SEO & How Web Pages Are Ranked By Google

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SEO & How Web Pages Are Ranked By Google

Updated from May 2017

When it comes to search engine optimization, Google has made it increasingly clear that publishing authoritative content is more than just a suggestion. It’s a must for publishers who hope to secure decent search rankings. In addition to providing users with quality content that they can actually use, this virtual mandate is also a protective measure against “fake news.”

Measuring Content for Quality

By now, most web publishers know that they can’t offer problematic content if they want their pages to be found online. At one time, content was measured primarily with Google’s PageRank. PageRank is a system of ranking web pages based on a mathematical formula. The system examined the number of links to a page in order to determine its PageRank score.

Rankings weren’t solely determined by the number of links a given page had. The importance of each link had a bearing on ranking, as well. The level of importance was based on how many votes a link received within the system.

Additionally, by linking to pages already deemed important by the software, pages could increase their level of importance. This was a more effective way of increasing ranking than merely linking to many pages with less value.

However, PageRank was not the only method for determining how pages ranked in searches. It was a major component of the process, but other details were taken into consideration, as well. Google’s entire ranking algorithm also factored in the words found in the links themselves. The words on the pages were also a deciding factor utilized by the algorithm.

search engine optimization

How the Metrics Have Evolved

Eventually, other metrics were used to complement PageRank. Content and links still have much to do with how pages are ranked. Now, another algorithm is also implemented to fine-tune the process even further. This technology is referred to as RankBrain. Essentially, RankBrain is a system of artificial intelligence that produces better results when people do searches.

The system Google uses as a whole is quite complex. It comprises more than 200 signals, none of which by itself could determine the authority of content. By integrating many factors, the goal is to provide users with better search results and easier access to more authoritative content.

This means that examining a list of the 200 ranking signals is certainly helpful, but Google might not make all of the factors involved known to the public. If that is the case, it could be a strategy for discouraging those who would otherwise try to “game” the system.

The Role of Quality Raters in Google’s Page-Ranking System

Google’s quality raters play a significant role in the process, as well. While they might not affect the rankings in a direct way, their ratings do matter in determining page rankings. These people measure search result quality and test the changes to algorithms.

Google then assesses their findings in order to improve the system. In turn, improvements to the system lead to better quality search results for internet users. Some of the signals may be a direct reflection of the reviews provided by Google’s raters.

Ranking Quality Page by Page

Instead of assessing an entire domain to establish authority in search results, Google generally rates web pages on an individual basis. The logic behind this practice is that establishing authority for an entire website or domain could lead to inaccuracy. One site could have thousands of pages. Not all of those pages may be similar in terms of quality.


Think of platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. Countless users provide content via such websites. To rank an overall domain of this type with authority would enable numerous users/pages to fall through the cracks.

Pages with problematic content would receive rankings similar to those of pages with quality content. This would seriously compromise the integrity of a system designed to evaluate the authority of content on the web.

Only Google’s Findings Have an Impact on Google Searches

To assess authority, domain and site owners can turn to a wealth of websites and platforms other than Google. However, none of the information offered by such sites has any actual bearing on page rankings or the SEO of your site.

Rather, such conclusions are really just estimations based on the facts as presented by Google. Some sites devote much content to helping users guess what their page authority might be in relation to Google.

People can certainly use the tools provided by these sites to gain a better understanding of their potential rankings. They should keep in mind, though, that all of this information is just guesswork, and none of the tools are proven strategies for determining page authority.

Ultimately, only Google’s system is what actually determines page rankings.

While ranking individual pages is a top priority in Google’s set of algorithms, ranking signals are also utilized to evaluate site authority. Doing this is important because the SEO quality of a site can have an impact on how high its pages rank.

Assessing Sites With Signals

Given two pages of the same quality and on the same topic, Google would likely rank one higher if it is published on an authority site. This further enhances the quality of the search experience.

The overall objective is to provide a better search experience for users. Google will likely continue to make improvements to its system on an ongoing basis. The bottom line is that content providers should remain focused on publishing and linking to quality content.

By doing that, they will experience higher rankings – and they will be of real value to their users.