Google Sends Librarians A Letter
Matt Cutts authored the first article for Google's Newsletter for Librarians, where he answered the question "How does Google decide what result goes at the top of the list?" and provided exercises for students to do to help them understand ranking.
In the letter to librarians, Google's Cutts reviewed the steps taken that move a page atop the search results. People already involved with SEO will recognize the process, but most users aren't familiar with how search works beyond "a computer does it."
Cutts noted how the crawling and indexing of pages have to take place first. After that happens, Google is ready for a user's query. Then the query can be matched to the index to find documents containing those terms.
Then, Cutts discussed PageRank, the algorithm that assesses inbound links to a page and the quality of those inbound links. He also noted additional considerations such as the terms being next to each other in a document and appearing multiple times on a page.
He expanded on the effort Google makes to find the best possible search results:
As a rule, Google tries to find pages that are both reputable and relevant. If two pages appear to have roughly the same amount of information matching a given query, we'll usually try to pick the page that more trusted websites have chosen to link to. Still, we'll often elevate a page with fewer links or lower PageRank if other signals suggest that the page is more relevant. For example, a web page dedicated entirely to the civil war is often more useful than an article that mentions the civil war in passing, even if the article is part of a reputable site such as Time.com.
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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.
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