Search engines like Google follow links. It follows links from one web page to another web page. A search engine like Google consists of a web crawler, an index and an index algorithm. A web crawler follows all links on the internet. It goes around the web 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and saves an HTML-version of all your web pages in a gigantic database, called the Google Index.
The Google Index is updated if Google has come around your website on a repeat visit and found a new or revised version of it. Depending on the traffic on your site and the amount of changes you make on your website, Google comes around more or less often.
For Google to know of the existence of your website, there first has to be a link to it from another site or your site has to be registered with Google in Webmaster Tools and an initial index created. Following a link from either another website or Tools will lead to the first crawler-session and the first save in the index.
Google’s secret indexing algorithm
After indexing your website, Google may show your website in search results.
It’s important to Google that they only show “relevant” website content in search results – e.g. content that relates to the search, as specifically as possible. Google has a specific algorithm that decides which pages are shown in which order. How this algorithm works is Google’s trade secret. Nobody knows exactly which factors decide the ordering of search results. Moreover, factors and their importance change quite often. Testing and experimenting gives us a relatively good feel for the important factors and the changes in these factors. Search engine experts spend most of their time analyzing search results to determine ranking factors.
For example, on April 22, 2015, Google made a new release of their ranking algorithm. It introduced a major new ranking factor called “mobile-friendliness”. If your website is not considered mobile-friendly, it will lose ranking positions on Google’s Results Page. You can check a webpage to see if Google considers it mobile friendly using their test tool:
There are also numerous factors that can affect rankings negatively. For example, if your website uses techniques to artificially influence search results – like “link farms” from other websites – Google may demote or eliminate you from search results. Google is constantly adding to these negative factors, as people try more ways to influence search results.
Also, if there are numerous errors on your website, like broken or invalid links, duplicate page content, which makes indexing more difficult, Google will demote your page in search results.
Google’s search results page
Google’s search results page shows up to 10 links to sites which best fit the search phrase keyword entered by the person searching. We refer to these results as “organic search results”. If you click to the second page, more results are shown. Above these organic search results are typically two or three ‘paid’ links. These links are ads; people have paid Google to put these links at the top of the site when people search for a specific term. Prices for these ads vary greatly, depending on the competitiveness of the search term. Similar ads may often appear on the right of Google’s search result pages as well.
It’s very important to have a basic understanding of how Google and most other search engines use links! Our next article will go more deeply into this and other ranking influences.
Interested in more information on optimizing your website for Google search?