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Home  \  Netaphysical - Web strategy blog for small business  \  "Why does one site rank better than another in the search results?"

"Why does one site rank better than another in the search results?"


There is a discussion on Ryze with a member trying to figure out why one site ranks better than his in Google for a very obscure search term. The impression I get is that he's looking for the "secret code" or a few simple steps to guarantee top ranking, even believing that his search rankings are actually within the direct control of the site owner.

Here is my response, ending with our core SEO philosophy and advice to clients on achieving high search engine rankings (many of which do enjoy first-page rankings):

One important facet of your goal to be listed #1, is that you do not have control over where your site is listed. There is not an exact science or checklist to guarantee a #1 ranking, or else everyone would have a top ranking ;)

Search engines constantly update the algorithms that rank sites, and these are closely guarded secrets. Some factors are on-site (content, frequency of updates, geography) and many are off-site (directory listings and other inbound links, etc.) and often even beyond your control. (In fact, it has been known for unscrupulous webmasters to submit their competitor's sites to "free-for-all" directories that spam the search engines, hoping to get the competitor dropped / banned by an association that the competitor had no knowledge of. This is often referred to as "black hat SEO".)

There is a massive industry of professionals that spend incredible amounts of money observing, researching, and testing the search engines to try and "crack" the algorithm, in an effort to sell their SEO services at quite handsome prices. With all due respect, if your goal was not for such an obscure search phrase with little competition, the sites we are discussing (a Squidoo lens, the Chamber site and the Facilitation site) wouldn't appear anywhere near the front page ... for example, search for "business facilitation california" and see where/if you rank (I got tired of clicking "next page" so I really can't tell you) to see what the *real* competition is, even for such a narrow and specialized search phrase. If you want to see how sites rank well, search for "business facilitation" and analyse the top 10 results as a starting point, although most of the time you'll still be left scratching your head wondering how one site or another got onto the first page ...

Again, often there won't be exact answers to your questions as to why one site ranks better than another. However, there are "best practices" (write for human readers, have original content, update the site regularly with new content) that match the goals of the search engines, which are to produce the most relevant results for searchers.

(See a related post here, or the SEO test page here)


Russ Jackman, Internet Advisor
Russ Jackman is the principal of Internet Advisor, a web design and internet marketing firm located in St. Thomas, Ontario.

The concept of the "Internet Advisor" is that the designer becomes a partner or trusted consultant, who can simply provide advice and direction, completely implement a solution from start to end, or any degree in between. This insures that the strengths of a client are utilized, to minimize the investment required and maximize the benefits to their organization.

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