Search Engine Ranking
February 3, 2007 10:33 AM   Subscribe

How does a website get to be ranked on the first page for searching on google, yahoo, etc?

What is organic searching based on? How can one manipulate their website to rank higher on search engines? Is it about traffic? Or links? What exactly is it?

I don't understand why some websites are on the first page and others you can't ever find.

Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated.

Thanks.
posted by Gankmore to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Google the term SEO
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:42 AM on February 3, 2007


It's based on an algorithm called PageRank. Basically, they assign a website a ranking based on how many other sites link to it.

SEO stands for "search engine optimization," and is a sometimes seedy way to increase your ranking.
posted by danb at 10:53 AM on February 3, 2007


Its worth having a look at the Google pages for submitting your own website.

It has a description for how to get your web pages ranked plus tools to test how you can go about improving your chances of getting on the first page etc...
posted by pettins at 11:38 AM on February 3, 2007


The idea is that the more people that link to you with a certain term ('pink flat screen tvs'), that google (and others) figure that you are an authority on the subject. It's more complicated than just that, taking into account a bunch of things, but that is the basic idea.
posted by cschneid at 11:40 AM on February 3, 2007


The short answer to "how exactly does it work?" is, "it's a secret" because if you knew exactly how it worked, you could game the system.

But in general terms, what everyone else has said. All search engines used to work on a relatively simple formula based on the words that matched. Then Google came up with their much better, but much more complicated system, based on links between websites.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 12:14 PM on February 3, 2007


Is it about traffic? Or links? What exactly is it?

It's no one thing. Google's exact formula is a tightly guarded secret, but it's pretty clear the main factors that they use. There is a whole cottage industry that has evolved around gaming this system, and there are many so-called "SEO experts" out there that will try to sell you better placement. There is a whole spectrum of legitimacy here, from black-hat (evil) to white-hat (good.)

A black-hat SEO will use all sorts of trickery to improve ranking. Sometimes this involves tons of fake domains with nonsense to try to make it look like your site has more incoming links. There are other techniques, like stuffing your pages with tons of keywords that have nothing to do with your actual content, and hiding them so they aren't seen by visitors but are still in the page source. All of these black-hat SEO techniques are explicitly against the google webmaster guidelines (required reading!) and if they catch you doing any of this, they will nuke your entire site from their index.

A white-hat SEO will tell you that your ranking on the results page depends on how many other sites link to yours; how well your pages are designed to be read by machines (i.e. not requiring flash or javascript to read); keywords in the title, body, domain name, and URL; and so on. Basically, if you design a site that is standards-compliant, with content that is semanticly well-structured and organized, and other sites link to you, your results will generally be pretty good for searches that match your content. These requirements just happen to be pretty much the archetype for a blog, and you'll notice that blogs often have terrific ranking.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:10 PM on February 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


In general, the best way to increase your position in the search rankings is by having high quality content that a lot of people like, and then making that content easy for search bots to recognize. That means be sure to have a simple description of what your your site contains in a machine-readable format (i.e. non-image or Flash) on the home page, use reasonably semantic and accessible markup, and be prepared to wait a few weeks to see any changes. You can try to game the system, but then you'd be an asshat.
posted by Hildago at 1:52 PM on February 3, 2007


thanks for everyone's input!
posted by Gankmore at 2:38 PM on February 3, 2007


It's based on an algorithm called PageRank. Basically, they assign a website a ranking based on how many other sites link to it.

The number of sites which link to you is one factor, and back in the day was probably THE one that helped Google leapfrog competitors. But there are many, many factors.

How old the site is. How often it changes. The structure of its design. How the URLs are constructed. How many clicks it takes to get to the meat of the site content. Whether the words in the page URLs match the titles of the pages they point to. And on and on.

There are also approximately a zillion things you can do to HURT your rankings. People have been trying to outsmart Google for years and they've had to get cleverer and cleverer about filtering people who really don't have much of a site but who know what the algorithm wants.

SEO stands for "search engine optimization," and is a sometimes seedy way to increase your ranking.


Yeah... sometimes. But SEO refers to any tactics for improving search rankings. And that includes totally sensible stuff like giving your pages good descriptive titles, making your site easy to navigate, having fresh content, etc.
posted by scarabic at 2:53 PM on February 3, 2007


After a recent Ask MetaFilter of mine I found that I'm number one for hanuman nature. I did some more searches with hanuman in the query and found that I score pretty well (especially with any tags that I have applied). Trivial and undeserving as my blog is, a unique seeming combination gets me top spot, eg. hanuman america, hanuman culture, etc. This is despite the name of my blog is not hanuman in the url. So, choose a name that you want to score on and make sure you use tags.
posted by tellurian at 4:34 AM on February 4, 2007


It's late here in Sydney so I'm going to bed. In the absence of an adjudication from the admins on the appropriateness of my answer and knowing that Ask MetaFilter is time-sensitive and others may wish to comment, I'll post this:
After a recent Ask MetaFilter of mine I found that I'm number one for 'hanuman nature'. I did some more searches with hanuman in the query and found that I score pretty well (especially with any tags that I have applied). Trivial and undeserving as my blog is, a unique seeming combination gets me top spot, eg. 'hanuman america', 'hanuman culture', etc. This is despite the name of my blog is not hanuman in the url. So, choose a name that you want to score on and make sure you use tags.
posted by tellurian at 4:38 AM on February 4, 2007


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