Understanding PageRank, Links + Content, RankBrain and SERP.
Every Stratatomic website is strategically hand-crafted and thoughtfully coded line-by-line to ensure effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques are deployed at every opportunity. Our goal with every project is to first drive more traffic to your website, and then create dynamic and engaging experiences that motivate your visitors to action and lead to more conversions, more sales, and more dollars in your pocket. To do that requires an in-depth analysis and understanding of Google's algorithms and how web spiders crawl the web, index and subsequently rank your pages – the underlying fabric of the web.
The top factors in determining your website's search performance are all outlined here, including PageRank, Links and Content, RankBrain and SERP. And all Stratatomic websites include Google Analytics™ and Google WebTools™ for effective management of your SEO initiatives and insightful data that quantifies the results and takes the guesswork out of the equation.
Stratatomic's core skillset includes a comprehensive suite of services that work together to help you business grow and prosper, including Web Design, Development + eCommerce, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Branding + Identity, our exclusive WebAdmin™ Content Management System, Web Hosting + Email, Database, Applications + Custom Technology Solutions, Google Analytics™ for comprehensive site performance metrics, and Google WebTools™ for ongoing website and SEO management.
Earning your PhD in Searchology is a journey that must begin with a fundamental realization that we are currently living in a world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that is constantly growing and learning more about us. This AI revolution is powered by millions of robots, links, connections, cookies, social media, browsing history, geolocation, purchases, interests, tweets, follows, likes, and on and on. The internet is one giant, all-encompassing and interconnected machine that never sleeps. And it knows more about you than you do (and most everyone else on the planet), and it gets larger and smarter every minute of every day. So now that you've signed up for class, there are a few basic principles you should understand about SEO:
SEO 101: Google is Constantly Evolving.
Google is constantly changing and adjusting it's ranking algorithm and updating its index. Some are minor adjustments, others are more extensive wholesale updates that shake up the whole index. There will be winners and losers with any change. But by focusing on a consistent strategy of delivering Quality Content, combined with clean and properly coded HTML, you should be able to weather any changes and work your way to the top. Google's ultimate goal is and always will be to steer searchers to what they are looking for. So there are simply no shortcuts or quick-fix tactics that will outsmart the almighty Google brain. It's a marathon and not a sprint, so you have to take the long view and be dedicated to achieving your goals. Your competition is not sitting still either, so this constantly changing search landscape means a proper SEO strategy requires continual monitoring, changes and improvements to stay on top of the game.
SEO 102: My Google is Different Than Your Google.
The search index and rankings that YOU see are DIFFERENT than what everybody else sees. There is no single index and the rankings are not the same for everyone. That means what you see is different than what someone else sees. What they see is different than what you see. That's right. Read that again. Let it sink in. The results and rank that you see are PERSONALIZED for you and are based on hundreds or thousands of factors. Google tries to understand your intent of what you are searching for. It knows your search history. It knows what device you are using. It knows if you are looking locally or more broadly. It knows what you've clicked on previously. It knows how long you visited the site that you clicked on. Did you stay on the site a long time? Did you visit other pages on that site? Did you do another search? What are other people searching for? It knows all of that, and much more. Your online behavior is no secret. As the internet evolves and Google continually improves its RankBrain technology and artificial intelligence algorithm, this personalized search will steadily grow more unique and custom tailored for each individual. The system is continually "learning" and will only grow smarter as time goes on. When you read about the oncoming AI disruption, you will understand how powerful this can be and how it will affect everything you see and interact with. Now that you know there is no single Google index or ranking system, you can focus on building a quality website with quality content, and Google will properly sort out the rest. Trust the machine. Love the machine. Make friends with robots.
Just Gooooooogle it...
Everything you could possibly want to know about Google's index and ranking system is described in this excruciatingly detailed 164 page document, straight from the horse's mouth (published 07.20.18).
