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Explaining Search Engine Algorithms

To most average users of the internet, when they enter a search query into Google, Yahoo! or Bing, they pay little attention to how those results are returned. Somehow, the search engines just seem to understand what to return, and then do so. What few think about is that there is a complex algorithm at work that is developed and updated on a regular basis to provide those returns with increasing levels of accuracy.
To better understand how search works, and why some seem to have such powerful SEO secrets compared to others, we need to understand what goes into a search engine algorithm.
What Goes Into A Search Engine Algorithm?
Google was the first search engine to come up with a way to measure the authority of a page and how it relates to particular keywords. Since then, others have come up with their own way to determine the topic, popularity and general value of a page, but each of the major search engines in the United States use similar factors to rank pages in their results.
Generally speaking, search engines categorize and then rank pages based on:
The number of links pointing to a page
The text of those links pointing to a page and whether they match prominent keywords
The keyword in the title and URL of a page
Social activity relating to a page and a website as a whole
Website structure and loading speed
Trust and authority as a factor of all of the above
The actual list, at least as stated by Google, is well into the hundreds, but is not published in full. While not published in full, it does appear that the ranking factors are changing regularly.
The Evolution Of Search
Search is a complex problem that requires a complex solution (algorithm) to solve. As people have found ways to manipulate the algorithm to achieve artificially high rankings, the algorithms have been updated.
In the past two years, Google has released sweeping algorithm updates that have punished poor content and site layouts, as well as manipulative off-site practices. These practices include the overuse of keywords and overaggressive ad placements on-site, and the use of link spam off-site.
Moving forward, Google employees have admitted that social media is likely to play a larger role in how they rank pages. Google has also implemented what is known as "authorship", which allows authors to attach their Google Plus profiles to their work. As an author's profile gains more authority, then that authority may follow any work they publish, regardless of the site where it is published.
There is no guarantee that this will be the case, but the trends are fairly clear.
Stay Up To Date To Rank Well
The search engine algorithms are not going to stop changing. Those who are still practicing SEO based on old knowledge will have little success, and may even hurt their sites. To rank well, you must understand the algorithm as best as you can, and stay up to date with new information.

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