One of the biggest questions we get from prospective clients is, “How do Google rankings work?” In other words, how does Google rank websites?
Google, Yahoo, and Bing are pretty much all the same
One thing to remember is that all 3 of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) all rank websites the same way. There are tiny little differences between the 3, but the general principals are the same across the board.
Rank in one, rank in the rest
In practice this means that when you rank in Google, you generally rank in Yahoo and Bing, although the positions may be slightly different. You may end up at #1 in Google, #3 in Yahoo, and #2 in Bing; but if you rank high in one, you generally rank high in all three.
So when we work to rank a client’s website at the top of the search engines, we target Google first because it’s generally the toughest. Once you’re #1 in Google, if you’re still not #1 in Yahoo and Bing, we’ll do some extra work specifically targeted toward those search engines.
How Search Engines Work, in General
All the search engines rank sites automatically. Meaning they don’t have a group of employees deciding where a site should rank, rather they use and “algorithm,” which is nothing more than a big collection of computer code that automatically browses your website, tries to figure out what the topic of each page is, and then checks to see what other sites are linking to yours. The algorithm then calculates where you should rank compared to your competition based on a number of factors. All the search engine algorithms are programmed to consider, for the most part, the same set of factors, which is why once you rank in one search engine you tend to rank in the others. What differs is how those factors are weighted; each search engines weights certain factors a bit differently. Let’s illustrate this with an example…
Let’s say you’re a dentist in Cincinnati and trying to rank for “Cincinnati Dentist.” All the search engines will count the number of times the phrase “Cincinnati Dentist” appears on your website. They’ll also apply a filter that will ding you if that phrase appears too many times. So Google might prefer to see exactly 1% of all words on the page to be “Cincinnati Dentist,” whereas Yahoo might prefer to see exactly 1.2%. As you move away from that “preferred” percentage, you’ll be less likely to rank for that phrase. It gets a lot more complicated than that, but that’s the gist of it.
On Site vs. Off Site
The number of times a particular phrase appears on your website is considered an “on-site” ranking factor; because, you guessed it, it’s on your site. Search engines also consider off-site factors, which include:
- Do you have a Facebook page linking back to your site?
- Do you have a YouTube videos linking back to your site?
- ** Are other sites across the web linking back to your site? **<– this is big!!
- …and many others
I put the words “linking back to your site” in bold because when it comes down to it, the only off-site factor that really matters are links. Without a link from your Facebook page, how will Google know it is, in fact, your Facebook page?
Links (or “Backlinks”)
Backlinks are the single most important ranking factor. You can do everything else wrong and still rank if you have enough links. Likewise, you can do everything right and not rank if you don’t have any links. Think about links as “votes” for your website. When the search engines find a bunch of “votes” for your website on other websites, they assume your website must be a good one and deserve to rank higher than the rest. Obviously this is a dramatic oversimplification of the process, but it should give you a basic understanding.
We’ll dig deeper into all these details a bit more in future issues, so I hope you found this interesting and continue to read our future issues.
This was the first part in our series educating businesses about internet marketing. If you have any questions or would like to discuss how RLM can help you generate more business online, feel free to reply or give me, John Crenshaw, a call at 513-549-7355.