went online in late 1997, it entered a market that was already
filled by several other competitors. To mention a few, Altavista,
HotBot, Excite, Infoseek and Lycos had all managed to claim
their own share of the searching industry. Despite being
late in the game, in four years Google has managed to secure
a place for itself in the search engine world.
While many of the search engines that used to dominate the
field have now fallen or become shadows of their former
selves, nothing seems to be able to stop the success of
Google. After gaining the position of providing secondary
results to Yahoo
from Inktomi in 2000, Google broke into the big league.
Claiming to serve over 70 million searches each day through
its own site and its affiliates, Google can arguably be
called the most important and powerful search engine of
What has made Google grow so fast? Will they be able to
continue their outstanding performance? Is it possible that
they will be able to reach profitability without having
to stuff the pages with advertisements like other search
engines have done? Those are interesting questions and I
could offer a theory or two to answer them, but I won't.
What you and I are really interested in is how to grab our
own small share of the enormous amount of traffic Google
sends out to sites that are listed in its index. That is
why the only thing I'll try to do in this article is to
give you some insight on the ranking algorithm used by Google.
Such knowledge is vital, because without it you will be
unable to rank highly on the index and shall never receive
the amount of traffic you had wished to.
Random thoughts before we
The most cautious (or paranoid) of you might have already
started to wonder why I'm willing to share my views on the
algorithm. After all, detailed information on the ranking
methods used by different search engines can rarely be found
on the web. Most search engines attempt to protect their
secrets as well as they can, but occasionally someone spots
a pattern and is able to "crack" the algorithm
at least partially and is able to send his sites rocketing
to the top.
However, these persons don't usually share their secrets
with others. Why should they? In these days, the Internet
is not the hippie land of flowers and love anymore. If you
know how to secure good positions in the search engines,
your site will get hits. If you are able to get hits, you
will be able to make a nice amount of money. You'd have
to be a fool to tell anyone about your experiences with
the algorithms of search engines, because if you did, you'd
suddenly find out that someone used your own weapons against
you and dropped your pages out of the top ten.
So why the heck am I willing to give you some guidelines
without charging you for it, like some of the other sites
do? Well, general search engine optimization info is commonly
available on several sites for free, but like I said, it
is very difficult to find up-to-date information on the
algorithms of specific engines. I'm kind of flattered with
the thought of doing something fairly unique, offering information
that very few others are willing to share.
If my ideas about Google's algorithm are even remotely correct,
I have achieved this goal, even while it probably means
that I'll have to fight a more difficult battle to rank
my pages highly at Google in the future as this information
keeps spreading. On the other hand, if I'm wrong, I can
always say that you got exactly what you paid for.
In addition to the above, I have other reasons as well.
Frankly, I'm sick and tired watching people spend tens or
hundreds of dollars to buy books or subscriptions to web
sites that promise to reveal all the ranking secrets you
could imagine. Don't get me wrong, if the information is
accurate, paying for it is a honest deal, but too often
you notice that you paid for something you could have (or
should have) been able to get for free. And what about those
of us who just aren't able to pay? Throughout the history
of the web, the search engine optimization game has become
more and more difficult for the small guys as the Internet
has grown and advanced. This article is my attempt to level
the playing field a little.
What makes me the expert on this subject? Who am I to stand
up and paint myself as an authority? To tell you the truth,
not much. I don't work for the search engines and I don't
have any secret contacts at Google that would be willing
to give me the details of the algo. But I have achieved
Top 10 rankings on competitive 2-word keyphrases with around
500,000 returns, which isn't a bad achievement in my book,
especially while some of these words are often targeted
by those who do posess fairly strong knowledge about search
engine optimization. In any case, I'm not attempting to
say that I have the best or most detailed information about
this subject. All I can offer is to share what I know and
hope that it will be of use to you.
OK, you've probably heard enough talk without any hard facts.
Let us begin.
high at Google - key number one
While there are numerous things measured by the Google algorithm,
one thing seems to outweigh every other aspect. I'm talking
about listings in the Open
Directory Project. Google seems to heavily favor sites
and pages that are listed in there. At the very least, you
will have to be able to get your root/index page into the
ODP. Attempt to include your most important keywords in
the title and in the description you submit to the ODP.
