SEO News You Can Use: An Analysis of 88 Ranking Signals Separates Fact From Fiction

SEO News You Can Use

Google has been vocal about the fact that its algorithm looks at 200 ranking factors, or ranking signals, when it ranks pages. Go ahead and try to find a list of these 200 signals. We’ll wait.

Have you given up yet? 

Frustratingly, Google refuses to share what these 200 ranking factors are, leaving it up to SEOs and marketers to reach their own conclusions. Of these alleged 200 ranking factors, very few have been confirmed by Google. And as you can imagine, this leads to a lot of confusion and incorrect claims. 

That’s exactly why Search Engine Journal (SEJ) released its latest eBook – a study analyzing 88 possible ranking signals and rating them according to their probability of being factored into Google’s secretive algorithm. These ranking signals include:

  • 301 redirects
  • Anchor text
  • Breadcrumb navigation
  • Canonicalization 
  • Click-through rate
  • Domain authority
  • H2 through H6
  • Meta descriptions 
  • Spelling and grammar

The eBook, titled Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction, aims to bust a couple of myths almost all SEOs have been guilty of buying into at one point or another. The SEJ team went the extra mile to avoid any speculation, anecdotal evidence or guesswork, seeking out only hard facts or highly reputable evidence to evaluate each of the 88 ranking signals. The signals analyzed were then placed into one of six categories depending on their likelihood of affecting Google’s algorithm: Confirmed, Probably, Possibly, Unlikely, Not Anymore and Definitely Not.

If you have questions about the validity of claims even from your most trustworthy SEO experts, we don’t blame you. Misinformation is rife for almost every single one of these signals. The eBook, however, does a very convincing job of laying to rest some of the more popular myths.

Of course, this is Google we’re talking about, and something that was not a ranking factor today could very well be one tomorrow. The years past have shown us that Google doesn’t care much for consistency. For the most part, all we can do is assume that content quality and relevancy, page experience and links are the most important signals in Google’s eyes (or at least the ones it talks about). But if you want to know what else matters right here and now, we highly recommend giving the eBook – all 626 (!) pages of it – a read. We won’t give any juicy information away here, but download the eBook for yourself and learn something new to inform your 2022 strategy.

More SEO News You Can Use

Google Ads Is Combining Smart and Standard Display Campaigns: In an announcement posted on Wednesday, Google said it will be “bringing the best of both worlds” from Smart and standard campaigns and merging them into a single Display campaign type. The flexibility of standard Display campaigns and the automation of Smart Display campaigns will come together to give advertisers the reach and performance they know and love, plus the ability to choose their preferred level of automation. Advertisers can decide what to automate and change their minds at any time without having to create a whole new campaign. Additionally, Google Ads will introduce optimized targeting – a feature previously only available on Smart campaigns – to Display campaigns, improving overall performance. You can keep up with any changes and updates on Google’s Help Center article.

Yes, Your WordPress Theme Can Affect Your Search Engine Rankings: Thinking of changing your WordPress theme? Just make sure you’re ready for the potential SEO implications of doing so. During the latest #AskGooglebot video series, Google’s John Mueller confirmed that changing your WordPress theme can have a direct impact on your Search rankings. This is because your theme affects numerous things, such as how the content is displayed, the page load time and speed, structured data use and internal linking – and, as we know, these are all ranking signals. But this discussion also shows the value of choosing a theme with SEO benefits because the right theme could do a substantial amount of SEO heavy lifting for you. Mueller also gives a few tips to figure out if a theme is affecting your SEO, so check out the video for a two-minute crash course.

Prominent Lead Gen Forms CAN Be a Negative Ranking Factor – Here’s How: During the latest Google office-hours hangout, a viewer wanted to know whether a call-to-action (CTA) placed above the fold would affect their page rankings. Quick refresher: Back in 2012, Google’s algorithm was updated to negatively rank sites with excessive advertising at the top of the page, specifically if it made it difficult for users to see the actual content. So, fast-forward to 2021, could an above-the-fold lead gen page trigger the same effect? Mueller said yes, it can – in certain instances, that is. If a lead gen form is clearly in line with the search intent of a page, it shouldn’t be an issue. But if the link is more tenuous, Google’s algorithm could view the form as an ad and rank a page lower. If what Mueller says is accurate, it means Google’s algorithm is advanced enough to tell when a lead gen form is a useful part of the content and when it’s not. And, as SEJ’s Roger Montti said, that’s pretty extraordinary.

A SEMrush Study Looked at Whether Core Updates Are Becoming Less Powerful: We’re no strangers to core updates. Over the years, our sites have been beaten down and built up (sometimes during the same week!) by Google’s algorithm changes. And in the SEO world, that’s showbiz, baby! Well, SEMrush seems to think that core updates could be stabilizing – that they’re not packing the same punch they used to. So, SEMrush’s Mordy Oberstein released a study that sought to prove the hypothesis. He specifically analyzed how much volatility increased after a core update relative to the period of stability preceding it. The results seem to indicate a downward trend in rank volatility increases since the Medic Update of 2018 – the first of a series of nine updates that introduced the “modern era” of SEO. So, can it be definitively stated that core update potency is decreasing? As with all research, the answer isn’t simple, but the study makes a convincing argument that’s well worth mulling over.

Here Are the Possible Explanations for Google’s Title Tag Update: It’s been almost a month now, but we’re still not over Google’s title tag rewrites. Who asked for this?! The one question that remains is what motivates Google to act as your nonconsensual copywriter – what are the real reasons it decides to rewrite a title? This is what Roger Montti tried to figure out in an SEJ article, where he looked at Google’s historical stance on title tags as well as the technological advancements that may have been the driving force behind this update. Montti leaves no stone unturned in his analysis, and it’s fascinating to look back on Google’s recent comments and updates and try to piece together where “titlepocalypse” came from. Could it be an issue of keyword stuffing? Or perhaps the titles we believe to be oh-so-perfect aren’t great at all? Check out the possibilities and make up your own mind.

Editor’s Note: “SEO News You Can Use” is a weekly blog post posted every Monday morning only on, rounding up all the top SEO news from around the world. Our goal is to make a one-stop-shop for everyone looking for SEO news, education and for hiring an SEO expert with our comprehensive SEO agency directory.

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