/ "Time and trust plays an important role in search engine optimisation"

Jun 16

/ nic.at News - 16.06.2023 10:38
"Time and trust plays an important role in search engine optimisation"

Every company wants to appear as close to the top of Google's search results as possible. After all, what good is even the best website if no-one can find it? In an interview, SEO expert Thomas Czernik from digital agency pixelart explains the role that domain strategy has to play in discoverability and how people can improve their ranking with just a few small steps.


Everyone knows that a top spot in the search results bolsters visibility and reach. But what are the factors that actually influence the Google ranking?
Google uses more than 200 factors to determine its search rankings. Relevant, high-quality content on the website and backlinks elsewhere – i.e. links that channel traffic to my website from other pages – are among other things essential aspects of search engine optimisation (SEO). The keyword used in the SEO title also has a major bearing. The SEO title is what is displayed on a search results page. But the weightings given to them are shifting all the time. These days it is increasingly important for websites to be mobile-friendly – a factor that did not even figure in the rankings only ten years ago.


Is the domain name or the domain extension a ranking factor?
Domain endings can definitely have a positive influence on the search engine result. So, before choosing a domain name people should ask themselves: which country are my customers in? Am I looking to expand at some point? A company that is clearly rooted in the region and has its customers in Austria will find itself at an advantage in the search engine rankings with a .at domain. Google assumes that we are pushing certain regions or a certain country. So a .at domain can have a ranking advantage in Austria.


And what if the company operates in several countries?
There are various solutions for this. If you are represented in the German-speaking countries but offer different services or products for each market, you might want to think about going for three websites – with the domain extensions .at for Austria, .de for Germany and .ch for Switzerland. But staying on top of the maintenance for all three sites can be lot of work, so people tends not to do that for practical reasons. There are two options: the company could consolidate everything under a single generic top-level domain, or register multiple domain names and extensions, all of which redirect to a central website. Whichever road you go down, picking a domain calls for foresight. Changing an established domain once it is up and running is easier said than done, and can end up causing the website to rank lower.


Google gives considerable weighting to the external links that point users to my website. Even if the domain is changed, the website operator still has the option of contacting partners individually to ask them to change the link to the new domain. But as this is a time-consuming process, it can still take a while before the site’s original good ranking is restored. What’s more, such changes are often associated with a drop in traffic – so a major move like this needs be thought about carefully.


Can a keyword in the domain name lead to a better ranking?
Google has issued a number of different statements on this. In 2016, the company indicated that keywords in domains were overrated. And then in 2021, it confirmed that they only had a very minor bearing on rankings. So it is our belief that keywords in the domain name aren’t highly relevant for search engine optimisation. The trend is shifting away from keywords towards brands anyway.


So it's actually better to put the company or brand name in the domain?
Yes, exactly. A company that manufactures sun protection, for example, should use the brand name in the domain rather than something like cheap-sunscreen.at. Still, you can combine the brand name with a keyword. However, the focus on the keyword can become problematic if the company goes on to expand its product range. If they do so, the existing domain wouldn’t logically extend to the new product.


Does the age of the domain play a role in rankings?
It is not a documented ranking factor per se, but established domains usually rank better than new ones. If we were to put the identical content on both an older domain and a new domain, then the website with the older domain would perform better. That said, we recommend that every company conduct a historical check of the domain before moving forward with it.


And how do they do that?
The archive.org tool can be used to check whether a domain has been populated with content at any point in the past. Certain things, such as gambling content, might indicate that the site has been hacked at some stage. Something like this can leave a bad impression, or even render the domain worthless due to a Google Penalty.


So how can a small company ensure that its website is found more easily using relatively simple means?
The company can be entered in the Chamber of Commerce’s register of companies, and that will give it its first external link. And registering with Google My Business is a must, because only then will the company appear in the Local Pack for search queries with a local connection. In a scenario where an electrician from Salzburg comes out top in a regular Google search but is not featured in the Local Pack – and three of his competitors are – then he or she won’t be seen in a local smartphone search. Generally speaking, time and trust play an important role in search engine optimisation. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.


You can find more helpful tips and tricks for choosing domains at https://www.nic.at/en/good_to_know/domain-know-how/domain-selection-tips.