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How do search engines rank pages?

The search engine rankings seem to change all the time, and very often I can’t make sense of how they decide their rankings.  How do search engines decide what pages should appear first in their results?

A search engine’s primary responsibility is to their searchers, not to your business.  Every search engine uses a unique set of criteria to rank the pages of your site in their search results.  Some of these criteria are common knowledge, others are highly guarded secrets.  The secret criteria are meant to prevent unethical or over-ambitious businesses from manipulating search outcomes.  Listed below are eight things you should understand about how search engines will rank your website.

  1. Web server speed and uptime may influence your rankings.  If you notice slow site performance or regular server downtime, move your site to a more reliable Web host.
  2. Search engines read the TEXT on your Web page.  Your page content should be original, at least 200 words, and free of spelling or grammatical errors.
  3. Search engines assign greater importance to text in certain locations on your page.  One of the most important locations is your page’s title (the one that appears at the top of your browser, not the title on the page itself).  When someone searches for a “Texas Cosmetic Surgeon,” search engines are likely to give extra points to pages with a title that contains that phrase.  The implications of this point are significant; since you can only fit so words in a title, every new web page is a new chance to earn top search rankings.
  4. Search engines will also check to see if a key phrase appears near the top of the page, in its headline, or in the first few lines of text. The assumption here is that any page relevant to the search will mention the search phrase right up front.  So when you craft your copy, your most important keywords should be featured in the page headline and early in the page body.
  5. Many search engines will stumble on design elements that are commonly used to create attractive Web pages.  Flash animation, videos, JavaScript and text within images may confound search engines.  Ensure that the words and phrases for which you wish to be found are found within your text.
  6. To measure your trustworthiness and expertise on certain topics, search engines take into consideration factors that are “off page” and out of your direct control.  One of the most important “off page” factors is called “link popularity” — a measure of quantity and quality of pages linking back to your site.  It is important to build or attract links every month.
  7. Another important off page factor is click through measurement.  Search engines pay attention to which results are clicked on and will drop pages that don’t attract the clicks of searchers.  It’s important that your page titles and descriptions contain more than a list of keywords to increase your click through’s.
  8. Increasingly, “social signals” impact search engine rankings.  Cultivating friends and followers and earning links and mentions on social sites can all benefit your site’s rankings.

Can Etna Interactive help improve the ranking of your website? Call us today to find out.  866-374-3762.


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