This article explains those elements of the Google ranking process that will matter most to you. It is not meant to be an exhaustive inside look of how Google ranks pages – only a handful of persons at Google know this closely-guarded information.
Google, like other search engines, uses automated software to read, analyze, compare, and rank your web pages. So you need to know what elements and factors Google cares about, and how important these factors are in relation to each other.
This is an important concept: Google uses automated software that looks at code and text, not human beings. This means the visual elements of your website that may matter to you – like layout, color, animation, Flash, and other graphics, are ignored by Google. The Google search engine is like a blind person reading a bookin Braille – anything that is graphical, spatial, or visual in nature is simply not seen.
As such, you need to start thinking like the Google search engine.
So What Is a Ranking?
A ranking on a search engine is a web page’s listing and relative placement on a results page (known as a SERP) for a certain search query. As an example, if you type “house plans” into the search box at Google, you will get those listings displayed(10 listings per page by default) that Google deems most relevant to the search phrase house plans, sorted in order of relative importance.
The most relevant and most important web pages are listed in descending order.For Google, page relevancy is dependent on how well a web page “matches” a specific word search. Page importance on the other hand is dependent on the quality and quantity of links that point to your web page from other websites. The concept of link quality is important and will be discussed in a later posts.
If your site does not appear in the top 20 for your most important keywords (search terms), you might as well forget getting much traffic from Google or from any other search engine. Because many people never go past the first page for a search result, you really need to be in the top 10.
It is debatable how much more traffic a #1 ranking gets compared to say, a #3 or a #10 ranking. Those listings “above the fold” on a page (anything higher than #4 or #3depending on your monitor size and resolution) do get clicked more than those below the fold. Above the fold is anything displayed on the page before you have to start scrolling downward.
A recent study provides some interesting numbers on the subject of ranking vs. percentage of clicks for that position. This study tracked the number of times people clicked on a listing on Google for a given search query:
1st position: 30%
2nd position: 15%
3rd position: 7%
4th position: 5%
5th position: 4%
6th position: 4%
7th position: 2%
8th position: 2%
9th position: 3%
10th position: 5%
1st position: 6%
2nd position: 4%
3rd position: 2%
4th position and beyond <1%
As you can see, if you aren’t on the first two pages, you might as well forget getting clicked. When was the last time you went to the third page of a search query versus just starting a new search query?