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Getting to Know Search Engine Algorithms

Anyone looking to rank highly in the search engines needs to know a little bit about algorithms. I know, this sounds like some sort of esoteric calculus equation used exclusively by astrophysicists, but it is actually the heart of all search engines. Although there is some discrepancy as to the precise definition of an algorithm, it’s basically a method for solving problems using a precise sequence of instructions. Flowcharts provide a good analogy.

When you go through a flowchart, you are asked a series of questions and eventually led to some resolution. This is essentially of microcosm of an algorithm. Each search engine uses dozens of “signals” to comprise their algorithm, including variables such as a website’s speed, content and inbound links. As you can imagine, sites like Google, Bing and Yahoo! are constantly updating, augmenting and refining the signals used in their algorithms to ensure users are presented with the most pertinent information.

All search engines algorithms are closely-guarded proprietary information. If they were to divulge all of the criteria used to rank websites, it would be easy for people to manipulate their site to rank higher. However, most search engines will provide some information to set people in the right direction. In fact, earlier this week Google published a blog post outlining how to build effective links to promote your website—an essential component to their prized algorithm. And while some of the variables used in search engine algorithms will indubitably remain a mystery, there are some key factors which are known to play a significant role:

~Domain Trust and Authority: Search engines obviously want reputable sites to come up first when people search for a phrase. Part of building this reputation is simply the amount of time your site has been online. Another important variable is linking—and not just any linking. In order for search engines to respect your site, you need to be building links to every page in your site via other trusted sites, which brings us to the next variable.

~Links: This is the stage where many websites go wrong. In the Google blog post mentioned above, there is a clear distinction between quality links with reputable companies and spamming links, such as those created through comment sections and shady directory submission sites. Remember: When it comes to links, quantity always takes a backseat to quality.

~URL: Not only does your URL need to effectively brand your site, it also needs to be directly related to the product or service you provide. There’s a reason why Cars.com comes up first when you type “cars” into search engines. 

~Site Speed: In April, Google explicitly stated that website speed is a main factor in determining the ranking of your site.  So whether you need to cut down on images and plug-ins or switch hosting companies, it’s imperative that your site’s speed in up to snuff. 

~Keywords: Adding new, unique content to your site with relevant keywords is essential to a high search engine ranking. The algorithms are more advanced than many people give them credit for, and simply listing keywords or repeating the same phrase continually won’t cut it.

It’s important to remember that no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to fool the search engines. For years people have conceived plans to outsmart the algorithms, but search engines inevitably find ways to alter their formulas and ensure the most relevant sites are at the top of the list. And while many people may not like to hear it, becoming the cream of the organic listing crop is going to take a considerable amount of time and hard work.

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