Download the Google Search Quality Guidelines (pdf)
Math is Your Friend + We've Got the Winning Formula
PageRank (PR) is an algorithm used by Google Search to rank websites in their search engine results. PageRank was named after Larry Page, one of the founders of Google. PageRank is a way of measuring the importance of website pages. According to Google, PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites. It is not the only algorithm used by Google to order search engine results, but it is the first algorithm that was used by the company, and it is the best-known.
A PageRank results from a mathematical algorithm based on the webgraph, created by all World Wide Web pages as nodes and hyperlinks as edges, taking into consideration authority hubs such as cnn.com or usa.gov. The rank value indicates an importance of a particular page. A hyperlink to a page counts as a vote of support. The PageRank of a page is defined recursively and depends on the number and PageRank metric of all pages that link to it ("incoming links"). A page that is linked to by many pages with high PageRank receives a high rank itself.
FIG 1a. Mathematical PageRanks for a simple network, expressed as percentages. (Google uses a logarithmic scale.) Page C has a higher PageRank than Page E, even though there are fewer links to C; the one link to C comes from an important page and hence is of high value. If web surfers who start on a random page have an 85% likelihood of choosing a random link from the page they are currently visiting, and a 15% likelihood of jumping to a page chosen at random from the entire web, they will reach Page E 8.1% of the time. (The 15% likelihood of jumping to an arbitrary page corresponds to a damping factor of 85%.) Without damping, all web surfers would eventually end up on Pages A, B, or C, and all other pages would have PageRank zero. In the presence of damping, Page A effectively links to all pages in the web, even though it has no outgoing links of its own.
A Web crawler may use PageRank as one of a number of importance metrics it uses to determine which URL to visit during a crawl of the web. One of the early working papers that were used in the creation of Google is "efficient crawling through URL ordering," which discusses the use of a number of different importance metrics to determine how deeply, and how much of a site Google will crawl. PageRank is presented as one of a number of these importance metrics, though there are others listed such as the number of inbound and outbound links for a URL, and the distance from the root directory on a site to the URL.
Links + Content
Tell Your Story to the World
Google elaborated on the reasons for PageRank deprecation at Q&A #March and announced Links and Content as the Top Ranking Factors. RankBrain was announced as the #3 Ranking Factor in October 2015, so the Top 3 Factors, including PageRank, are now confirmed officially by Google. Importantly, Links and Content are the top ranking factor, and this is an area in which we excel and where we focus most of our attention when building your website.
Simply stated, Links and Content are just what they say. Strategically crafted keywords and links must be included throughout your website, in an effort to increase keyword frequency and ranking factors. Inbound links and outbound links are a part of every successful SEO campaign. And of course Content is king on the web, and there are no shortcuts or magic formulas at work here. Just good, old-fashioned text on a page, well-written and crafted in a way to appeal to both website visitors and search engine spiders as well. Nothing else matters if your website does not have high-quality, timely and relevant content. Creating that content and making it relevent and compelling is what we do best.
Artificial Intelligence That's Pure Genius
RankBrain is an algorithm learning artificial intelligence system, the use of which was confirmed by Google on 26 October 2015. It helps Google to process search results and provide more relevant search results for users. In a 2015 interview, Google commented that RankBrain was the third most important factor in the ranking algorithm along with Links and Content. As of 2015, "RankBrain was used for less than 15% of queries." The results show that RankBrain produces results that are well within 10% of the Google search engine engineer team.
If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn't familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries or keywords. Search queries are sorted into word vectors, also known as "distributed representations," which are close to each other in terms of linguistic similarity. RankBrain attempts to map this query into words (entities) or clusters of words that have the best chance of matching it. Therefore, RankBrain attempts to guess what people mean and records the results, which adapts the results to provide better user satisfaction.
Google's biggest algorithm update in the past five years is known as BERT. According to Search Engine Land, BERT will impact 1 in 10 (a huge impact) of all searches. BERT started to roll out in November, 2019 and has had a large impact on search results. BERT stands for "Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers." To put that into normal language, BERT is a learning algorithm that focuses on natural language processing to figure out the answer to "What does the user really want?" Google's continual evolution and intelligence means we should be optimizing for the long-tail phrases that people are using to get answers - answers that your website can provide. Search queries that contain 3, 4, 5 or 6 words account for 54.31% of all searches.
