How To Rank In Google

Lesson #1: Domain-Level Link Features

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It's time for your first lesson in the most important ranking factors for Google -- what they are, what they mean and how to go about improving them so you can rank your websites!

As a reminder, the top 9 most important factors are:

  1. Domain-Level Link Features
  2. Page-Level Link Features
  3. Page-Level Keyword & Content-Based Features
  4. Page-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features
  5. Engagement & Traffic/Query Data
  6. Domain-Level Brand Metrics
  7. Domain-Level Keyword Usage
  8. Domain-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features
  9. Page-Level Social Features

Let's start at the beginning:

Domain-Level Link Features

What is it?

Domain-Level Link Features is just a fancy way of saying the quality and quantity of links aimed at your entire website. 

How important is it?

According to the 150 experts surveyed, domain-level link features are an 8 out of 10 on the scale of importance for ranking in Google.

What can I do to improve it?

You want to get links to all of the pages of your website from other high quality sites, including sites that are important in your market.

Detailed Explanation

Let's say that you have an article posted to a page of your site on the topic of "blue widgets". It's a great article with lots of great content, infographics, videos, images, information, etc. It may even be worthy of winning awards in the widget industry!

But let's say that your competitor also has a page on their site about blue widgets. It's not as good as yours, but it's still good. However, their site has lots of high quality links to all of its pages.

Even if your page--which contains better content--has a good number of high quality links to it, unless your entire site also has lots of good quality links to its other pages, guess who Google is going to rank first? Your competitor!

Why would Google do that?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but it actually makes sense. Google is very focused on returning results from sites that are an authority in their market, sites that have proven themselves as valuable resources for people looking for information in that industry.

Google sees links to a page as votes for the quality of that page. If only one page of your site has lots of "votes", does it make sense for Google to consider it an authority? 

No. When you think of somebody who is an authority on a subject, you think of somebody who knows a lot about every facet of the subject -- not just one. 

It also makes sense for Google to take the entire site's links into consideration because it makes it harder to trick Google into ranking your site.

Think about it: it may be somewhat easy to get a bunch of good links to one page of your site in some shady way, but to get a bunch of good links to dozens or hundreds of pages of your site? Much, much harder and more expensive.

So by making sure that an entire site has what we call good "link popularity" before it ranks any page on the site, Google is making sure that it's returning the best possible information to the person searching.

Google relies on the authority of the entire site so much that pages with only a few links that are on sites that have lots of links (like Facebook, Amazon, Wikipedia, WebMD, etc.) often outrank pages that have more links to the individual page but not as many links to the entire site.

How To Check Your Site's Link Popularity

I personally use Keyword Canine 3.0 (or KC3 as I like to call it) to check the link popularity of a site. It's not available to the public yet, but it launches October 1st so I don't mind showing you the inner workings now.

You can, of course, use whatever tool you prefer. I just love to use KC3 because I had it developed to show everything that I know Google looks for when ranking a site. It's an SEO tool designed and developed by people who practice SEO. Makes sense, right?

KC3 has what's called a "Domain Dashboard" that gives you a snapshot of how healthy a site is in the eyes of Google and other search engines. It does this by showing you a variety of statistics about the site and page.

Here's an image of the domain dashboard:

Keyword Canine SEO Tool
click here for a full-size version

Notice the column labeled "DA". That's short for "Domain Authority", and it's an indicator of how likely a domain is to rank in Google based on a variety of factors -- the most prominent being the quantity and quality of the links aimed at the entire site. The higher the number, the more authority the site has and the more likely it's going to rank. 

It's important that you keep an eye on that number and work hard to increase it by getting good quality links to your site. 

Don't be tempted to get a bunch of low quality links just because it's easier! At best it will have little to no effect on your rankings, and at worst it will get your site flagged by Google and you'll never rank the site at all.

KC3 also has tools that will let you see whether or not a page is worth getting a link from, but I'll get into that more in another lesson.


Linking Domains, Not Linking Pages

Important Side Note: Google looks at how many different sites are linking to a page much more than how many individual links are aimed at that page. That is, if all of the sites were otherwise equal, having 100 links coming from 100 different websites (1 link from each site) is far better than having 100 links from 5 different websites (20 links from each site). 


Just How Powerful Is A Site's Overall Link Popularity?

Just so you understand how powerful having high quality links aimed at all of the pages of your site really is, take a look at another image. This one comes from KC3's Keyword Explorer analysis (I'll show you more of how this works in future lessons):

Keyword Canine Search Results Analysis
click here for a full-size version

That image shows the top 4 search results in Google for the keywords "old time radio". Notice that the page ranked #1 (from has the least number of different domains linking to it out of all 4 results (see the PageLinks column).

So why is Google ranking the page #1 if it has so few different domains linking to it compared to the other results?

Now look at the SiteLinks column. has more links to the entire site than any of the other results. It has greater overall link popularity / authority. That's the power of having strong link popularity across the entire site. Even if your page isn't as popular as the competition, if your site is very popular Google will often favor your page over pages from other, less-popular sites.


In Summary

So to sum this lesson up, it's important that your site have lots of high quality links coming into all of its pages and not just the page that you're trying to rank in Google. Google very much prefers to rank sites that it considers an authority in its market, and authority sites naturally would have lots of "votes" to most (if not all) of their pages.

The next lesson will discuss the second most important factor that Google looks for when ranking a page: Page-Level Link Features.


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