Ranking plays such a large part in search engine optimization that you’ll see it frequently in this book.
You’ll look at ranking from every possible facet before you reach the last page. But for now, let’s look
at just what affects ranking. Keep in mind, however, that different search engines use different rank-
ing criteria, so the importance each of these elements plays will vary.
Location doesn’t refer here to the location (as in the URL) of a web page. Instead,
it refers to the location of key words and phrases on a web page. So, for example, if a user
searches for “puppies,” some search engines will rank the results according to where on the
page the word “puppies” appears. Obviously, the higher the word appears on the page, the
higher the rank might be. So a web site that contains the word “puppies” in the title tag will
likely appear higher than a web site that is about puppies but does not contain the word in
the title tag. What this means is that a web site that’s not designed with SEO in mind will
likely not rank where you would expect it to rank. The site
is a good
example of this. In a Google search, it appears ranked fifth rather than first, potentially
because it does not contain the key word in the title tag.
The frequency with which the search term appears on the page may also affect
how a page is ranked in search results. So, for example, on a page about puppies, one that
uses the word five times might be ranked higher than one that uses the word only two or
three times. When word frequency became a factor, some web site designers began using
hidden words hundreds of times on pages, trying to artificially boost their page rankings.
Most search engines now recognize this as keyword spamming and ignore or even refuse to
list pages that use this technique.
One of the more recent ranking factors is the type and number of links on a web
page. Links that come into the site, links that lead out of the site, and links within the site
are all taken into consideration. It would follow, then, that the more links you have on your
page or leading to your page the higher your rank would be, right? Again, it doesn’t neces-
sarily work that way. More accurately, the number of relevant links coming into your page,
versus the number of relevant links within the page, versus the number of relevant links
leading off the page will have a bearing on the rank that your page gets in the search results.
One last element that might determine how your site ranks against others
in a search is the number of click-throughs your site has versus click-throughs for other
pages that are shown in page rankings. Because the search engine cannot monitor site
traffic for every site on the Web, some monitor the number of clicks each search result
receives. The rankings may then be repositioned in a future search, based on this interac-
tion with the users.
Page ranking is a very precise science. And it differs from search engine to search engine. To create
the best possible SEO for your site, it’s necessary to understand how these page rankings are made
for the search engines you plan to target. Those factors can then be taken into consideration and used
to your advantage when it’s time to create, change, or update the web site that you want to optimize.
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