About Search Engine Ranking

About Search Engines

Each search engine (of which there are thousands) has their own formula (called an Algorithm) for calculating your Web Pages relevance to a search term that is entered by the user.  It's worth remembering that the main job of a search engine is to provide results which most satisfy a user's query. If they present a result that the user visits and doesn't agree that the document is about their query, there is a very good chance that the user may not use that search engine again. The principles described below are a general guide to improving the ranking of pages in most modern search engines, and are in line with the recommendations supplied by Google (arguably the worlds most useful search engine, which accounts for it's popularity).

Google actually publishes information about their ranking algorithm on their website. You can read it for yourself at: http://www.google.com/technology/.

For those who are interested, an impossibly complex explanation can be found in this Wikipedia Entry.

Improving Your Page Rank

There are numerous tips floating around in webmaster circles about how to improve your ranking in the various search engines.

1. Inbound Links

Part of how a search engine ranks a page is the number and quality of links leading to that page. For example, if your page has 100 quality links leading to it, it will rank higher than another page that has only 20 links pointing at it. Quality links come from pages that are themselves "important" (Google's own terminology) for example a link to your site from The Australian Newspaper site would be more "important" than a link form your Grandma's cross-stitch site.

2. Your Title Tag

Google seems to give weight to the title of your page. The title is the text that is sandwiched between the HTML "TITLE" tags in the "HEAD" section of your web page. If you use a Web editor that automatically inserts a title like "New Page", remember to change it to some meaningful text with your keywords inside to reap the benefit of this feature.

3. Content-Laden Pages (Keyword Density)

One of the simplest ways to improve your site's placement in the search engine results is to work on the keyword density on your page.

A "keyword" in this context is a word (or phrase) that the user searches for when using the search engine. Generally speaking, keyword density is the ratio of the word that is being searched for (the keyword) against the total number of words appearing on your web page. For example, If your keyword occurs only once in a page of 500 words, it has a lower keyword density than a keyword that occurs four times in a page of similar length.

If a particular keyword has a higher density on the page, the likelihood of the page obtaining a better search engine ranking increases.

Tips for Improving Keyword Density

  • Consider the search terms a user is likely to use when searching for the information your site provides.
  • Place the keywords words in sentences.
  • Limit the use of pronouns; insert the keyword string as often as possible without making the page unpleasant to read. 

4. Keyword-laden Links

According to a paper published by one of Google's founders, if the links pointing to your page has the relevant keyword text in them, it will cause your page to be ranked higher in search engine results. For example, a link with the text "Cheap Shoe Store" pointing at your site will cause your site to be listed earlier if a visitor searches for "cheap shoe store" than if the link simply said "click here". You can find a copy of the paper online at The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.

Other Tips

  • Make every page reachable from at least one static text link.
  • Offer a site map to your users with links that point to the pages.
  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
  • Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.
  • Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn't recognize text contained in images including Flash.
  • Make sure that your TITLE tags and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.
  • Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100).
  • Make pages for users, not for search engines.
  • Add ALT tags when placing images on your site.
  • Employ tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.
  • Participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking.
  • Use links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web. Your own ranking may be adversely affected by those links.
  • Use unauthorized computer programs to submit pages.  This is often a violation  of the Terms of Service of the search engine.
  • Google does not recommend the use of products such as WebPosition Gold™ that send automatic or programmatic queries to Google.
  • Be too concerned about the META keywords tag, it is largely ignored by most search engines.
  • Deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as "cloaking."