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Understanding How Google Ranks Websites

by polrid | February 8, 2010February 8, 2010 4:23 pm PST

That joyous moment has arrived at last. Hours of intensive clicking, typing, testing, head scratching and finger drumming have finally produced one helluva website. It’s out there for the world to see. But how exactly does the world find it?

There are billions and billions of websites sitting on servers throughout the globe just waiting for a request to view from a user’s browser. How on earth will anyone find just one, yours? Even if you had the time and the means to physically tell everyone you know about the location of your new website, that would only represent a tiny percentage of your potential audience.

Bringing Order to the Web

What you need is a database of website addresses and a means to search through it, like a colossal telephone directory for the internet. As a result of releasing specially designed programs into the webosphere, which methodically crawled through and registered as much important information from as many pages as they could find, a constantly updated and refreshed behemoth of an index resulted.

googlelogoIndex in place, a method for interrogating the database and providing results relevant to search queries was needed. Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin tackled this by introducing a set of search instructions called PageRank, which assigned a numerical weighting to a webpage depending mainly on how often other pages linked to it or as Google puts it “uses the collective intelligence of the web to determine a page’s importance”. If one page linked to another then in effect it cast a vote for the linked page.

More to Google than Link Democracy

The PageRank system is still used but is now only one part of Google’s arsenal of search algorithms and related programs that help decide which words are important on a page and which are not. Whereas some engines scan special tags for keywords, Google’s technology examines the whole of the webpage for words and phrases which identify its purpose.

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For instance, the word “technology” has more relevance to TechnoBuffalo’s homepage than “welcome” or “recent” or “the”. As well as word relevance and links from other sites, Google uses more than 200 determiners to examine the entire link structure of the web and calculate where a page appears on a search query results page. Search specialists make daily refinements and improvements to help ensure that you and I are given relevant and reliable results in mere milliseconds.

Closely Guarded Secrets

Of course, the nitty gritty of exactly how Google determines webpage importance in relation to user queries is, for the most part, cloaked in secrecy to prevent website owners from abusing the system and to keep the company’s methods from the prying eyes of search competitors. It would likely make incredibly dull reading too but for those who want to delve deeper I recommend a scan through Google’s own blogs on the subject.

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How Google’s system understands incorrect spellings, abbreviations and synonyms, dialects or localized language and what a user actually requires is perhaps the food for a follow-up article, if such things are of interest to you. In the meantime, how accurate do you find Google’s search results and rankings to be?