Google Ranking Factors – Which One is the Most Important? — A SPN Exclusive Article

SEO directions from Google can be a complete minefield for the honest webmaster. On the one hand, Google suggests you optimize your site for their search engine, but if you optimize too much you may draw a devastating penalty which can wipe out all your good work and rankings overnight. If you can say Panda without grimacing, maybe you’re on the right track when it comes to pleasing Google.

Most webmasters want to get it right when it comes to pleasing all the search engines and not just Google. They want the right factors to come into play when their site is being ranked. However, in their enthusiasm, many webmasters face another obstacle.

Can You Have Too Much SEO?

While figuring out exactly what Google wants will always remain the “Holy Grail” for webmasters, optimizing your site for all the search engines is definitely required if you want to get those top rankings. Now, Google has a whole list of ranking factors which they use to rank your content.

Comply with enough of Google’s dangling indicators and your content will get displayed at the top of the search results, assuming, of course, that your site hasn’t drawn the ire of the Panda and received a site-wide downgrade because you have duplicate, low-level content or you have simply used too much SEO manipulation. This can place your content and site out of the running, especially for lucrative paying keywords in Google.

Increasingly, for some lucrative keywords, your site and content will be placed lower than Adwords paying sites in organic results. Google seems to be now rewarding these paying Adwords customers with top spots in free organic results. One way of promoting its own interests, which Google has made no bones about doing or stating. Just look at its recent actions regarding Google+ data when users are logged into their G accounts, to find your proof.

Now, taking these two factors or penalties out of the equation, what’s the most important ranking factor for getting those top first page results in Google?

Many SEO experts would suggest high quality backlinks from keyword related authority sites to be the overriding factor for high rankings. Others would suggest, in the new improved Panda-Empowered Google, on-page and on-site metrics are now the most important ranking factors to be considered for high listings.

Others would point to the social media sites or numbers when judging/ranking your content. Get thousands of Facebook likes, Twitter tweets or Google plus ones – and it will propel your content to the top of the pile.

However, I would suggest another old ranking factor, which is still one of the most over-riding factors for getting those top listings in Google. Simply put, having the exact keywords or keyword phrase in your domain name and title, is the most important ranking factor.

This is a powerful ranking factor because every URL or link on your own site and on the web will have your keywords front and center. Automatically, this is telling all the search engines what your site is about and the content it will contain.

Basically, most of the SEO or optimization is done for you by having these targeted keywords front and center. While you don’t ignore the other ranking factors and site metrics, having your exact keywords in your domain name can be a vital starting point for any site.

Many experts would disagree, for example, SEOmoz.org in its recent listing of ranking factors, judged by industry SEO experts, suggest this “exact keyword domain” factor has fallen in importance and will become much less essential in the future.

I disagree with these findings mainly because in actual practice, picking the exact keyword phrase and building a simple site around those keywords will almost always land your site on the first page of Google, if not in the top spot. This can all be done, WITHOUT much other optimization or promotion of the site.

You still have to produce superior content, but the SEO will take care of itself and Google can’t possibly penalize your site for being on topic and relevant to the search query.

Even just having the keyword phrase as a part of your domain name can be beneficial because we are seeing more and more of these sites listed on the first page. Obviously, this is resulting for more reasons than just having the phrase in the domain, but the search engines are “keyword driven” so having them there is a big plus.

Granted, we are talking about long-tail or multi-word domain titles, which have low to medium competition, but enough monthly search traffic to make these domains feasible. These lucrative keyword phrases convert into sales or leads at a very high rate.

Even for more competitive keyword phrases I have found, ranking high in Google can be much more easily accomplished if you have those exact keywords in your domain name and title. Then there is all the free traffic which is received from web users who type your URL directly into the browser, by-passing the search engines altogether.

I predict that as Google keeps ranking and de-ranking content because of link buying or simply too much SEO, it will fall back to the one ranking factor that is the true indicator. And, as Google places more penalties and rules into play, this one all important overriding ranking factor (exact domain name) will remain constant.

Where Google is concerned, it would be foolish to bet the farm on any one factor, but this may be your safest bet going forward. It’s the one ranking factor which you should have in your arsenal.

All views, opinions and conclusions expressed in this article are solely those of the author who is a full-time search engine marketer. He earns his living by ranking high in the search engines for lucrative keywords. His main site offers Free Guides on everything associated with running a business from Corporate Business Gifts and Online Fax Providers to Marketing Tools. Copyright 2011 Titus Hoskins.

About the author


Titus Hoskins

Titus Hoskins, a former artist and teacher, is now a full-time web marketer who regularly sells 1000's of dollars worth of affiliate products/services online each day. He owns and runs numerous websites, including two sites on Internet Marketing. You can contact him thru his main website - www.bizwaremagic.com


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  • This is old news, in the future google will normalize the playfield, and an effective way is to take care of that domain name focus. It will shoot all the affiliates in the foot, and all seo niche produced sites, so I think you will discover, that seo and domain name is history very soon.

  • “If you can say Panda without grimacing, maybe you’re on the right track when it comes to pleasing Google.”

    This makes me grin. I love Panda. About the time it started to get real traction in Google search results, the sites I maintain got an otherwise “inexplicable” bump in page rank and search result position. All of them.

    Panda rewards user friendly design and relevant, useful content. It penalizes sleazy, unethical b@stards whose stock in trade is to sabotage the Internet’s indexing systems. Panda is a Good Thing [TM] and long overdue.

    Any time I see a company of person with “SEO” or a related term in the name or job title, the standard I apply is “guilty until proven innocent” – because I have been around the website services block a few times and that’s the lesson of experience. They need their fingers broken and I am always happy to see it actually happen.

  • Bottom line is Google keeps playing with us SEOs. One time links are more important then content, all those years of strenuous working to get links with targeted kws in anchor text are not that valuable anymore and we are back to page titles and content. I’d say one thing is fore sure we need to start cutting our reliance on Google and find other ways to drive qualified traffic to our websites.

  • “Increasingly, for some lucrative keywords, your site and content will be placed lower than Adwords paying sites in organic results. Google seems to be now rewarding these paying Adwords customers with top spots in free organic results”.

    Anyone have a case study or more info on this?

    ‘Seems to be’ or is?


  • This appears to be what has happened with a company I had never heard of before. They have the keyword in their url. In fact the keyword is their url and just over the last couple of weeks they are ranking page one number one for this term. They are even above the leading retailer in this market who were number one on google for years.