Ranking and Results
how search engines work ranking and results
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Ranking and Results

When you enter a search at a search engine, in a few moments you will get a list of relevant web sites or pages, nicely sorted, with the most relevant results first.

Although results may not always be perfect from your point of view (this is subjective anyway who decides what perfect is), it is absolutely amazing just how good search engines are at finding what you are looking for.

From a marketing perspective, the higher your rank (the nearer the top of the results you come), the more traffic that you'll tend to get. We've devoted a whole section of this site to discussing how to improving your rank. But from a technology perspective, it's interesting to consider how do search engines determine the most relevant results (usually listed first) for a particular search?

With the Pay Per Click search engines like Overture, the ranking is usually obvious: the more that you're prepared to pay for that particular keyword, the higher your rank - but the other search engines need to use a different approach.

This different approach might include:
(obviously it can differ widely between the various search engines and some might use completely different methods).
  • For directories: What it says in the title/description/etc., stored in the directory listing.

  • The contents of pages might analyzed the for relevant keywords. Things that the search engine may consider important include the domain name, page title, meta tags, or page text (especially near the top of the text).

  • Some search engines also consider Link Popularity. A page with many links to it, may be assumed to be more important, especially if the pages with links to it are themselves considered important.

  • Some search engines combine still further factors into the equation. For example, a hybrid directory/search engine (see types of search engine), might give a ranking boost to those sites listed in the directory.

  • Search engines are aware that marketers want to achieve high ranked pages, and although generally not worried about search engine positioning tactics, they do have measures to protect themselves from spamdexing (indexing irrelevant pages etc.) which they consider to reduce the quality of the results.
Some search engines use all these elements, others, use only some, or perhaps even different ones altogether. Once they have calculated a weighted combination of whichever elements they consider to be important for finding matches, they can use that to determine the relevancy of each potential listing.

Different search engines produce different results, because not only do they contain different information in their indexes, but they also may sort the results differently: they probably use different weighting algorithms (and may even vary them from time to time), which is why a page that is top ranked on one search engine may not be top ranked on another.

Looking for SEO Software or to improve your website traffic? Here's a list of SEO Software & Downloads

Search Engine Basics

How Search Engines Work
 Ranking and Results
 Types of Search Engines

Search Engine Promotion
 An Introduction To

Search Engine Issues
 One Million Search Engines?
 The Meta Tags Are It

 Keyword Density
 Link Popularity
 Meta Tags
 Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
 Search Terms

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