To Each Search Engine Its Own Algorithms

  |  July 17, 2006   |  Comments

Search engines weigh similar characteristics differently to determine organic rankings.

It's no secret the top search engines calculate algorithms differently to determine which site winds up on top of search results, but insight into how to gain top organic search results challenges many businesses. Research from Fortune Interactive explains how search engines determines Web page rankings.

Results from the interactive marketing agency's SEMLogic tool were used to examine the keyword "laptop" and determine the characteristics of the top-ranking sites in organic results on Google, Yahoo and MSN. The firm plans to release data for additional sectors and keywords in the future.

Inbound link quality is the only factor with the same relative influence across the board; Google, Yahoo and MSN's algorithms. The engines look at a target site to determine the influence and reputation of each inbound link.

"It turns out that it's actually the quality of [inbound links] than the quantity that wins the day," said Michael Marshall, VP of technology at Fortune Interactive.

At Google, inbound links rank in the following order: quality, relevance, title keyword, anchor keyword, quantity. Further down the list, site factors such as title keyword, anchor keyword, body keyword, content relevance and title content weigh into the equation.

Yahoo places the most importance on inbound link quality. To a lesser degree than Google, it looks at inbound links for relevance, anchor keyword, title keyword and quantity. Further down in organic results priority are general site characteristics like title content, title keyword, anchor keyword, body keyword and content relevance.

Inbound links rank at the top of MSN's equation as well, but are ordered differently. Inbound links are looked at for quality, anchor keyword, relevance, and title keyword. Inbound link quantity is weighted, but not quite as heavily. The search engine then looks at title keyword, body keyword, anchor keyword, content relevance, and title content.

"We not only know the order of importance but also the degree of relative importance for the on-page and off-page factors in a competitive landscape," the report says.

For the keyword "laptop," laptop.media.mit.edu ranked third on Google, 11 on Yahoo and second on MSN. Linux site www.linux-laptop.net ranked sixth on Google, 12 on Yahoo and fifth on MSN. Wikipedia's en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laptop page also ranked in the top 10 on Google, and in the top 20 on Yahoo and MSN. Sites that ranked in the top 10 on Google and top 20 on Yahoo or MSN include www.laptopmag.com; www.laptoptravel.com; www.notebookreview.com and laptop.org.

"Many of what you might figure to be brand sites have lots of backlinks, but don't have the quality," said Marshall.

While companies continue to participate in paid search despite rising CPCs (define) and click fraud, paid search budgets are increasingly spent on search engine optimization.

Fortune Interactive CEO Andy Beal said over the last 24 months, Fortune 1000 companies have embraced paid search. More recently, in the last six to 12 months, the same cohort began engaging more in search engine marketing strategies. "Those same Fortune 1000 companies are now starting to turn to optimization," he noted.

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Enid Burns

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