SEO #1: Understanding Google “Crawlers” and the PageRank Algorithm
I am currently doing consulting work for a startup here in Los Angeles and a big thing that keeps popping up is the issue about SEO. “How can we be number one on Google for our product?”
This extract is part of a series of passages that I have compiled (through personal experience tweaking with Kevinliu.co, Twitter and reading up on endless SEO advice and papers) to form a sort of “roadmap.” More like an emergency roadmap. Sussing through the bulk of articles I have seen so far I have come to find that there are a lot of unnecessary things for the normal person — for most people, we don’t need to get into the deep coding, back-end and theoretical stuff. I will attempt to create something that will be understandable for both the not-so-tech-savvy individual and the techie who just wants a glimpse (or reminder) on certain SEO things. Hope it helps!
- The mastermind behind Google’s search is the PageRank algorithm. Think of the PageRank as the gatekeeper or the rules with which you must adhere if you want to succeed (in this case, getting to the top of the list for your specific search category). It works like this: when a user enters a query (‘search’) into Google, the results are returned in the order of their PageRank. Google does not disclose how exactly PageRank works now, but the underlying idea is easier to understand – like a library, the more citations a particular document has, the higher rank it is in the system and hence the more “important” the document is – and so it will be retrieved first.
- Analogously, the library here is the web. Like the library database that functions on citations, the web runs on the hyperlinking between pages and sites. In PageRank, each webpage is assigned a number depending on the number of other pages that link to the page (‘back links’ – much like the citations). Following this, links are a popularity contest – Site A thinks Site B has good (funny, interesting, entertaining) information so Site A may decide to add a link to Site B – this is called an ‘outbound’ link. In return, Site B might do the same. The more ‘inbound’ links, or your site’s mentions on other people’s sites, will put more weight on your rank. For example, if many sites refer to your site on a regular basis or if you are referenced by a significant source (eg. WSJ), your PageRank will be higher compared to another site with minimal inbound links.
- Note: While ‘outbound links’ technically does not contribute to higher PageRanks, sites may notice it and in term, they may mention you and drive traffic to you.
- Bottom line: if you want your site to have a higher PageRank, get as many high-ranking sites (‘authority’ or ‘old’ sites) to link back to you.