I just found out from a colleague that Google uses over 200 ranking factors when determining which pages go where in the search engine results. I knew there were a lot, but I didn't realize there were that many and how they impacted the search engine rankings of my website and the sites of my clients. The link is above if you want to review 200 yourself, but here are eight Google ranking factors that I didn't know about, and you probably don't know about either (until today):
- Exact Match Domains - An exact match domain is a domain name that's an exact keyword, such as contentmarketingservices.com or greenhomecleaning.com. Exact match domains have always been a Google ranking factor, but they have lost strength in the last few algorithm updates. However, if your exact match domain offers high quality content, then it should still give you an edge, but more so because of the content and not because of the exact match.
- Page Loading Speed - Yes, it is a direct ranking factor. If your page takes too long to load, then it could hurt you. Google considers page loading speed, and several other factors, as part of the user experience. The better the user experience, the increased likelihood that the website offers quality content and is regularly maintained and updated, which is essentially what search engines want to show people in the search results.
- Image Optimization - This is one that's worth noting as its a Google ranking factor that may business bloggers and online publications miss. Google can't see images, so it "reads" them according to things like the caption, description, title, file name, and alt tag. When including images on your blog posts and web content (and please include images), include the keyword you want that page/blog post to rank for in each of those sections for the image.
- Contact Us Page - Supposedly, if your contact page actually has information on it (and isn't just a form), then that will improve your rankings. Although, it could just be for that page, but at least this is one more reason why a contact form isn't good enough for a contact page.
- Guest Posts - Guests posts, especially the backlinks, are very valuable for search engine rankings. However, links in the author bio aren't as valuable as those within the context of the article. This may be a little difficult to achieve, since some online publications are picky about the links that can be included in their blog posts, but it's something to keep in mind if guests posts are a big part of your online marketing strategy.
- Wikipedia Source Links - Bad news on this one! All Wikipedia links are 'no follow' so none of them count as part of your search engine rankings. As great as it is to have a link from Wikipedia, it does not count as part of your Google ranking factors. This also means that creating a Wikipedia page about your company may be good in that's in one more thing that can come up when people search for your company, but the links you include in there won't mean a thing.
- Word Count of Linking Content - A link from a 1000-word post is more valuable than a link inside ofa 25-word snippet. Who would have thought? This is a good reason to publish longer, more comprehensive content, as it boosts the value of the backlinks you provide to others.
- Brand Signals - This one actually encompasses several factors, but Google does like pages and social presences that indicate that your company or your website is, in fact, a brand. Make sure that your company has strong, fresh, and active brand signals, such as an official LinkedIn company page (using a personal profile is against the site's policy, so stop that if this is you), brand name anchor text, a Google+ local listing, and the number of blog/RSS subscribers you have.
Not only are there eight more ranking factors (well, more actually, if you count brand signals as several) to be aware of, but hopefully there's an additional understanding of things you can do to improve your SEO strategy. Keep in mind that search engine rankings aren't just based on one or two big things, but on a huge conglomerate of things that contribute to the user experience and what you have to offer a web visitor.