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For many business owners or corporate marketers, getting closer to the top of Google’s search engine results is the holy grail of their internet marketing strategy. While it’s only a small piece of the online marketing puzzle, we thought you might want to know more about the mysteries of search rankings so your clients can actually find you. Here’s a look at three factors Google considers when deciding how to rank your site.

Is Your Website’s Domain Older, Wiser, and Therefore More Respected?

The older your domain name is, the more importance Google assigns to it. This is called domain stability. When you renew your domain name for a single year, Google considers you to have a lower stability, since many spam sites register one year at a time. A domain name that’s been around for six years and is renewed for five years at a time is rated by Google as much more stable. Bonus: domain names that contain your primary keywords are viewed even more favorably. So, if you are a power tools website with a ten-year-old domain name (such as www.ChainsawsAreUs.com) that won’t expire for five more years, Google will rank you higher than – say – renewing www.Ace.biz one year at a time.

Not-So-Special Effects

Back in the late 1990’s – despite our slow internet connections – we all loved Flash-enhanced websites. They just looked so…well, cool. The black screen…the ‘loading…68%’ bar that would slowly progress…it all hinted at something amazing.

Well, no longer. Flash certainly isn’t dead, but search engines have had an evolving love-hate relationship with it.  For years, Flash-enabled sites were less-frequently indexed by search engines, since companies like Google couldn’t figure out what content was inside the Flash video or image. That has been changing over the last few years as search engines learned how to figure out just what the content inside all of that Flash coding actually is. Google can now see links and read the text inside of Flash, though it can’t interpret the pictures. It also doesn’t distinguish how important the text is, so “America’s Leading Chainsaw Repair Company” is weighted the same as “Copyright © 2000 by Chainsaws ‘R’ Us.”   Cool-looking Flash isn’t necessarily a ticket to the top of the search results and while it’s SEO relevance is improving, it can still hurt you. This is doubly true on some mobile devices or smartphones…especially earlier generation devices (from – like – 9 months ago!) which may not be Flash-enabled.

Incoming! (Links, that is)

Search engines love links. The foremost rule is that the links should be relevant. If your website is focused on chainsaw repair, then excessive links to sites that discuss smartphones make it more difficult for search engines to understand who you are and what – precisely – your business does.

Inbound links to your site from other sites are a tremendously important ranking measure used by search engines such as Google. Think about it: when Microsoft links to your website, that speaks highly of your expertise and Google considers that important.

Here’s a tip: inbound links from government addresses (‘.gov’), and colleges & universities (those good old ‘.edu’ addresses) are generally seen as extra-special by search engines such as Google. If you can, find blogs or discussion boards on relevant ‘.edu’ or ‘.gov’ sites and post comments – making sure to include a link to your website in your signature or the body of the comment.

Also, don’t ignore outbound links from your site to other websites. Make sure all links work, since search engines intensely dislike broken links – it makes your site seem outdated and neglected.

What have you done to raise your website in the search rankings?