Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

SEO Blog

Google’s 200+ Ranking Factors

What are the rules?

There are more than 200 SEO factors that Google uses to rank pages in the Google search engine results pages (SERPs). What are they? Knowing what they are should help you to rank higher. Here’s a stab at the answers.

Vaughn Aubuchon has compiled a “best guess” list of the factors that control where your website ranks in the Google results. There are both on-page (relevance) factors and off-page (reputation) factors, and for each of those groups there are factors that positively affect your rankings and factors that negatively affect your rankings.

Google logoVaughn warns that his SEO Rules are not listed by weight or importance; he chooses to leave those judgments up to you, the reader. Cop-out? Maybe. But my guess is that the relative importance of these factors is a very fluid thing. For example, he lists a keyword in the domain name as a “hot” factor but that was clearly written before Google’s recent EMD update.

All caveats aside, this is a pretty good stab at the things Google considers as it decides where to rank your website. Have a look.

If you think you may have violated some of these rules, Rank Magic can help.

What Makes a Quality Site? Answers from Google.

Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting recently had a conversation with Google’s Matt Cutts about what makes a quality website. One of the essential points they drive home is that having a page that’s simply non-duplicative of other pages isn’t enough to gain good rankings.

Google's Matt Cutts speaks at a web convention.Inadvertent non-duplicate content

Many car repair websites, for example, have a page about brake jobs for people looking for brake service and/or information about brake maintenance.  Typically they all say pretty much the same thing. In fact, sometimes when creating their web page they look at other car repair websites to get ideas about what to talk about. Usually they put everything in their own words and feel good that they don’t have duplicate content.

But that doesn’t mean that they don’t still have duplicate information.

And quite frankly, search engines don’t do consumers of information any service if they display lots of web pages for a query that all just say basically the same thing.

The trick is to make sure your web pages provide an additional value not found on other similar pages. You have to figure out what makes you special, and then create pages that highlight that.

Mat Cutts also talks about a number of other things that reflect on a website’s quality, including their inbound link structure. It’s a thoughtful conversation and I recommend it to you.


Is it worth my time to write a blog and participate in social media?

We provided the answer to this question in the syndicated newspaper column “The Small Business Professor”.

Dear Professor Bruce: As a small business owner, is it worth my time to write a blog and participate in social media for my business?

Answer: According to search engine optimization (SEO) consultant Bill Treloar, owner of Rank Magic, the answer is a definite yes. He enumerates several reasons.

  • A blog encourages you to add new content to your website on a regular basis, but he cautions you not to pay attention to those who say you need to blog daily. A weekly post, or even bi-weekly or monthly, may be sufficient if you’re diligent about posting regularly.
  • Having your blog hosted at your own domain  and listed in good blog directories drives links to your website, helping you to rank higher in search engines.
  • Your blog will almost automatically include highly focused phrases related to your business that will attract people who search for them.
  • If your blog has really good content, you may get offers for it to be syndicated in other blogs like, further expanding your reach and enhancing your personal authority in your field.
  • You can dramatically leverage the exposure of your blog via social media. Every blog post can be mentioned (with a link to the blog post) at Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, MerchantCircle, Delicious, Digg, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, and other social sites.
  • Another benefit of social media is customer interaction: if customers respond to your posts with questions or problems, you can address them promptly and visibly in a way that illustrates your caring, customer-centered approach to your business.

A well-written blog that provides valuable information related to your products or services should bring you new customers and also should improve your rankings in Google, Yahoo, Bing, and all the other search engines.

For further information, Bill’s blogged about blogs and social media on his own blog..

(Bruce Freeman, The Small Business Professor, is president of ProLine Communications in Livingston, N.J., and co-author of “Birthing the Elephant.” He teaches at Seton Hall and Kean universities. Email

Get More Customers With Google+ Local Search

Customers are looking for you online

More than 95% of customers search for local businesses online. Google estimates that 40% of mobile searches (on smartphones and tablets) are looking for local businesses. If your business serves local customers on a face-to-face basis, you have to be visible in local search.

Google+ Local

Having a listing in Google+ Local can really power up your sales. People can find your listing by searching directly in Google+ Local if they know about it, but your local listing will also show up in “universal search”, the normal search everyone does in Google all the time. Depending on where they search, here’s how listings may look:

Here's how a search appears for a Google+ Local listing, dep[ending on how the customer searched.

Graphic courtesy of Search Engine Watch. They discuss this in even more detail.

In order to ensure that your business will show up here, you need to do a few critical things:

  1. Find your listing and claim it.
  2. Fill out as much as possible of the information requested: a full, compelling description, photos, logos and other images for your business, hours of operation, payment options, and so forth.
  3. Ask customers to write reviews, and reply to their reviews.

Then just watch your phone and foot traffic increase as a result. You can do this yourself without spending a dime. Or you can ask Rank Magic to help with this and also with Yahoo Local, Bing Local and more at very reasonable rates. You can ask about it here.

Whichever way you choose, you owe it to your business to do this.

Revealed: Google’s New SEO Copywriting Strategy

Once upon a time

Years ago you had to include specific keyword phrases multiple times on a page  — verbatim  — to rank highly for them. Since then, Google has gotten much better at recognizing synonyms and even near-synonyms. More recently, Google has gotten better at piecing together a sense for keyword phrases even when the words in the phrase aren’t adjacent to one another.

keyword search terms

Much better now

Today, if you want to optimize your copy for people searching for plugin hybrid SUVs, you no longer have to pepper that 3-word phrase throughout your copy and in your code. If your page is about SUVs and mentions the word hybrid and includes the term plugin, Google can tell that it’s relevant for the phrase plugin hybrid SUVs.

That’s much easier on the patience of your readers and allows you to optimize for the phrase naturally, without keyword stuffing. It may even positively impact your conversion rate because your copy will read so much more naturally.

In fact …

Google’s Penguin update last spring addresses this very thing. Google may now consider as “over-optimized” websites that repeat the same verbatim phrase too many times. What may have been necessary for rankings ten years ago can actually earn you a penalty today.

Karon Thackston wrote in High Rankings Advisor a couple of months ago about a conversation she had with Google’s Matt Cutts on this very subject. I recommend her article and her presentation of that conversation.

If your website was optimized years ago and involved sprinkling verbatim keyword phrases throughout your pages, you may be seeing some loss of rankings. If so, we can help.