Having these words in the name of the category you're submitting
to or in the URL you submit are also things that might have
a positive effect, but I am unsure whether they produce
a significant benefit or not.
After you have been able to squeeze your index page into
the directory, try to do the same to as many of your subpages
as you can. ODP's rules state that in most cases, they will
only list one page per site, but I've seen plenty of sites
that have at least five subpages listed. Be careful while
doing this, because excessive submitting can in extreme
cases result in all of your pages being dropped from ODP
and your site banned for life.
The minimum requirement is to make sure that each page has
plenty of useful, unique content that is relevant to the
category you are submitting to. It might also pay off to
keep a brief "cooling off" period in between submissions.
Never, ever even attempt to get all of the pages on your
200-page site into ODP.
Again, include your most important keywords both in the
title and the description you submit to the ODP. For example,
if you sell cars in your online store called "Auto
Shop", have a subpage about Ferrari Testarossa and
you want it to rank highly for those words, the title and
description you submit to ODP should be something like:
Title: "Auto Shop's Ferrari Testarossa page"
Description: "Read about the history of Ferrari Testarossa,
learn about its driving characteristics, visit a gallery
of pictures or buy the thing!"
Got it? For each page, select one unique keyphrase, get
it into the title and the description and submit. Choose
the keyphrase carefully, because once you've submitted,
it can be difficult to change the information you have entered.
Repeat this process as many times as you dare, selecting
content-rich pages from your site and submitting them into
This is a case of greed versus fear - if you're too frightened
to try, you'll never get anything. But if you let your greed
push your brains into the background.. you'll lose everything
you already had. Should you want to get further details
your website to the ODP, simply read my article about
Ranking high at Google - key
At this point, you hopefully have at least one, but preferably
a couple listings at ODP with perfect descriptions and titles.
The next part is to optimize the HTML code of the pages
to match Google's algorithm as well as you can. While I
believe that the ODP listings are the most important factor
in the ranking, a completely unoptimized page that is listed
in ODP can certainly be beat by a well-optimized page that
is not in it. Of course, the best combination is a page
that is both optimized and listed in the directory, what
is exactly you should shoot for.
OK, let's take a look at the various areas of page optimization
The keyword or phrase should be included in the title of
the page. However, it is probably best to include other
words in addition to the keyword as well. For single keywords
or two word phrases, I'd consider a title of 3-5 words in
length to be the best choice.
Placing the keyphrase in a H1 or H2 heading at the very
beginning of the page seems to work well. I have seen pages
that rank high without headings, but it would seem to me
that a good heading makes the job a bit easier. For the
heading, I generally use just the keyword or keyphrase without
adding any other words into it. If the page in question
is a very long one, using a H3 heading with the keyword
in it every now and then to retain the focus doesn't seem
Google doesn't seem to be too picky about keyword density,
just as long as the keyphrase is found often on the page.
I myself tend to aim at around 9-10% as measured with this
tool, but a slight deviation from it either upwards
or downwards shouldn't cause great problems. In many cases,
Google seems to tolerate and even like very high keyword
The page should be somewhat "front-heavy", meaning
that you should work the first instance of the keyword somewhere
very near to the beginning of the page and make it appear
once or twice fairly close to this first keyword, scattering
the rest across the page.
words: Including the keyword in link text or in bold
text does seem to give a slight advantage, but is not mandatory
in my opinion. If I would have to choose between the two,
I'd see using the keyword in link text as more important
than using it in bold.
tags: Not useful with Google, but you won't get into
trouble for using the standard keyword and description tags
either. Include them or leave them out, your choice.
popularity: As said, ODP links are gold, but links from
other respected sources, especially Yahoo, can be very valuable
as well. Links from normal pages, if you have a large number
of them pointing at the page you're optimizing, will provide
a good edge against the competition.
Haven't seem them playing a part in the Google algorithm,
except if you count relevant link popularity as a part of
popularity: Not in use.
There you have it, the outlines of the Google algorithm
as seen by me. Not very complicated, is it? I hope that
the information you've read has been detailed enough to
give you some ideas on how to improve your ranking and get
more traffic to your site.
next project I'm planning is to examine Altavista's and
FAST's algorithms closer, but I'm currently a bit in the
dark as to what comes to those. If I get them nailed one
day and if the feedback from this article is positive, you
might get to read an article about them sometime in the
future. Only time will tell.