Google universal ranking factors: an overview of resources

Google is much more than a search engine that searches for the best webpage to fit your request. Over the years they launched many different vertical search engines like Google News, Google Books and Google Places. More and more results from those vertical search engines tend to appear in the regular search results, creating universal (or blended) search results pages.

Because these universal results can replace regular results and ofter are placed above the regular results SEO doesn’t focus on organice results alone anymore. You need to optimise for the vertical search engines as well. All those different search engines require different approaches for ranking in their SERPs, in this article I try to make an overview of the most valuable information for ranking in Google’s universal search engines.

Google Organic ranking factors

Let me first start with the organic results. SEOmoz publishes an update on the ranking factors for ranking in search engines every two years. Those ranking factors come from a survey taken from 72 SEO experts all over the world. In my opinion this list is a great overview of the ranking factors and their estimated weight.

http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors

Oh yeah, Google tries to give some information about ranking factors as well.

http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769

Google AdWords ranking factors

Although Google AdWords is not really a vertical search engine there are ranking factors involved for ranking the ads. Google explains it partially in this post.

http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=6111

The Quality Score is however still a bit mysterious. For more in-depth information about the Quality Score check out the Quality Score Handbook by PPC Hero: http://www.ppchero.com/quality-score-handbook/

Google News ranking factors

Google News is very valuable source of traffic for a very distinct group of websites. Ranking news takes a whole different  approach than regular results. An interesting difference from ranking in regular results is that for Google News PageRank (# of links) don’t matter.

Two extensive articles that cover ranking factors from A to Z are:

http://www.searchenginepeople.com/blog/seo-for-google-news-ranking-factors-and-recommendations.html by our own Barry Adams; and

http://searchengineland.com/google-news-ranking-stories-30424 by Danny Sullivan

The explanation of the patent for improving the ranking of news articles can be found here:

http://www.seobythesea.com/?p=2810

Google Blog Search ranking factors

Google Blog Search is a vertical that searches for blogposts and blogs as a whole. David Harry took a dive under the hood of Google Blog Search and analyzed two patents granted to Google for ranking blogs.

http://www.huomah.com/Search-Engines/Algorithm-Matters/Google-Blog-Search-under-the-hood.html

Google Videos ranking factors

Videos are ranking in the SERPs more and more. As Joost de Valk and David Harry mentioned in their summer interviews here on State of Search: video is getting increased visibility and should therefore get your attention.

Joost de Valk explains on his blog how to get your videos indexed.

http://yoast.com/video-seo/

Terry van Horne covers the nuts and bolts of video optimization on the Fire Horse Trail.

http://www.huomah.com/Search-Engines/Search-Engine-Optimization/Video-SEO-the-nuts-and-bolts.html

Google Images ranking factors

Google images were one of the first results appearing in the SERPs and are shown very often. However, documentation about ranking for Google images is hard to find. Possibly because visitors from Google images aren’t as valuable as other visitors. Because search engines can’t ‘read’ images surrounding and descriptive aspects play an important role here.

Bill Slawski analyzes the patent on SEO by the sea. Other articles seem to cover the exact same factors or less.

http://www.seobythesea.com/?p=1047

Update: Barry Adams wrote a great article about ranking in Google images as a result of the discussion below this post. Read it here on State of Search. Don’t forget the comments below that post.

Google Maps / Places ranking factors

Local search is a whole new world. You can special in local search optimization because it is extremely valuable for a wide range of business. And with the explosive growth of mobile search it will become more and more valuable in the near feature. Therefore there is a lot of extensive information available. But we’ll start with Google’s explanation:

“All Google search results are based primarily on relevance, and Google Maps listings are no different. Google Maps ranks business listings based on their relevance to the search terms entered, along with geographic distance (where indicated) and other factors. Sometimes our search technology decides that a business that’s farther away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer.

Google Maps and Google Places are a free service, so there’s no way to request or pay for a better ranking. We also can’t provide additional details about our ranking algorithm. We do our best to keep the details of the algorithm confidential in order to make the ranking system as fair as possible for everyone.”

http://www.google.com/support/places/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=7091

David Mihm does a survey about local search ranking factors. The results from the latest edition can be found here:

http://www.davidmihm.com/local-search-ranking-factors.shtml

Another interesting article is this one by Tom Critchlow. He shares his data on local research (and formulates some findings himsefl). So if you want to experiment with some data yourself, go check it out!

http://www.distilled.co.uk/blog/seo/google-local-research-data-released-for-free/

Google Updates (real time search) ranking factors

Google’s real time search is still a new vertical by Google. Only released at the beginning of this year there’s still some interesting information available. In this case even by Google itself.

The Techonolgy Review published an interview with Google’s Amit Singhal where they cover real-time search ranking: http://www.technologyreview.com/web/24353/page1/

On SiteVisibility there’s an interesting beginners guide.

http://www.sitevisibility.co.uk/blog/2010/05/26/ultimate-beginners-guide-to-real-time-search/

Google Shopping (product search) ranking factors

Google shopping is a vertical specifically targeting e-commerce sites. Although it is not available in every country yet, it can be a very important part of your e-commerce traffic sources. A very specific factor for Google Shopping are reviews.

Tom Critchlow covers the ranking factors on SEOmoz.

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-to-rank-well-in-google-products-search-a-big-list-of-places-to-get-reviews

So, you still have a lot to do to cover all the verticals? At least now you know where to focus on. If you want to know which results are blended in for your important search queries, check this out: http://www.stateofdigital.com/find-out-which-universal-results-google-shows-for-all-of-your-important-search-querys/

Good luck!

Update august 30, 2010: added link to Google images post.

About Jeroen van Eck

Jeroen van Eck is a consultant search engine marketing at the online marketing company E-Focus in the Netherlands.