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How does Google collect and rank results?

Google recently released an official explanation of how they rank results in their newsletter for librarians. In this document, Google engineer Matt Cutts explains how Google decides what result goes at the top of the list.

Here are the most important facts from the document:

1. Getting indexed by Google does not mean that you are in the index

Many webmasters still think that a visit of Googlebot means that they should now be in Google's index. That's not the case, after indexing a web page, Google has to do many things with the indexed pages before they can be found in the results:

"Our first step is to crawl and index the billions of pages of the World Wide Web. [...] Our crawl has produces an enormous set of documents, but these documents aren't searchable yet. Without an index, if you wanted to find a term like civil war, our servers would have to read the complete text of every document every time you searched."

2. The keywords on your web pages are important

Some people claim that links are the only factor that will get you high rankings on Google. Google explains the importance of keywords on web pages in the document:

"So the next step is to build an index. [...] we juggle our data in order to list every document that contains a certain word. For example, the word 'civil' might occur in documents 3, 8, 22, 56, 68, and 92, while the word 'war' might occur in documents 2, 8, 15, 22, 68, and 77. [...]

Suppose someone comes to Google and types in civil war. In order to present and score the results, we need to do two things:

1. Find the set of pages that contain the user's query somewhere
2. Rank the matching pages in order of relevance

If you want to be found for a special keyword, it is important that this keyword appears on your web pages and that it appears in the right places.

3. The right links from other web pages are important

After using keywords to decide which web pages should be displayed in the results, Google uses a variety of algorithms to decide in which order these web pages should be displayed.

"Now we have the set of pages that contain the user's query somewhere, and it's time to rank them in terms of relevance. Google uses many factors in ranking. Of these, the PageRank algorithm might be the best known.

PageRank evaluates two things: how many links there are to a web page from other pages, and the quality of the linking sites. With PageRank, five or six high-quality links from websites such as and would be valued much more highly than twice as many links from less reputable or established sites."

It's no surprise: The number and the quality of incoming links influence the ranking of your web pages on Google. Make sure that you have many incoming links that come from related and reputable web sites.

4. PageRank is not the only important factor

In contrast to public opinion, Google uses many more factors besides PageRank:

"But we use many factors besides PageRank. For example, if a document contains the words 'civil' and 'war' right next to each other, it might be more relevant than a document discussing the Revolutionary War that happens to use the word 'civil' somewhere else on the page.

Also, if a page includes the words 'civil war' in its title, that's a hint that it might be more relevant than a document with the title '19th Century American Clothing.' In the same way, if the words 'civil war' appear several times throughout the page, that page is more likely to be about the civil war than if the words only appear once."

That's exactly what IBP's Top 10 Optimizer does: It analyzes the top 10 ranked pages on Google and it tells you where exactly on your web pages and how often you should use your keywords so that you can get high high rankings on Google.

What does this mean for your web site?

To get high rankings on Google, you must have optimized web page content and many good incoming links.

We are happy that Google has released this document. It confirms that our website promotion tools IBP and ARELIS are exactly the right tools to get high Google rankings.

The official Google document also confirms the articles from our previous newsletter issues and the information of our free search engine optimization eBook. If you haven't downloaded this eBook yet, you should do it now. The eBook is a step-by-step guide to high rankings on Google, Yahoo, MSN and other important search engines.

It is very easy to read and it contains checklists so that you can quickly check if your web site is ready for search engines. The ebook is part of the IBP download and it can be selected in IBP's help menu.

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Januray 2006 search engine articles