The Science of Search Engine Rankings

  |  February 5, 2007   |  Comments

Everything you ever wanted to know about search engine rankings.

Last week, I started the first in a series of training days I'm doing with "New Media Age" magazine ("NMA") in London this year.

As with last year's events, there was an excellent cross section of delegates. Among those represented were a huge governmental department, a medium-sized financial services company, a book token seller, a worldwide portal site, and even NMA and its conference organizing division.

I generally split my training days into modules. In the morning, I start with a seminar to get everyone, whatever level they're coming into SEM (define) at, on the same page. Later, I split people into workgroups, and I finish with a lively Q and A session.

When it comes to answering questions, I tend to be meticulous about separating crawling and indexing issues as requiring some technical application. And ranking is usually best addressed by talking about applying savvy marketing principles (read: link-building is a marketing exercise).

Given I tend to have more delegates from marketing backgrounds than tech, the curiosity and questions are mainly around fundamentals related to ranking rather than the technical issues of crawling: "Why doesn't my home page appear on the first results page even when I query our company name?" "How do other Web pages always appear at the top?" These are average questions from new entrants to the game.

I doubt whether I've ever presented at a workshop, seminar, or conference without asking a simple question at the start: Why should you be in the top 10 at search engines?

It's not such a stupid question. The underlying principle of search engine algorithms is sorting the wheat from the chaff. If delegates looked at their competition, they could probably answer their own questions.

I've written many times about two main algorithms search engines use primarily for ranking. SEO (define) aficionados are fully aware of Google's PageRank algorithm and Jon Kleinberg's HITS algorithm. To industry newcomers, it's usually all unknown. I like being able to point people to papers and presentations I've used over the years to help marketers get a better feel for what the whole ranking thing is all about.

But there are those (like myself) who are constantly searching for more advanced information and research in the search field.

Recently, I referenced "Web Dragons," a book about information retrieval on the Web. Not a bad book at all. But following that reference, I was sent a courtesy copy of a book that, somehow, I completely missed last year.

"Google's PageRank and Beyond: The Science of Search Engine Rankings" is a fascinating, comprehensive study of search engine ranking mechanisms. And the fact that it's endorsed by Kleinberg himself only adds more authority to it. Written by two mathematics professors, it's not for the faint-hearted. This is very much a science book for researchers. So if the mere mention of graph theory, linear algebra, and computer code has your eyes glazing over, this probably isn't the book for you.

But if you can wade through the math and code, it has hordes of information, theorems, and proofs about ranking, which is invaluable material to professional marketers.

I've come across quite a lot of the literature referenced before. But I was really interested in a section on trends and time-sensitive search. It highlights ranking blogs, which can be some of the most rapidly changing Web pages in a search engine index.

This led me to an algorithm developed by researchers at the HP Information Dynamics Lab. They rank blogs by their so-called epidemic importance. The algorithm is called iRank and is based on hyperlinks. The two main components are text analysis around links and a temporal analysis with all links being weighted by their freshness.

Although the book spent a week on my bedside table, I should stress again, it's not an SEO/SEM book, much as the references to our industry in "Web Dragons" are mainly negative and relate to spam. However, I was very pleased to see my friend Chris Ridings described as writing the most famous and informative SEO papers on PageRank and getting a bibliographic reference to go with it.

And my pal Bob Massa gets a mention too. But it's a black-hat type of reference that covers his case against Google, where (wrongly, I believe) he's painted as a link-farm pioneer.

Believe me, this book really does tell you everything you ever wanted to know about search engine rankings.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies in London, February 13-15, at ExCel London.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, August 29 to take advantage of Super Saver Rates!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Grehan

Mike Grehan is Publisher of Search Engine Watch and ClickZ and Producer of the SES international conference series. He is the current president of global trade association SEMPO, having been elected to the board of directors in 2010.

Formerly, Mike worked as a search marketing consultant with a number of international agencies, handling such global clients as SAP and Motorola. Recognized as a leading search marketing expert, Mike came online in 1995 and is author of numerous books and white papers on the subject. He is currently in the process of writing his new book "From Search To Social: Marketing To The Connected Consumer" to be published by Wiley in 2013.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Search newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

IBM: Social Analytics - The Science Behind Social Media Marketing

IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Resources

Jobs

    • HEAD OF SALES
      HEAD OF SALES (OZONE MEDIA) - Santa Clarawww.ozonemedia.com HEAD OF SALES POSITION Reporting to the founder & CEO, Kiran Gopinath, the Head...
    • DIRECTOR OF MARKETING
      DIRECTOR OF MARKETING (OZONE MEDIA) - Santa Clarawww.ozonemedia.com   DIRECTOR OF MARKETING POSITION   Reporting to the Founder and CEO...
    • Sales Planner
      Sales Planner (Verve ) - New YorkAbout Verve   Verve is the leader in location powered mobile advertising. We manage one of the largest mobile...