Friday, May 7, 2010

Google Ranking and Other Search Engines

Have you ever wondered how Google ranks the results that you get when you search for something? What about other search engines; how do they work? The mechanics of search engine rankings (particularly Google) may surprise you.

Google page ranking is actually big business. It used to be bigger, and here's why: Web-based companies used to make money by simply offering to optimize a web site for search engines, and some still do. They banked on the myth that page ranking is some sort of mystery--It's not (at least not any more). The one thing that remains a secret is the exact algorithm that Google uses to rank pages.

Google works in a complicated way, but it's really not as complicated as some folks make it out to be. Google routinely "crawls," or examines web pages for content. In other words, if you publish a web page, Google will eventually examine it, and then index it for search results. If you have any type of site monitoring application, like Sitemeter, installed, you will regularly find page hits (visits), from "googlebot." This is not a person visiting your page, but Google's automated crawler; it's examining, or crawling, your page in order to index it. It's looking for some particular things, and it uses a mathematical algorithm to rank your page, based on those things.

The debate over which things on your page will sway the almighty googlebot is intense; some argue that incoming text links weigh pretty heavy, while others simply stick to the old-fashioned key word content. Here's what those are in a nutshell: If I type a word in this post, and then make it a link to a site (like this: Write on the Right), I've created an incoming text link to that site. The more of those a page or site has, the higher it will be ranked by Google. In addition, if I include certain key words in my blog post (like search engine, Google, SEO, etc), Google will index my site based on those words. The more relevant key words I have in my content, the higher the ranking.

Someone recently said to me that they don't understand how Google can continue to offer such effective search results for free. Well, it isn't really free. Google makes money the same way television stations do, by advertising. How many ads have you come across that link to a Google search result? Probably more than you've really kept track of. Companies also pay good money to get their pages ranked higher in Google search results; that's big bucks for Google too. Also, Google has its fingers in much more than search results; they have their own browser, and many other applications (like Blogger). I wouldn't be surprised if Google fielded its own operating system soon.

One more thing that is often overlooked is the power of blog posts for search engine ranking. My blog, for example, gives every post its own unique URL. Try hovering your mouse pointer over the title of this blog post; you'll see that the post has its own web address. Since the web page for this post also includes a link to my home page (Write on the Right), every blog post that I publish will serve to slightly increase my blog's search engine ranking by creating more incoming links to the home page. Who's confused? In other words, more posts equals more links to everything that I link to on the home page, and the home page itself.

Here's another bit of trivia: Text links work better than image links. What that means is, the text links that I have on a page will cause the target site to be ranked higher (based on what the text link says), while a banner or image isn't as effective in ranking. Google will index and rank images, but it doesn't do a great job of associating key words with them.

Other search engines, like Yahoo,, and Bing, use essentially the same concepts, but Google continues to be the heavy hitter. There are also search engines that are topic specific, such as medical and job search tools. All of this helps to make things easier for us when we need to find information, but it tends to dilute the effectiveness of optimizing your site for search engines.

Here's the bottom line: Links and keywords help ensure that people can find the web content that they search for. The next time you view a professional web page, try looking for the key word content that is intentionally placed there; you might be surprised how much you find.

1 comment:

Miss Em said...

Now that did answer a few questions as to "How the he** did that get picked?".

Miss Em
Austell, Ga.