How does Google search ranking work?

This article discusses the general idea about Google ranking algorithm. If you’re new to this area, in the digital world, we use the common terminology called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to refer to the practices that we use to boost the ranking on Google search result for each specific keywords.

No one really know what algorithms that Google use to score and rank the pages. However, we know that, Google will rank the page that they think it’s most relevant to their users. Therefore, your job is to make sure that your web pages are relevant and are simplified to help users find what they are looking for.

The internal factors

We call this ‘on page optimization‘. Your job here is to put the density of keywords appropriately for each area. Not too minimal or overwhelming. Below are the list of areas.

Page meta data

These meta data may not visible to the user when they’re viewing your page. However, Google use these data to show your website’s detail on the search result page. The keywords that match with your meta data will also be bold by Google to help user scan through the search result. Make sure that your web developer make this section editable. Please click on the figure below to see the demonstration.

Page meta data on search result

Page meta data on search result

Meta Title (Page Title) – This section wrap with <title></title> in HTML tag.  You may see that Google bold the words that’re matched with what user type in the search box. Your title should contain keywords while making it catchy and human readable.Also make it interesting, so visitors read and want to know what’s going on.

Most search engine allow maximum 60 characters to show on search result page. This mean the characters after that will be cut-off from search results pages.

Meta  Description – While page title tell user what your page is, description will quickly explain what your page does. Try to include keywords and sub keywords in the description. For example, if your page listed mobile products with a different band. You may says ‘ Cheap mobile phones delivered with in a day – Nokia, Samsung, Motorola & more. 50% off, offer ending soon – buy it now!’.

While the keywords that user are likely to search is ‘Cheap mobile’ then, you explain that you have a variety of mobiles including top brands. If user search for ‘Cheap Nokia mobile’ then you still catch the keywords. In addition, you have a space to leave your call to action and feature of your product (discount). User scan though the search result list, stop at your headline, read your description and click to buy your product. How cool? Most search engine allow 160 characters at maximum.

Meta keywords – This is an old-school/out-dated search engine algorithm. However, there is no harm putting your related keywords in here. However, you may not expected much from this as it’s very easy to putting the cheat keywords even your page is not about it.

Human Friendly URL structure

If you’re old enough, you may remember that once, the common website URLs were look something like http://www.website.com/?page=1232&id=3332&ad=121323.
No more of that in today’s search engine world. Your URL should be short so it can be easily share and it should speak a little bit about what the page does without explanation.

For example, ‘http://www.mobileshop.com/products/iphones/’ is a good URL structure for page that land your iPhone products.

You may see that keywords in URL also bold in search result page.

Content Hierarchy & Structure

Heading – you need to help user skim and scan the page quickly. Google will read HTML code (the code that’s use to present the website on browser) and recognize heading tags <h1><h2><h3><h4> Google will rate keywords inside this tag more than what’s appeared in the content to try to categorize what your page is about.

Emphasized text – emphasized text also rate as important keywords. For example, underlineitalic text also help your improve ranking as well as bold text. This is because those are the high-lighted section that reader need to stop and put more attention on.

Internal links – Internal links is the links that point to pages inside your website. You may not need to have this if your page is a single unique content. However, if your have related pages, you should put links to those page in to help Google identify that your website are more about that topics.

Out-bound links – is the links that point to somewhere else outside your website. It’s good to help user do a further researches or reference to the sources.

Link written practice – embedded keywords in the link. instead of using “click here to buy latest iPhone5′ use ‘click to buy latest iPhone5‘. This help Google identify that the page you’re linking to is about ‘iPhone’ not about ‘Click here’

Website speed

Google also rise up the speed issue in 2010. If your website is taking to much time to load, it mean your visitors require more time to get what they’re finding. They not to use too much graphic on your website. Optimize your script so that your website take very minimal time to load. Use Google page speed to analyze your website.

Website Server location

Website server or web hosting is the big computer that you put your website’s files in and allow people to publicly access via web browsers.
This is related to website speed, it will take more time to load website if visitor’s geographical location is far from your server. If you have a specific target audiences or customers, try to purchase the server in your target country. You may need to know that some search results are not exactly the same when you’re searching from Australia compared with when you’re searching from Thailand or USA.

The external factors

We call this ‘off page optimization’ which have more effect on how Google rank you on search result. This part may not directly controllable by you, however, it’s the consequence of what you did to the on page optimization.

In-bound Link

In-bound link is the link from another website pointing to you. Google count each links to you as voted. The link anchor (text inside the link) also important to tell Google what keywords that you will get vote by the link.

In addition, the quality of websites that link to you is also important. You’ll not get much out of the links from unknown website. However, a single link from quality website can give you much value. For example, if you get link buy cheap iPhone from apple.com (which is impossible), you’ll be able to have the first rank for those who’s searching for iPhone. Note that, the domain name ending with .gov or .edu are also qualify as a quality links because they’re most likely to own by government.

Caution do not try to cheat by randomly put your links or buying  links from another websites. That’s call Black Hat SEO which may not work or work for short-term but finally you will be penalized by Google as they’re clever than you can imagine. You may end-up with disappearing from Google search result.

Try to be a honest website, if your content is good enough, you will definitely get links back naturally.

Users behavior

We’re then back to the main point ‘Serving Google’s users‘. Even you did the best practice on your website so Google identify the keywords that you’re trying to target. You then, advertise your website, get a lot of links back and Google is now rank you on the top search result page.

However, Google send 100 visitors who typed in specific keywords to your page but they can’t find what they’re looking for. 100 visitors then, get back to Google and re-typing the same or similar keywords, your website appeared but they ignore it. They’re then, click on the website underneath you. Google users stop searching for that keywords, some may end up with website A, some may end up with website B. Nevertheless, no one end up at your website!

Google now know that your content did not answer the keywords and waste their users’ time. Google then say good bye to you.

Always keep it make sense

Finally, you’re now got your head around Google search ranking algorithm. There are a lot more out there for you to research, simply google with the main keyword ‘SEO’. Millions of techniques or tactics are out there. However, I would emphasize again ‘Users come first‘, what ever techniques you’re going to use, make sure that it doesn’t put negative effect to the user and it make sense for the content quality.

Feel free to use the comment below if you have any questions.

 

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