How does Google work?
February 7, 2008 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone understand the black art of being listed in a Google search?

One day, I posted a conversation topic on our community group forum. Candidates and subscribers started participating in the discussion, and people tell me they started watching the discussion. Later that same day, a search for "Bundaberg Regional Council" listed the thread as the 4th link on Google. I sent a press release to the local media, the candidates and other "stakeholders" about the forum, and mentioned it being listed 4th on Google. The next day it went up to second place. Then I redated the original post, so that it would stay on our group homepage instead of dropping off. The next day, the thread disappeared from Google. It's still gone today. Anyone have any idea why this happened? Not that its critical, but now my press release certainly looks silly.
posted by andihazelwood to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
So you're saying, it's all a bit rum? Sorry, couldn't resist.

Short answer, yes, some people understand exactly what makes a page get listed at a certain rank on Google. The problem is, they all work at Google.

There are lots of other people who say they know exactly how it all works who don't work at Google, but they're lying, to get your money.

There are people who are engaged in an arms race with Google, and may for the moment be ahead and are able to cheat Google into giving them a higher ranking than they deserve. But you don't want to get involved with them.

There are people who tell you they understand in a general sense and can give you the broad-brush advice on how to get a higher ranking, and they're probably telling the truth.

So, in this particular case, who can say what happened to your post? But you've learned an important thing: don't put out press releases saying what your Google rank is.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:33 PM on February 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Google explains it here.
posted by pwally at 6:51 PM on February 7, 2008

Actually, you may be surprised at the behind-the-scenes simplicity of Google. Every detail of their algorithm is explained here.

(but seriously... no, there's no practical sure-fire way to game Google. The original PageRank algorithm can be gamed by getting a lot of other pages to link to you, but Google has evolved since then. The "general sense" AmbroseChapel refers to is the only way, and usually involves things like making sure your page has correct title and meta tags, and that everything is crawlable by Googlebot.)
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:11 PM on February 7, 2008

The term you want to google for is SEO.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:18 PM on February 7, 2008

Response by poster: Pigeon ranking- that's hilarious.
posted by andihazelwood at 7:18 PM on February 7, 2008

Well a search phrase like "Bundaberg Regional Council" is the sort of thing that would return different results every day, as the council updates their site, as government departments and community groups put documents online that mention the council, as the council get's mentioned in the news. You probably actually got lucky to have your site ranked that high, and it was probably due to the surge of activity in the form at that time (Google likes pages that update frequently have have lots of new content on them.)

As others have said, never rely on your position on Google to hang around long. Don't go telling people "Google us, we're 4th in the results / 1st in the results" unless you've got a seriously well established brand name associated with you, or unless the search terms are really obscure and precisely defined.
posted by Jimbob at 7:25 PM on February 7, 2008

When you redated the post, did it change the URL in any way? If the URL was altered, that would affect the way Google indexed the post.
posted by jdroth at 8:08 PM on February 7, 2008

Response by poster: No, the URL remained the same- which was important, because I sent the link to the candidates so they could participate in the discussion. It's a Drupal website and I aliased the node as soon as I created it to make it more reader-friendly (instead of node/8245 or similar).
posted by andihazelwood at 8:19 PM on February 7, 2008

Could it be that there was another website (or websites) linking to your forum, who for some reason or another, removed the link, changed the url, etc? I know this sometimes has an affect on search rankings.
posted by 913 at 9:36 PM on February 7, 2008

Google's webmaster tools can help you with problems like this but sometimes pages just disappear temporarily and then re-appear later.
posted by missmagenta at 6:18 AM on February 8, 2008

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