People all over the world turn to Google, and other search engines, to find news and information on a daily basis. The methods used by search engines to return results to users have come into question over the years, with allegations of biased search results and calls for search neutrality. So how do search engines rank websites?
Considering the amount of information people consume online, it is important to answer this question and address the related concerns. For those responsible for marketing their law firm online, it is important to understand the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) for marketing purposes, in addition to being knowledgeable on the general topic of how search engines rank results.
How Do Search Engines Rank Websites and How Does It Impact Law Firm SEO?
The goal of any reputable search engine is to return the most relevant and helpful results to the user based on the query submitted. To accomplish this, companies like Google establish and constantly adjust specific sets of calculations, called algorithms, that determine what results are provided to the end-user on the search engine results page (SERP).
But what does that really mean? How do search engines rank websites? And how can law firms apply an understanding of how search engines rank results to achieve the best legal SEO?
How Search Engines Rank Websites
To understand how search engines rank websites, it is important to start at the beginning. First, content on the Internet must be identified. A process called crawling is used to discover existing web pages. In essence, Google sends out a program to search out new pages.
Next, each page is indexed based on an analysis that seeks to understand the page’s content. Because Google can’t read, the crawler implements a program to identify the subject of the page in part by identifying the use of keywords.
The search engine stores the information found in the crawl in a vast and ever-changing database of web pages. When a person performs an online search, the search engine goes to work examining the content that has been compiled in an effort to best answer the intent of the user’s query.
Significantly, if a page isn’t indexed, it won’t come up in your search results.
Google and Targeted Ranking: How Do Search Engines Rank Websites?
Google is the most popular search engine in the world. It is so ubiquitous that leading dictionaries have begun to recognize the word “google” as a verb.
However, the methods used by the company to offer search results to end-users have come into question over the years. There has been speculation that the search engine intentionally provides results that align with particular political or belief systems or that the company could serve results that benefit its own interests.
Google has previously been reprimanded for promoting Google Shopping over other shopping services, but whether it provides biased results to non-shopping services remains subject to debate and has become a politicized issue.
Government Regulation of Search Engines
As use of the Internet, search engines, and social media has increased, many believe there is a need for additional government regulation of search engines and other digital content providers and businesses.
Some have proposed government regulation of search engines in the U.S. as a solution to address alleged bias in Google search results and to promote search neutrality. European Union laws began regulating search engines in the first half of 2018.
Regulation of technology and the many ways we use it will inevitably continue to be a topic of debate and discourse in the coming years. How U.S. lawmakers (and the constituents who vote for them) decide these novel and complex issues should be navigated remains to be seen.
So How Do Search Engines Rank Websites Again?
It is in the best interest of search engines to provide search results that are most useful to the individual performing a search. Search engines compile, index, and examine massive quantities of data on web pages and the content within those pages.
The exact number of ranking factors Google uses is known only to Google (for now). That said, many say there are more than 200 Google ranking factors but that they are constantly changing. Many in SEO agree that the following, at a minimum, have been important:
- Keywords, to convey meaning.
- The domain authority to show the authority level of a website and the page authority to show the authority of a particular page. These establish or refute credibility.
- Meaningful links to and from other reputable websites and pages demonstrate reliability.
- Previous user engagement levels gauge quality and usefulness.
These are only a few of the ranking factors calculated by algorithms that determine what appears first when an individual “googles” a phrase.
Applying How Search Engines Rank Websites to Law Firm SEO
Understanding the basics of how search engines rank results is key to achieving the best legal SEO possible. A law firm SEO expert can identify the best keywords to target, help you establish better domain and page authority, cultivate links in a meaningful and ethical way, and evaluate technical aspects of your website that can hinder performance. The best legal SEO specialists will do this while creating and maintaining quality content that engages your current and prospective clients by actually providing helpful insights and information.
While the algorithms that dictate Google website ranking are proprietary, SEO experts can still answer the question: How do search engines rank websites? If you need help getting Google and other search engines to notice your law firm’s website, the lawyer-driven team at TOPDOG Legal Marketing can help. We are experts in law firm SEO and analysis, content writing, and legal marketing. Contact us today by calling (844) HEY-TDOG (439-8364) or completing our online contact form, and see how the best legal SEO techniques can help your content get noticed by search engines and people alike.