The Web Site Ranking Contest

GoogleWhen you search on a word or a phrase on the web page of a search engine, you may not think much about the list of sites that Google decides to show you.  How does it choose between the thousands of web sites out there? In the early days of search engines,  keywords were the most important factor.  Keywords are a special list of words and phrases placed in a section within the code of a web page, not visible to the visitor.  For example, if you were a guitar enthusiast and seller from Seattle who created a site about guitars, you could place keywords such as ‘Guitar, Music, Band, Seattle’.  -You then submit your web site to a search engine company telling it your web site address, which is then stored on a large database.  When visitors search on relevant terms, e.g. ‘guitars Seattle‘, your web site will be viewed as -close to- 100% relevant to the search and would (depending on how many other sites of competitors selling guitars in Seattle also contained those keywords) likely display your site on the SERP (search engine results page).  Things quickly evolved.  Smart web masters realised they could drive traffic towards their site by using ‘false keywords’ on terms that are likely to be very popular searches, even if their site is about something else.  The idea was to increase traffic and number of visitors to the site.  Search engines soon became wise to this, and started to put less emphasis on placed keywords and much more about the actual content of the site, and what words and phrases were included naturally in the text.  Nowadays, search engines use many factors to evaluate relevance against your search terms, and how to rank your site amongst others.  The exact method and algorithm used is closely guarded secret, but examples of factors include:

  • Content of page relevant to search terms.  (Does your page contain content that matches what the person is looking for)
  • Number of incoming links from other websites (Google values sites higher if they have many incoming links, like a popularity contest). If people put links to your page, it means they value it.  Its not just about numbers though. Relevance between linked sites/pages is also important.  If you have a site about fishing, an incoming link from a website about ‘best Sushi places in London’ is not very useful!
  • Spelling and grammar – It’s widely believed that Google values your good spelling and grammar.
  • Quality of outgoing links – linking to good quality and highly regarded sites (i.e. sites ranked highly by Google) is much more positive than linking to sites that have no relevance to yours.  Google is also aware of a sneaky trick where web site builders place a ‘one pixel link’ on a site, a link that is not visible to the visitor, merely for the purpose of increasing page value.  Google got wise to this and will mark down websites using this trick.

This really only scratches the surface of Google’s rating and page ranking system, and certainly there are many dozens of factors involved.  The main aim of Google and other search engines is to show people the web site content that will be most useful, based on what they are looking for.  Ultimately, its in Google’s interests to make sure it gives you a list of pages that are going to be what you had in mind when you typed words and phrases in their search box, and show the best, most relevant, most well put together pages higher up in the list.

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