You might be wondering how search engines decide what websites to show to searchers when they display their lists of results. When someone enters a search term into a search engine like Google, the search engine will use an algorithm to analyse, find, and then display, what it considers is the most relevant set of results.
To do this the search engine scans its index of millions and millions of websites to compare them so it can bring back the best answer. It does this instantly, displaying the top 10 or so in list format to searchers. If searchers don’t like the first ten results, they can click through to the second page, or even the third. Most people never do this however, so it’s important to get on the first page of search engine listings, and preferably into the first 1-3 positions.
So how do search engines decide what webpages are the most relevant result for searchers? Every search engine uses a different algorithm, so the answer varies, but for now let’s focus on Google, since it’s by far the most popular. Google doesn’t make all the factors it uses to decide search position clear, but there ARE some factors that are widely known to influence Google ranking.
1. Relevancy: When people search, they are usually seeking information on a specific topic, so Google looks for pages that appear to host the most relevant content for that search term. If you were looking for healthy food, for example, you’d be disappointed if a search engine gave you a list of results on garages! Google crawls websites to spot pages that seem to be a close match for the keyword a searcher has used. The thing is, there are 1000’s, if not millions of pages that might be relevant for most of the keywords people search for, and Google can’t show them all.
If you were to search the term banana smoothie for example, you’d get 56 million results! To sort out what results to show on the first page, then the second page and so on, Google’s algorithm looks at two other factors – Authority and Usefulness.
2. Authority: Google decides whether the content it crawls is trustworthy and relevant to what searchers are looking for. To assign an authority ranking, Google weighs up how many backlinks from trusted sites a webpage has managed to obtain. The more trusted backlinks from relevant sites, the higher any webpage will rank in Google’s authority rankings.
3. Usefulness: Even if Google gives your content a high authority and relevancy value, it will still need to look at its usefulness before it ranks it in search. If Google doesn’t think your content is useful, it won’t score you highly. Google has even stated that it assesses content for both quality AND usefulness. So, what would be an example of content that Google might view as useful?
A webpage with content that is well-organised, that uses clear language and makes use of sub-headers to break up large text chunks, would get a high usefulness score from Google. Even if that page didn’t have many quality backlinks it would still do well in Google search results.
The reason this sort of page receives a ranking boost is because Google measures how useful a page is based on how users interact with it. This is known as User Experience Signals. A page that is well-organised, well-structured, and clear makes it’s more likely that when users click through, they’ll have a positive experience and stay for longer.
Spend time creating well-structured quality content that people enjoy interacting with, so you boost your User Experience Signal rating. When Google crawls its index of sites, it measures User Experience Signals, to try and discover the websites people love. It then prioritises the sites that offer the best User Experience in its rankings, making User Experience Signals an extremely important factor to focus on.