How Do Search Engines Rank Web Pages?

T his articles intention is to help you to understand how search engines specify the position of a web page in the search engine results p...

This articles intention is to help you to understand how search engines specify the position of a web page in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Mathematics of Page Rank

Search engines use top secret mathematical formulas to determine the rank of every web page. These mathematical formulas are called ranking algorithms and although search engines don’t reveal the exact algorithms (they obviously don’t want spammers knowing how their algorithms work), applications such as IBP’s Top 10 Optimiser can help you to decrypt these algorithms.
All the major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing use the same mathematical and social principles to rank websites. The exact ranking algorithms differ from search engine to search engine (they obviously don’t all use the same coding) but the principle is the same. We’ll use Google’s ranking algorithm as an example as they are top dog at them moment and their policy is stated quite clearly on their developers web site.

How Does Google Rank Your Web Pages?

Google’s explanation of their ranking algorithm goes like this:
  • “Traditional search engines rely heavily on how often a word appears on a web page. Google uses PageRank to examine the entire link structure of the web and determine which pages are most important.It then conducts hypertext-matching analysis to determine which pages are relevant to the specific search being conducted. By combining overall importance and query-specific relevance, Google is able to put the most relevant and reliable results first.”
As mentioned in the quote, Google uses PageRank and hypertext-matching analysis to rank your web pages. What does this mean for your website?

You Need Good Links

To get good results for the PageRank factor, you need good links from related pages that point to your site. It’s a simple principle: if page (A) links to page (B) then it is a recommendation from page (A) to page (B). The more links point to your website, the better your rankings.
The quality of the links is also important. A link from a website that has a related topic is much better than links from unrelated sites especially ‘link lists’. There are link builder tools such as those in the IBP application which will help you to get high quality links as easily as possible but it really boils down to having good content that other sites want to link too.

You Need Optimized Web Page Content

While the linking concept is easy to understand, the hypertext-matching analysis factor is a bit more complicated. Google explains hypertext-matching analysis as follows:

  • “Hypertext-Matching Analysis: Google’s search engine also analyzes page content. However, instead of simply scanning for page-based text (which can be manipulated by site publishers through meta-tags), Google’s technology analyzes the full content of a page and factors in fonts, subdivisions and the precise location of each word.Google also analyzes the content of neighbouring web pages to ensure the results returned are the most relevant to a user’s query.”
So, as Google analyzes the full content of your pages you also have to optimize the full content of your web pages. It is not enough to edit your meta tags. You have to optimize all factors that can influence your search engine rankings.
The problem is that many webmasters don’t know which page factors can be important. That’s why tools such as, IBP’s Top 10 Optimiser, KeywordChief, SpinnerChief and The Best Spinner (all FREE) will, between them, help analyze all important web page factors so that your web pages will be perfectly prepared for the search engine’s hypertext-matching analysis.

It’s Not Enough to Optimize a Single Web Page.

As mentioned in the explanation of Google’s hypertext-matching analysis, Google also analyzes the content of other web pages on your site to ensure that your web page is really relevant.
This means you must optimize different pages of your website for different but related search terms. The more web pages of your website are optimized for keywords about a special topic, the more likely it is that you’ll get high rankings for a special keyword that is related to that topic.

WARNING: a Single Spam Element Can Destroy Everything

Before you start with your search engine optimization efforts, you must make sure that your web pages are spam free. This is very important.
If you use a spam technique on your website, all other search engine optimization efforts are pointless. If a search engine has tagged your website as a spam source then you have to remove the spam elements from your web pages before the search engine will take another look at other elements of your site.

Many  Website Elements Can Cause Problems

Most search engines consider the following spam:
  • Cloaking (returning different pages for search engine spiders and human viewers)
  • Doorway pages
  • Misleading redirections
  • Hidden text (text colour is very similar to the background colour, using very small font sizes, text hidden with CSS tags etc.).
If you use one of these techniques on your web pages, remove them now. It is extremely likely that search engines will ban your site if you continue to use them.

You Might Have Spam Elements On Your Website Without Knowing It!

Depending on how you create your web pages, your website might unintentionally contain spam elements. For example, some content management systems (CMS) create hidden text sections using the CSS display:none technique to create drop-down menus or other expandable web page elements. Although these elements are not designed to mislead web surfers, search engines might interpret the hidden texts as a spamming attempt.

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