200 factors that play a part in Google’s ranking
When an Internet user enters a search string in Google, the search engine returns a list of results headed by the most relevant websites. In order to determine that ranking, Google uses about 200 signals on which it bases its famous algorithm. Google has no intention to disclose its secrets. Nevertheless, a few indicators are known that you must make sure never to lose sight of.
The news site Website Entrepreneur drew up an enormous info graphic featuring these factors. It is based on statements made by Matt Cutts, Google’s SEO guru. In the present article, we will focus on the chapter related to domains, because they represent the cornerstone on which an entire website rests.
For starters, the age of a domain isn’t really that important. There isn’t much difference between a website that’s been around for six months and one that has been existing for a year. What does count, however, is the domain registration length. Valuable (legitimate) domains are often registered for several years, because the owner has total confidence in the future and made long-term plans. Conversely, temporary domains, which only serve as doorways to other domains and are used for ads or for illegal purposes like fraud and malware, are generally registered for short periods – rarely for longer than one year. Google therefore considers the expiry date as a factor to predict the legitimacy of a domain. The fact that a domain has often changed owners (via Whois), Google can also consider a negative factor.
Whois, the file with information on the owner of a website, his contact, his hosting company, is also an important indicator. As we said previously, a domain for which the Whois information has been changed too often will get a less favourable ranking. Moreover, if Google has identified a certain person as a spammer, it can decide to investigate the other sites belonging to that person and extend this negative rating to those other sites. In a Whois file, one can also choose to keep one’s information private. Google interprets this as unreliable, as a domain owner who has “something to hide”, with the logical negative consequences. So, don’t choose a private Whois but rather a public one.
A third important factor is the presence of keywords in the domain name itself. In the Top Level Domain, it currently doesn’t make a difference. But the question remains if things will still be the same in the future, when the new generic TLDs like .Lawyer, .Music, .News, etc. will be active. Possibly, the presence of the keyword in the TLD will eventually have an effect. A keyword in the domain name itself, on the other hand, is indeed an indicator of relevance; in the list of results, Google will put the keyword featured in the domain name in bold, which indicates that it does take this element into account. The location of the keyword is also of importance: you will rank higher when the keyword is at the front rather than in the middle or at the end of the domain name or when there is no keyword at all in the domain. For instance, musicJones.com will score higher than JonesMusic.com. For that matter, the keyword can also appear in the subdomain name (music.jones.com).
Finally, you will have to decide whether you will choose a country code domain or go for a more international audience with a generic Top-Level Domain like .com, .net, .biz... A local anchorage with a ccLTD helps the site rank higher for that particular country... but limits the site’s ability to rank globally. The choice is yours, depending on whether you target the national market or the global market.
The info graphic contains even more tips: recommended reading to get your website to rank higher in Google!