Web search has evolved significantly over time, especially in the past few years. Given the constantly expanding portfolio of inputs, penalties and variables, it’s important to look at the mechanics of web search and its implications for both webmasters and users today.
Web searches typically take various factors into account, which include:
The user is a central link in the Google search pattern. Search engines tend to conduct cross-device tracking to generate personalized search results. The main user preferences that search engines take into account include:
Language – Generally, users want search results to appear in their native language. In case results from a particular query are limited, the search engine may show results in other languages too.
Location – A lot of search queries have local intent. To maximize personalization, search engines may give results pertaining to the city the user is based in.
Device – As mobile phones work differently from desktop computers, this can affect page ranking. Mobile-friendly websites may get a higher ranking in search results. Search engines may also include links to mobile apps in the results.
Country – Many users favor local results. Customers generally prefer buying from local businesses.
Search engines go beyond simply matching words and/or phrases, and try instead to discern the intent behind the user’s query.
Click Data – Click data is used by search engines to provide for spelling correction as well as measure users’ satisfaction with search results. If the user quickly bounces back to the results page and clicks on another listing, it indicates a substandard user experience.
Recent Search History – Search engines analyze streams of recent queries to connect terms with one another.
Past Behavior – Analyzing a user’s click history allows search engines to personalize results for open-ended search queries.
RankBrain – RankBrain is an artificial intelligence (AI) system aiding Google’s current algorithms to fine-tune results for search queries. Using mathematical processes and an inbuilt cognizance of language semantics, RankBrain learns the different ways users search; if it comes across an unfamiliar word or phrase, it makes intelligent deductions based on other search queries and leverages data from these related searches to generate informed results.
General Search Ranking Criteria
Equipped with general relevancy signals, search engines have the capacity to act outside the confines of user intent.
Website Link Authority – The relevancy of a site may be partly estimated by the number and authenticity of links leading to it.
Website Reputation – Do users explicitly seek out a particular site and prefer using it over similar sites?
On-Page Relevancy – Search engines generally work by understanding user intent and matching results with related search words. However, pages that incorporate specific terms (for which users search) can achieve higher rankings.
Parallel Intent – For queries that have several parallel intents, search results may be ranked according to their relevancy to different intents.
Integrated Search Results – Integrated search uses additional ranking sources to provide users with the most thorough and customized results. For instance, app results might feature user ratings.
Penalties and Filters
To protect users from mediocre or substandard results, search engines have various filters and penalties in place, like:
Panda – This algorithm targets websites that create low value for users, do not offer a useful experience, or lift content from other sites. Sites that offer strong user experience, like Amazon, rank higher, while mediocre sites like eHow have a low ranking.
Penguin – Penguin detects search engine manipulation based on anchor text and link quality. It is designed to filter out sites using black-hat SEO techniques to increase their ranking in search results.
Pirate – This algorithm assigns a low ranking to sites with multiple copyright infringement law violations as filed by the DMCA system.
Duplicate Content – Websites with chunks of content that either match word-for-word, or are noticeably similar, are filtered out to generate diverse search results.
Manual Penalties – These penalties may be applied against a particular page, a specific keyword, or the entire site.
Repetition – Pages with excessive repetition of keywords may be filtered out.
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