It seems a little while ago that Google hinted at having 200+ ranking factors. Though in fact, it happened in the year of 2009, and we are now in 2022, more than a decade behind.
Google has drastically evolved over the past ten years. Today, neural matching — an AI-based method — processes about 30% of all searches, and Google can recognize concepts behind keywords. They have introduced RankBrain, mobile-first indexing, and HTTPS. As we need to adapt to changes and find ways to get atop of SERPs, the topic of ranking factors remains as fresh as ever.
So let’s have a look at what ranking factors to consider in 2022.
1.Domain age and registration length.
Domain age has been considered a ranking factor for quite a long time. This consideration was making webmasters hunt for old domains in the hope to benefit from their weight. Moreover, Domain names with a lengthier period of registrations were believed to look more legitimate in Google’s eyes. This belief probably emerged thanks to one of the old Google patents saying, in particular, that:
“Valuable (legitimate) domains are often paid for several years in advance, while doorway (illegitimate) domains rarely are used for more than a year.”
Google, however, has been denying that domain age has any impact on ranking. Back in 2010, Matt Cutts clearly declared that there was no difference for Google “between a domain that’s six months old vs one-year-old“. John Muller was even more precise, saying an implicit “no” to both, domain age and registration length, being ranking factors.
There are many examples of new domains used for high-quality and valuable sites and plenty of old domains used for spamming. Domain age and registration length exclusively are unlikely to seriously impact rankings. Probably, older domains may benefit from other factors, such as backlinks, etc. However, if a domain had a bad history of rank drops or spam penalties, Google might negate the backlinks pointing to it. And in some cases, a domain penalty might be passed on to a new owner.
Keyword domains — are domains that either contain keywords in their names or totally consist of keywords (the so-called exact match domains (EMD)). They are believed to rank better and faster (than non-keyword-based domains), as their names serve as a relevance signal. In one of his video answers in 2011, Matt Cutts indirectly confirmed taking into account keywords in domain names. He recalled users that had been complaining about Google “giving a little too much weight for keywords in domains“.
In one of his Hangout sessions about a year ago, John Mueller answered a question about keyword domains saying:
“…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean that it’ll automatically rank for those keywords. And that’s something that’s been the case for a really, really long time.“
“…it’s kind of normal that they would rank for those keywords and that they happen to have them in their domain name is kind of unrelated to their current ranking.“
Moreover, as quite a big number of EMDs were caught using spammy practices, Google rolled out the EMD algorithm that closed the ranking door for low-quality EMDs.
So at the end of the day, having a keyword as a domain name has little to do with a ranking boost today. There are plenty of hyper-successful businesses that have branded, non-keyword-based domains. Everyone knows Amazon.com, for example, but not something like buythingsonline.com. Think about Facebook, Twitter, TechCrunch, etc. Quality and user value are much more important.
3.Keyword in a page’s URL
Using a target keyword as a part of the page’s URL can act as a relevancy ranking signal. Moreover, such URLs may serve as their own anchor texts when shared as-is. However, the ranking impact is rather small.
John Mueller had confirmed that a keyword in a page’s URL was a ranking signal. But he emphasized that it’s insignificant compared to other ranking factors, and advised against changing already ranking URL just for the sake of having keywords in them.
“I believe that is a very small ranking factor. So it is not something I’d really try to force. And it is not something I’d say it is even worth your effort to restructure your site just so you can get keywords in your URL.“
URLs containing keywords get highlighted in search results, which might impact a site’s CTR, as they hint to users at the page content. Google sees such URLs as slight ranking signals. Taking into account their ability to serve as their own anchors, they are probably worth the effort.See more about SEO.
A country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) is a domain with an extension pointing at the website’s relation to a certain country (for example, .it for Italy or .fr for France, .ca for Canada, etc.). It is believed that having a ccTLD helps you rank better in the target region.
Google Search Console help center states that ccTLDs
“…are a strong signal to both users and search engines that your site is explicitly intended for a certain country “.
At the same time, having a country-code TLD may decrease your chances for higher ranks globally.
“You can target your website or parts of it to users in a single specific country speaking a specific language. This can improve your page rankings in the target country but at the expense of results in other locales/languages.“
A country-code top-level domain is a definite search ranking factor for a country-specific search. Thus, if your business targets a certain country’s market, something you really need to distinguish to Google is that your content is relevant to users from that specific country.