Yesterday’s post looked at how search engines index web pages. This post looks in more detail at how search engines rank pages and decide the order they will appear in the results list. Providing accurate search results is important for many stakeholders: users are clearly affected by this because they trust a search engine to present the most relevant results first. Consider how few people venture past the first page of search results – or sometimes, even past the first three or four results (this also raises some interesting questions about personalised search results and ‘search bubbles’).
Business have a particular stake in search engine results because a high search ranking can mean much more traffic to their web site, while a low ranking can mean they languish in obscurity.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of attempting to improve a site’s search ranking. SEO is something of a black-art, treading a fine line between optimisation and over-use (spamming) which will gain the site a search ranking penalty.
This video from CommonCraft explains some of the parts of web pages search engines consider most important. When creating a web site, it is a good idea to draw up a list of key words which your customers are likely to search for, and use them appropriately to improve your rank for those words.