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Factors Affecting Search Engine Ranking


The success of any search engines is measured by its ability to present relevant and high quality documents to Web users. Different search engines, however, interpret relevance and quality differently and use different algorithms to achieve their versions of relevance and quality.

On the other hand, the relevance and quality of search results are judged by users, not by search engines, we expect the search result rankings on major search engines will be very similar in a couple of years. The convergence in relevance and quality of search results won't happen to small search engines prosperous in niche markets.

Understanding how search engines should rank search results, rather than how they rank results now, will help us develop websites to rank higher in all major search engines, and the rankings and site traffic will not vary significantly to search engine updates. By building high quality and search engine friendly websites, your sites perform better and better as search engines get smarter and smarter.

By identifying all major factors that should and will impact the search engine result rankings, we can view the rankings as the weighted average of those factors. The ranking differences between search engines and ranking changes from updates for a particular search engines are really the change of weights for those factors.

PageRank (link structure) plays a very important role in Google's search result ranking. Yahoo, with the recent introduction of Web Rank, will very likely use page traffic as an important factor in its ranking algorithm. We do not know how MSN will rank search results once it reveals its new search engine features.

The relevance and quality of a Web page is determined by the page content, link (how other page authors think of the page), traffic (how users think of the page), and click through rate on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).

Page Content

  • Page Title This has been and will always be an important factor in computing relevance. The level of importance of page title may vary from search engine to search engine, and from index update to index update. Google's recent update, apparently places less weight on page title than before in an effort to minimize the impact of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on SERP.
  • Content Content of a page consists of link text (internal and external links), keywords, quality of the content and length of content. Search engines will likely weight more on content in ranking search results. Keywords in link text are more important than keywords in normal text since a link points to another web page. The spelling errors and grammar errors can partially measure the quality of a page content. The length of a page content could be a factor in determining the result rankings.
  • URL Keywords in URL naturally speaks the relevance of a page. The trend is to weight less on url in the rankings.
  • Relevance of Linking The content of pages the page links to impacts the relevance of the page.

Link Links from other pages to the page measure how other page authors think of the page.

  • Link Importance The importance of a page (PageRank) is the aggregation of the importance of (PageRank) incoming linking pages.
  • Link Text The text of incoming links measures relevance of the page.
  • Content of Incoming Linking Pages Web authors tend to use page title as link text when they link to other pages. The link text is definitely not the best measurement of link relevance. The content of incoming link pages are better measurement of link relevance. It is evidently that Google doesn't compute relevance using content of incoming link pages.

Traffic Page traffic is a measurement of how web users think of a page. Higher page traffic implies higher quality of the page. Toolbars are commonly used to measure page traffic.

  • Unique Visitors # of unique visitors to the page in certain period of time (a month, for instance).
  • Page Views # of times the page is viewed in a period of time.
  • Page View time The average time users spent on the page.

Click Through Rate on Search Results While page traffic could measure the popularity of a page, click through rate on search result page is users' measurement of content relevance for a particular search term. Search engines can easily track the click through rate for user searches and use them to improve the relevance of search results.

Related Topics
Write Search Engine Friendly Web Pages - Search Engine Optimization
Google PageRank - Basics, Secrets and Misunderstandings
PageRank Calculator - automatic site creation
PageRank and Linking- the Definitive Guide
How Search Engines Work - Crawler, Indexer and Query Server
Keyword Popularity on Google - an Online SEO Tool
Website Classification for Search Engine Marketing


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