Why & How Search Engines Choose Their Top Listings
The search engines are a great resource for information and they offer us the ability to have our web pages listed for free, but keep in mind that the search engines are in a multi-billion dollar industry. Because of this, the search engines are compelled to list only the most relevant web pages in their top 10 listing results.
The Quality of Your Web Pages Is a Reflection on the Search Engines
The listing results that the search engines deliver to their users are a reflection of that engine and web searcher’s have come to expect nothing but the best. When they conduct a search, searchers expect the most relevant listing results possible. This is what the search engines attempt to deliver.
Some search engines perform better than others. There have been situations where a search engine’s top listings consisted of sites that had no real information, or the pages didn’t load properly; or most of the links were not working.
The last thing a search engine wants is to have their searchers make an assumption that this search engine shows poor results. The search engines don’t want to risk losing searchers to another search engine, since that equates to lost revenue.
Understanding Search Engine Algorithms
The search engines are not biased as to who gets top rankings. Each search engine has their own set of algorithms (criteria) to help them determine which web pages best fit their pre-set criteria and which web pages don’t.
Those web pages that do a better job of delivering what the search engine algorithms are looking for tend to perform better in the search engine listing results.
The higher your pages are listed (especially in the top 10 listings) on a search engine:
- The greater your website visibility
- Which will attract a greater volume of highly targeted, highly qualified traffic
- Which in turn, can mean greater sales
The goal for any website wanting to have their web pages rank well in the major search engines is to try to fit the mold (as set by the search engine algorithms).
In order to fit the mold you need to understand what factors the search engines use to make this determination.
When trying to figure this out, keep in mind the following;
- The end result is that the search engines want to show the most relevant results to a searcher’s query
- So your web pages must provide actual information (unique content) based on what the searcher is looking for (the search term used by the searcher)
- As a top listing, your web page must also provide a good user experience once the searcher has left the engine and entered into your site
Optimize Your Site & Server for the Search Engines
The major areas that search engines look at when determining how they will rank and list your web pages include your server and your site.
It is imperative that your server is search engine and visitor friendly. This means that your server should:
- Have a fast response time
- Provide your site with a unique IP address
- Have an impeccable up time percentage
- Have a reverse DNS that is working correctly
- Not have open DNS
- Ensure your nameservers resolve correctly
- Be ready for high traffic volume if the search engines send you a large volume of traffic each day
Important Note: If your server is slow, or not responding for any reason, this can also create a poor user experience, which makes it less likely that the search engines will even consider allowing your site to rank in the top ten for important search terms (or keyword phrases) found on your web pages. These type of server issues can have a significant negative impact on your web page rankings. View more information about server related issues and SEO.
When they come to visit your website the search engine robots will look at your site’s structure; all of your web pages individually and then your website as a whole.
In order to ensure good user experience, there are various areas of your website that the search engine robots will look at. Does your site include (or have):
- A custom 404 error page
- A robots.txt file
- Broken links
- Slow loading pages
- Duplicate content
- Or pages with very little or no content
Remember that the search engines feel that your website and your web page content is a reflection on the way searchers/users perceive the search engine’s results, which is a reflection on the search engines.
If the search engines allow sites with broken links, slow loading pages, page errors and pages that don’t provide what the user is looking for there is a higher risk that the searcher/user will go to another search engine to find what they need.
The search engines use artificial intelligence as a part of their algorithm to try and determine not only what your web pages are about, but to also ensure that you are not using any “black hat” underhanded tactics to try and have your web pages look more relevant than they actually are.
The more web pages that you have that support what the overall theme is about the more relevant your web pages will seem to the search engines.
A website that has 500 pages dedicated to a particular subject will likely be seen as more relevant than a website with only 5 pages dedicated to that subject. This is why it is important to continually add new content to your site on a regular basis that is unique, as well as informative.