There are over 200 different ranking factors which make up the ranking algorithm, whose exact functions in the Google algorithm are not fully disclosed. Behind Links and Content, RankBrain is considered the third most important signal in determining ranking on Google search. Although Google has not admitted to any order of importance, only that Rankbrain is one of the three most important of its search ranking signals. When offline, RankBrain is given batches of past searches and learns by matching search results. Studies showed how RankBrain better interpreted the relationships between words. This can include the use of stop words in a search query ("the," "and," without," etc) – words that were historically ignored previously by Google but are sometimes of a major importance to fully understanding the meaning or intent behind a person's search query. It's also able to parse patterns between searches that are seemingly unconnected, to understand how those searches are similar to each other. Once RankBrain's results are verified by Google's team the system is updated and goes live again.
Don't Stop 'Til You Reach the Top
The Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is the actual result returned by a search engine in response to a keyword query. The SERP consists of a list of links to web pages with associated text snippets. The SERP rank of a web page refers to the placement of the corresponding link on the SERP, where higher placement means higher SERP rank. The SERP rank of a web page is a function not only of its PageRank, but of a relatively large and continuously adjusted set of factors (over 200). Search engine optimization (SEO) is aimed at influencing the SERP rank for a website or a set of web pages.
Positioning of a webpage on Google SERPs for a keyword depends on relevance and reputation, also known as authority and popularity. PageRank is Google's indication of its assessment of the reputation of a webpage: It is non-keyword specific. Google uses a combination of webpage and website authority to determine the overall authority of a webpage competing for a keyword. The PageRank of the Home Page of a website is the best indication Google offers for website authority.
After the introduction of Google Places into the mainstream organic SERP, numerous other factors in addition to PageRank affect ranking a business in Local Business Results. Building a strong network of authoritative backlinks can take time to develop. Other factors to consider when comparing your own website to your competition: How long has your domain been online? How long have your competitors been online? Generally, the longer a site is online, the better it ranks. How many backlinks do they have? How does their social media presence compare to yours? How many online reviews do you have, and how many do your competitors have? How many pages does your site have, and how many does their site have? A site with 100 pages will typically outrank a site that has only 10. How many competitors are there for your targeted keywords? What is their location? What is their domain name, and how does it compare to yours? Domain names with relevant keywords tend to rank better than those without. Is your website content fresh and relevant? How often does your site content get updated, vs. your competition? As you can see, many factors are outside of your own direct control. And the nature of the internet means these factors as well as Google's own algorithm are constantly evolving. Your competition is not going to sit still. A good SEO marketing strategy should take into account all of these factors and establish a long-term game plan to get on top of the SERP results and stay there.
One thing you can control and work at your own pace to improve your SEO is harnessing Stratatomic's WebAdmin™ CMS to manage your website blog. By utilizing a blog on your website, you can achieve a number of things that will ultimately pay dividends and help increase your website's SERP rank. Among the benefits to you are: Increasing the number of pages of your site that can be indexed; Creating fresh, relevant content with optimized text; Adding strategic keywords and links to internal pages and external sources; Increasing site traffic by bringing more visitors to your site; Building an online archive of pages and content that can be shared or linked to from social media, online reviews, and other websites; Establishing your website as a trusted resource and authority on a given subject (see PageRank above); and generally improving your standing with Google and the internet community at large by changing your website from static pages that rarely if every change, to a dynamic resource that is timely, relevant and continually improving. That is what the World Wide Web was intended to be, and with steady work you will be rewarded for it. With our WebAdmin™ technology at your disposal, your website's destiny is largely in your own hands.
3... 2... 1... Launch!
How Long Does it Take to Rank in Google?
When it comes to SEO, the question that always gets asked is, "How long until my web page ranks on top of Google?" Although there are many variables to consider, such as website authority, competition, website size, domain name, location, search history, etc, we've put together this handy visual guide to provide you with all the information you need to complete your PhD in Searchology. Click here to view Stratatomic's Guide to Understanding SEO Results.