! Thanks for this post though — I forgot just how many changes Google has been through.

  88. Hi Jill,

    I remember doing SEO ten years ago. There are some changes, but many things are the same. Many of the things I wrote about in this post are changes, but not ones that necessarily change how SEO is done in drastic ways. I am liking changes such as adding structured data. Creating great content has taken on some slightly different meanings, too. Happy you enjoyed this post.

  89. Hi Patrick,

    There have been some changes to local search, and it is different enough from organic search that it is good to keep those changes in mind. I’m not sure if SEO has been getting harder, but it has gone through some changes.

  90. Hi Bharat,

    Thank you. I was hoping that newcomers to the SEO industry would get a chance to read this post. There have been a number of changes to SEO, and I think it’s good to be able to see many of them in one sitting.

  91. Hi Sam,

    I will have more coming – It’s how I keep track of updates and changes from the search engines – writing about patents and papers that seem to make a difference.

  92. >Google may watch through a smart phone’s reverse camera to see the reaction of someone looking at results in response to a query


    Amazing, amazing article, but this one thing is still stuck in my mind and freaks out. I mean, of course we always knew it could technically be possible that they’re watching us through our cameras or listening to us through our microphones, but you kinda want to believe that they wouldn’t do that, ya know? Ugh…

  93. Hi Mike,

    I was amazed by that patent when I first read it, and I still am after some time has passed. We can’t be certain that Google is actually using that, but chances are that they could be. I’m hoping they aren’t watching or listening, but Google’s patents point out that both are possibilities.

  94. I have read your post. This is a concerning google-ranking-signals. I have a lot of confusion, who disappeared after reading your post Thank you for sharing such kind of topic.

  95. I am a person who is learning about seo. This is a very useful sharing for me to have an overview and more knowledge about seo. I hope you have more sharing to let you know more good knowledge

  96. Hi Taylor,

    I put this post together over the course of a week or so. I point to many posts in this post that I wrote in the past, so it’s something that has taken much more time than just a week to put together. Thank you for your kind words.

  97. This article was really informative Bill. This is one of the most technical article I’ve seen so far regarding ranking signals in Google. Appreciate your hard work compiling all these stuff to provide a solid content for your readers.

  98. Enjoyed reading the article above , really explains everything in detail,the article is very interesting and effective.Thank you and good luck for the upcoming articles

  99. This ia so nice artical.Impressive as always Bill. I really appreciate your effort in compiling five years orth of information regarding Google ranking signals. Thank you so much.

  100. This article was really good Bill. This is one of the most technical article I’ve seen so far regarding ranking signals in Google. thanks for sharing

  101. Brilliant post as always Bill.

    Keeping abreast of the changes in Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines can help content creators keep focused on page quality not quantity.

    We often concentrate on just the trees and neglect the wood.

    We forget that our pages and posts should be created to help users.

    Many thanks for all your efforts.

  102. Hi John,

    Yes, I believe that the Google Quality Raters guidelines are worth reading through and learning from. Focusing upon such things as E-A-T, and making pages that show off expertise, Authority, and trustworthiness has a lot of value; because they ideally will be helpful to visitors. Thank you.

  103. I feel that is one of the so much vital information for me.And i’m satisfied reading your article

  104. This article was really good Bill. This is one of the most technical article I’ve seen so far regarding ranking signals in Google. thanks for sharing

  105. OMG! You’ve constructed a mega post related to Google Ranking Factors. The resources that you’ve listed in this blog helps me gain more knowledge. 5 years of Google Ranking factor could enlighten more newbie bloggers and webmasters to the core.
    Keep up the good work and generate more content on this blog as well.


    Sathish Sundar
    FlyCart WooCommerce Plugin Blog.

  106. Thanks Sir
    You have shared such an good information above. I really would like to thank you so the such informative knowledge.

