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Knowing and understanding the exact algorithms employed by a search engine would offer an unas-
sailable advantage for the search engine marketer. However, search engines will never disclose their
proprietary inner workings — in part for that very reason. Furthermore, a search engine is actually
the synthesis of thousands of complex interconnected algorithms. Arguably, even an individual com-
puter scientist at Google could not know and understand everything that contributes to a search
results page. And certainly, deducing the exact algorithms is impossible. There are simply too many
variables involved.
Nevertheless, search engine marketers are aware of several ranking factors — some with affirmation
by representatives of search engine companies themselves. There are positive factors that are generally
known to improve a web site’s rankings. Likewise, there are negative factors that may hurt a web site’s
rankings. Discussing these factors is the primary focus of the material that follows in this chapter.
You should be especially wary of your sources in the realm of search engine optimization. There are
many snake oil salesmen publishing completely misleading information. Some of them are even trying
to be helpful — they are just wrong. One place to turn to when looking for answers is reputable contrib-
utors on SEO forums. A number of these forums are provided at the end of this chapter.
Many factors affect search engine rankings. But before discussing them, the next section covers the concept
of “link equity,” which is a fundamental concept in search engine marketing.
Link Equity
Without links, the World Wide Web would just be a collection of unrelated documents. Links provide
structure and provide both implicit and explicit information in the aggregate. For example, if a web page
is linked from many web sites, it usually implies that it is a more important page than one that has fewer
incoming links. Moreover, if the anchor text of those links contains the word “cookie,” this indicates to
search engines that the cited page is about cookies.
Links assign value to web pages, and as a result they have a fundamental role in search engine optimiza-
tion. This book frequently references a concept called
URL equity
link equity
. Link equity is defined as
the equity, or value, transferred to another URL by a particular link. For clarity, we will use the term
when we refer to the assigning or
of equity, and
URL equity
when we refer to the actual
equity contained by a given URL.
Among all the factors that search engines take into consideration when ranking web sites, link equity
has become paramount. It is also important for other reasons, as we will make clear. Link equity comes
in the following forms:
Search engine ranking equity.
Modern search engines use the quantity and quality of links to
a particular URL as a metric for its quality, relevance, and usefulness. A web site that scores
well in this regard will rank better. Thus, the URL contains an
value in tandem with
the content that it contains. That, in turn, comprises its URL equity. If the content is moved to
a new URL, the old URL will eventually be removed from a search engine index. However,
Search engine optimization aims to increase the number of visitors to a web site
from unpaid, “organic” search engine listings by improving rankings.
Chapter 2: A Primer in Basic SEO
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