When an individual searches for something online, search engines use three factors to return the best matches: the relevance, reputation and popularity of a webpage. It’s therefore important to understand the basics of how these factors are put together to create your final search engine ranking.
How relevant is a web page?
How do search engines decide if your web page is relevant? Well, they look for title tags, meta tags and anchor text, all of which should clearly indicate the content of a web page. But be careful, you cannot trick search engines by placing highly searched keywords in these tags, just to increase traffic. This is because search engines also check your content to see if it matches your Meta tags.
They do this by looking for consistent themes, so a page about garden design would be more appropriate in a landscaping website than a computing website. Thematically, backlinks are also important because a landscaping web page with backlinks from nurseries and garden supply websites is thematically relevant.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t accept backlinks from a variety of business websites, it’s just that the more relevant the backlinks are to your content, the more credence given you by search engines.
How important is a web page?
Once a search engine has decided that your webpage is relevant to the searcher’s query, it needs to rank your web page on the search engine results pages (SERPs). How they actually do this, is the million dollar question, but Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team has stated that content, backlinks and increasingly, social media signals are all important in ranking.
If you want up to the date information on the importance of backlinks and social media signals to ranking your website, here are two interesting 2 minute videos from Matt Cutts, which we recommend you watch: Will backlinks lose their importance in ranking? and Does Google use data from social sites in ranking?
How popular is a web page?
Popularity is to do with how often people are searching for this information. Breaking news comes to mind here as well as trending topics in social media.
We can all think of news items that have been interesting or tragic on a global or a local level and the popularity of these news items influences rankings. This means that if your content is highly relevant to a popular news item and if everyone is searching for information on this topic, that you stand a good chance of ranking well.
Popularity can be difficult to achieve, because you have to search for topical items and integrate a blog or other content into your website in a very timely manner. So you need to be on top of trending issues.