  107. Hi Hari,

    It took a couple of weeks for me to write this post, and put all the pieces together. I’ve linked to a lot of posts in it that I’ve written over the past 5 years, so it did take a lot of time (and gave me a lot of time to think about the different parts, too.) It felt right to try to pull everything together though.

  108. Hi Sathish,

    I blog to learn, and putting this post together was a learning experience. Happy to hear that you enjoyed the post, and got some value from it, too. Thanks. :)

  109. Thank You I like ur articles basically the way u present it Its very interesting n useful.

  110. Hi Bill,

    First of all, I would like to thank you for such a valuable post.
    Since past 1 year, I am struggling to rank my sites. My success rate of ranking a site has dropped significantly and I am still unsure what I am missing these days.
    Your post has given me some new thoughts to work upon. I will work on these ranking signals and I hope these will be really helpful for me to rank my sites.


  111. Thanks Sir
    You have shared such an good information above. I really would like to thank you so the such informative knowledge.

  112. thanks for sharing information !! i will try to use your provided information for my blog !!

  113. It is hardly to say that you have missed something. You covered all important & effected Google factors which are not easy to find in any other post. Hope you will share more informative information. Awesome work!!

  114. Hi Bill .. great research ..thanx lot for sharing such gr8 information with us. I read ur post first time . It is really wonderful ..!! Thanks so much for that. Plenty of useful information there 🙂

  115. Hi Bill,

    In 2019, the ranking factors of Google are entirely changed compared with the past, for example, in 2007-2011 using too many keywords in the content was the best way to rank your website on Google. But, in 2019 you only cannot do this trick, today there are many factors you need to focus to get listed on the first page of Google.

    All the factors you have mentioned above are crucial in 2019, like loading speed of the webpage, mobile friendliness, unique content and many more are imperative to rank higher on Google.

  116. Hi Fast Weed,

    There is no doubt that Google has evolved in how they rank pages over time. Looking at the patents provides some insights into the changes that are taking place there. I’m digging through some of the other patents that came out before the ones listed in this post, and some of those include interesting updates and changes to how Google works as well. It’s fascinating watching the changes.

  117. Hi, Bill! Thanks for this article, it is full of useful and valuable knowledge. I was particularly interested in the part about stressed words in spoken queries. You have chosen a good example to explain how this mechanism works :)

  118. This article is really very amazing and useful. Thank you so much for the detailed write-up, it helped me to understand more about the Google ranking signals.

  119. Hi, Bill! Thanks for this article, it is full of useful and valuable knowledge. I was particularly interested in the part about stressed words in spoken queries. You have chosen a good example to explain how this mechanism works

  120. Wow. Great stuff Bill, first time posting on here but I had to leave a thanks for you with this great piece of content.

    Your local search ranking signals have given me some valuable insights on how it ranks my competitors. Some serious info here that I couldn’t find elsewhere. Thanks again Bill!

  121. Thank you so much Bill for this blog,
    I am new digital marketer this blog help me a lot for learning to Google ranking signals and then i apply all these steps in marketing.
    Thanks for sharing!

  122. Nice blog and the details about it really interesting.I liked your blog. I respect your time and efforts.

  123. Thank you sir,Bill.It is my first time that I have read your blog and i find it very helpful article.

  124. Excellent write-up Bill. One of the best articles I ve read recently. Cleared most of my doubts regarding ranking signals and factors

  125. What a deep article! It’s like 15 years I’m in SEO industry and I can tell you did a huge job here, congratulations. I give a SEO course in my country, I will use this page as reference for my students.

  126. This is good reading material. I’m going to the beach this weekend and this post will be what I will be reading. Thanks for all the little details concerning SEO that matter so much.

  127. Hi Shay,

    I’m tempted to go down to the beach this weekend, and finish the followup to this post after reading your comment – that sounds like a good place to do it at. :)

  128. wow…. very well explained and you have covered almost every important point with is required in SEO.
    Thank you for increasing our SEO knowledge and hope these tips will help us to grow more. Keep sharing such great stuff with us.

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