Google Search Results and How to Rank Well

Google search results

This post stems from a GoogleWeb­mas­ter­Help video on how Google search res­ults are cre­ated that was pos­ted by Matt Cutts in April 2012. If you don’t sub­scribe to this You­Tube chan­nel and you have an interest in what Google does then it’s cer­tainly worth a look. At the time of writ­ing the video is already nearly 18 months old and so doesn’t include the latest updates but it still gives a pretty good over­view of how a Google search works.

So how does Google do what it does?

There are three things that Google, or indeed any other search engine, needs to do well if it wants to be use­ful to people.

  • Crawl the web comprehensively
  • Effect­ively index the pages
  • Apply a rank­ing to the pages depend­ing on a range of qual­ity criteria

Crawl­ing the Web

GooglebotWhen Google star­ted it would take it some months to crawl the entire Inter­net at a time when the World Wide Web was a much smal­ler place than it is today. This could mean that quite a long time would go by before any changes on your web­site would be noticed and incor­por­ated into search res­ults. Hap­pily things hap­pen much more quickly today and many of us expect that changes made to our site today will show up tomor­row or the day after in the search res­ults. The prime determ­in­ant of how fre­quently Google re-​indexes your site is Page Rank, with high Page Rank sites being indexed far more fre­quently than those with low Page Rank.

Page Rank

Page Rank

Page Rank is a met­ric of which most web users are bliss­fully unaware but to those who make a liv­ing from SEO it is an extremely import­ant factor. Whatever browser you are using there will likely be a plug-​in which will allow you to access the page rank of the site you’re cur­rently inspect­ing and I would cer­tainly advise you to take a look.

Google ranks pages from 0 to 10 where 0 implies the low­est rank and num­bers approach­ing 10 are reserved for very high prestige sites with many vis­it­ors. Aca­demic web­sites usu­ally have a high page rank as do high-​quality news sites like the BBC or CNN etc. Google uses page rank as an indic­a­tion of how high qual­ity a site is, as well as how many vis­it­ors it has and how fre­quently updates are made.

The primary determ­in­ant of Page Rank is how many links come into a site but cru­cially it also depends on the Page Rank of those link­ing sites them­selves. This begins to explain how cru­cial it is to have links into your site from high qual­ity domains; and equally how prob­lem­atic it can be to have a lot of very low qual­ity links. If we go back a couple of years, Google search res­ults were strongly influ­enced by the num­ber of links and far less by their qual­ity. Although it con­tra­vened Google’s own advice, many Web­mas­ters got excel­lent res­ults by simply buy­ing large num­bers of links from sites, often called ‘link farms’, that were set up solely for the pur­pose of provid­ing links to web­sites that paid for the privilege.

How­ever, incre­mental updates to Google’s search soft­ware over the last few years has changed this bal­ance, with the qual­ity of your incom­ing links becom­ing sig­ni­fic­antly more import­ant. These updates mean that today, Google takes an increas­ingly dim view of this ‘link farm­ing’ and will pen­al­ise a site for hav­ing too many links from very low qual­ity web­sites. Even high qual­ity web­sites which would have pre­vi­ously ranked well are sud­denly find­ing them­selves well down search res­ults with their Web­mas­ters des­per­ately try­ing to remove low qual­ity links into their site they set up a few years ago. This can be sig­ni­fic­antly more dif­fi­cult than it sounds and whilst back­links are a cru­cial determ­in­ant of your Page Rank, you should be very wary of who you invite to make a link to your website.

I can­not express strongly enough that other than ensur­ing that your site has high-​quality ori­ginal con­tent and your on-​page SEO is done prop­erly, by far the most import­ant thing you can do to improve search rank­ing is to get links into your site from other high-​quality websites.

Page Index­ing and Ranking

After it has crawled the web, Google must con­struct an index so that it can get an idea of what each page is actu­ally about. When the Google­bot crawls a site it can identify text and in many cases it can read down­loads such as PDF’s etc. The only way it can identify what’s in a dia­gram is if you’ve added ‘alt’ text so if this isn’t some­thing you routinely do you’re miss­ing a trick. This is also the reason why you should avoid hav­ing text on your site that’s actu­ally part of a graphic as Google will not be able to read it.

Google looks at the ele­ments on your page that it can under­stand and will fit them into its index of likely keywords. Google will essen­tially ignore words com­monly used in lan­guage and will focus on words it believes are sig­ni­fic­ant in high­light­ing the sub­ject of the page. It will also look at links into your site which use the rel­ev­ant keywords in their anchor text high­light­ing the import­ance of prop­erly form­ing link text. Although quite a clever beast, the Google­bot is simply soft­ware and the easier you can make it to under­stand what your page is about then the bet­ter for all concerned.

Google Search Results

Google search resultsWhen you enter a search phrase, Google will look at its index of pages which include these keywords. If some pages from your site include mul­tiple keywords from the search phrase then it will give your site pref­er­ence, espe­cially if the words are in the same order as the search phrase. It will then decide which pages to serve up in the Google search res­ults depend­ing on how well your search phrase has been matched together with the Page Rank of the match­ing sites. The res­ults page should be in the order of sim­il­ar­ity with the keyword phrase with the higher page rank sites show­ing first.

It’s clear that to be suc­cess­ful in searches your webpages must be well writ­ten with the keywords appear­ing suf­fi­ciently fre­quently to get Google’s atten­tion. At the same time the page should look author­it­at­ive hav­ing both back and for­ward links to and from qual­ity sites. If a keyword appears too fre­quently then the search soft­ware will take the view that the art­icle has been ‘keyword stuffed’ and is likely to be of low qual­ity. How fre­quently is too fre­quently? The page should read cor­rectly. If the keyword appears with suf­fi­cient fre­quency that that it inter­rupts the flow of nor­mal Eng­lish then Google is likely to take note and give you a lower qual­ity score (which high­lights the import­ance of con­sid­er­ing your keyword or phrase very care­fully). But if your page has enough of the right words and you have suf­fi­cient Page Rank then you’re always going to be close to the top of the Google search results.

Con­tact Colin Fen­wick for more inform­a­tion or if you would like to talk to Web Incite about how we can help you to improve your website’s performance.

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