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How Do Search Engines Rank Websites

Every search engine has its own algorithm, or process, for determining where your pages rank for a particular search term. There are common elements to many of them, but they all apply their rules a little differently. It’s probably not possible to create a single web page that satisfies every major search engine completely, but the system we use in this book has proven to be effective across all of the major search engines.

On page factors vary from engine to engine, so our system tries to position your pages in the “common ground” between them. The position of keywords (where the phrase appears) is the most important. If the phrase appears in headings, page titles, and other key spots on the page, a search engine will see this as more relevant than a page where the search term appears once in the middle of the page.

In addition to positioning, link popularity and other “off the page” factors contribute significantly to your page’s ranking. This is because good web sites usually have other sites linking to them. Since there will usually be a good number of pages that have just the right mix of keywords and position, link popularity makes a good “tiebreaker” for search engines to use when ranking pages.

Closely related to link popularity is “link relevance” and weighting. This means that a link to your "hamster food" page from a page that actually contains those words is more relevant than a link from an unrelated page. The text used in the link itself is especially important – this is known as “anchor text” or “link reputation.”

Google’s “PageRank” system is the best documented, and most discussed, of the search engines’ link analysis methods.

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