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Ranking a Website

Everybody and we mean everybody wants to have their website rank number one in Google. And everybody, save one, will fail. Sometimes website owners spend great sums of money in an attempt to rank a website well in search.

Why is number one so important in SERPs (Search Engine Results Page)? It has been shown several times that almost 30% of all clicks go to the top position. Even more surprising, the top position experiences a 34% higher conversion rate. Put another way, the top website gets 34% more sales from the exact same page.

The thought behind the higher conversion rate is that people who are ready to buy will click on the first result and make the purchase, whereas shoppers will click around researching the buy.

There are many companies now guaranteeing a number one ranking if you will only give them your money. Question: How can one company guarantee what another company will do? Think about that for a moment; a small, local SEO company will guarantee how a huge multi-national, namely Google, will rank you. Not just rank, but guarantee a number one result! Obviously they cannot and the whole thing is a bit of a scam.

So, let’s take a moment and have a clear-eyed look at how the search engines rank websites. First, we should define a few terms:

  • Organic Search Results: the rankings in the non-paid section of search. This is what folks normally mean when talking about ranking in search.
  • Backlink: Thats a link from an outside website to your website.
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization - today, the acronym refers to all on-site and off-site factors the search engines look at when scoring a site for ranking in a certain phrase (called keywords)
  • SERPs: Search Engine Results Page - the acronym SEO’s use when they want to impress the impressionable.
  • The Pack: The group of businesses listed in the roll-over map located on the top, left of the results page.

There are several categories where the Search Engines will not rank you. In the tourism sector these include hotels and restaurants. They will not rank your business and don’t care what you do - period. This is a separate subject and we have a lecture called The Death of SEO where we explore this topic. For our purposes here, just be aware that you may want to talk to a third party before giving money to someone to rank you in some searches (keywords). The work-around is to rank in the Pack and not fool with trying to rank in the SERPs. Again, for another time.

OK, we have laid the foundation and its time to get to our topic: How websites are ranked in search. Google apparently looks at about two hundred factors when deciding how to rank a site. Not all ranking signals are created equal and the most important are known. So what’s the single most important? Backlinks…

A backlink is powerful but will harm a website if used improperly. In the wrong hands, backlinks are really dangerous to the site being ranked. Buy some cheap backlinks and destroy your site overnight. We need to define quality backlinks and understand what the search engines are looking for.

Some backlinks are far more important than others. A link from an authority site on a given subject coming to a site on the same subject will lift the receiving site several positions in the results (SERPs). For example: if TripAdvisor were to write a lengthily article on their Home Page about your restaurant, and have a link from inside the article, that link would carry far more weight than a link the lube shop down the street. That same link from a site that sells links (called a link farm) will actually harm you. Get several of these bad links and Google will penalize you thirty positions.

Here is a graphic representation of great and poor backlinks.

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This is the backlink profile for a Viagra online Pharmacy. There are few backlinks and they are of poor quality.

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This graph shows the quality of the websites with links to our site. The quantity and quality of these links are very good.

While this is not an advertisement, it would be remiss not to mention that we offer a high-quality SEO service. If you would like, we can provide you with a review of your backlink profile.

We do not build backlinks ourselves. Why? Because care and experience are required not to hurt the website you want to help.

We use and recommend the Hoth. We have had success with their Blitz product and believe it to be more effective than several other products they offer. Click the banner to the left to read for yourself.


There are three factors in this external backlink business:

  1. Quality of the external, linking sites
  2. Quality of the link
  3. Number of links

All three of these combine to form the biggest factor in determining how you will rank. An average site with an outstanding backlink profile will outrank a good site with a poor backlink profile.

This brings up a question: Why do the search engines give so much weight to backlinks anyway? Let’s pretend that the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta writes an outstanding white paper on a cure of a certain type of cancer. In short order, most research hospitals around the world will link to that article. These are serious, authority sites linking to an article on cancer… an article hosted on another serious, authority site.

In just a day or two, this will be the highest ranked article on the entire Internet concerning this form of cancer. It’s only because of the backlink profile. The search engines rightfully assume that if several quality sites link to the same site, that website must have something interesting to say.

By the way, remember at the beginning of the article we said backlinks are like the Light Saber that can whip an arm off? If the paragraph above is true then a poor quality backlink profile will kill a website. Absolutly!

Google employees more doctorates than any other private company in the world and they are making huge gains in understanding quality, original content from poor quality dribble. They claim to already be able to separate the good from the bad. Of course, if that were entirely true, the backlink would not be so important. But until that day really does come, we will continue to rely on the backlink as the biggest single factor in SERP’s.

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