13 May 2013

Google's Guide to Ranking in Search Results

For your site to perform well in search, Google needs to be able to discover and understand your pages. Here's how to create rich, Google-friendly content.

Algorithmic search

Search is about giving people the answer they’re looking for—whether it’s a news article, sports score, stock quote, a video or a map. Google’s search engineers design algorithms that analyze millions of pages and return timely, high-quality, relevant answers to people’s questions. More information about Google Web Search.

What about ads?

Search results (sometimes called "organic" results) appear in the middle of the Google.com results page, and are never paid for. Paid ads appear on the right hand side and sometimes at the top, and are always clearly labeled.
Google maintains a strict separation between our search business and our advertising business, and doesn't give special treatment to our advertisers. Our view is that if we provide the best search results, people will continue to choose to use Google over other search engines. More information about ads.


Google's committed to transparency. That's why we created Webmaster Tools: to give webmasters as much information as we can about how we crawl and index sites. More information about transparency.

Check that your site is indexed

To see if Google already knows about your site, do a "site:" search, like this: [ site:example.com ].
  • If pages from your site show up, your site (or a part of it) is already in Google’s index.

  • If it doesn't show up, and it's very new, it's possible that Google hasn't discovered it yet. Use the Submit Your Content page to expedite our discovery of it. Be sure to check out specific Google products and services for businesses, publishers, and public agencies. More information.

  • If your site doesn't show up, and it used to, it may be in violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. Our guidelines are designed to help webmasters create useful, Google-friendly sites that are good for users and the web.

  • If it's showing up, but pages appear lower than they used to, see possible reasons why.

A user’s experience with your site begins with its listing in the search results. While our search is algorithmic and automated, you can have a lot of influence over how your site is listed. Here's some ways you can help create compelling listings that users are more likely to click:
  • Create useful page titles. Make sure that your title is useful, descriptive, and relevant to the actual page itself. More information.

  • Use informative URLs. The URL (web address) of a page appears below the title, with words from the user’s query in bold. Your URLs should be simple and human readable. Which do you find more informative: http://example.com/products/shoes/high_heels/pumps.html or http://example.com/product_id=123458? More information.

  • Provide relevant page descriptions. The descriptive text under the URL is usually taken from the description meta tag on the page. Descriptions should be different and unique to each area of your site. More information.

  • Add your business to Google Places, to help Google display location information in results.

  • Manage your sitelinks. Sitelinks (sub-links to individual pages on your site) are meant to help users navigate your site. Sitelinks are automatically generated. This means that you can't specify a sitelink, but you can use Webmaster Tools to ask Google to demote sitelinks you don't like. More information.

One key element of creating a successful site is not to worry about Google's ranking algorithms or signals, but to concentrate on delivering the best possible experience for your user by creating content that other sites will link to naturally—just because it's great.
When you're writing a post or article, think about:
  • Would you trust the information in this article?
  • Is the article useful and informative, with content beyond the merely obvious? Does it provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis?
  • Does it provide more substantial value than other pages in search results?
  • Would you expect to see this in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Is your site a recognized authority on the subject?
Keep an eye out for the following problems:

  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites?
  • Does this article have an excessive number of ads that interfere with the main content?
  • Are the articles short or lacking in helpful specifics
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines outline practices that could negatively impact your performance in the search results, or remove you from the search results entirely. If we detect problematic content on your site, we’ll notify you using Webmaster Tools. We strongly recommend becoming familiar with our guidelines, as well as our tips for creating Google-friendly sites.
If your site contains user generated content, make sure to have a firm spam policy in place early. Check out this video for more tips on keeping sites with user generated content spam-free:

Read more

Help Google understand your content

People love images and video, but search engines are designed for text.  The more information you give us about your images and video, the better.  Check out our guidelines for publishing images and video, but in general, follow these guidelines:
  • Use descriptive file names. The file name black-fender-guitar.jpg tells us a lot more than image1.jpg.

  • Create great alt text. Alt text is used to describe the contents of an image file. It’s great for human readers, but it also provides search engines with useful information about the target image or video.

  • Give your images and video context. Google can infer a great deal about your image or video from the content surrounding it. For example, a picture of a guitar on a page about the history of guitars sends a strong signal to search engines that black-fender-guitar.jpg is about guitars.

  • Provide a great user experience. Try not to make users scroll to see your images and video, and use high-quality source files.

  • Upload your video content to YouTube to reach a wider audience.
You can give Google extra information about your videos, which we can use to further understand their content and display your videos for relevant queries. More information.

Submit a Sitemap to Google

Essentially, a Sitemap is a list of the pages, images, or video on your website, but it can also include additional information. For example, you can include title, description, playpage URL, thumbnail URL and the video URL for each video on your site, or provide name and file location, the caption, the title, the location where the photo was taken, and any licensing information for your images. More information about Sitemaps for video and for images.

With Google+, you can create an identity and presence on Google. Use Google+ and other social networks to connect with friends, family members, and start a conversation around your site.

Create a Google profile

Your profile is the way you represent yourself on Google products and across the web. With your profile, you can manage the information that people see—such as your bio, contact details, and links to other sites about you or created by you. You can also link your profile to other social networks such as Twitter or Facebook. Create a Google profile.

Add the Google +1 button to your site

Adding the +1 button to pages on your own site lets users recommend your content, knowing that their friends and contacts will see their recommendation when it's most relevant—in the context of Google search results. If a user wants to share your content right away, they can also use the +1 button to add a comment, choose what friends (circles) to share it with, and post to Google+—all without leaving your site. All it takes is a snippet of code. More information.

Link your Google profile to your content

Google may display authorship information in search results to help users discover great content by writers they enjoy.
If you want your authorship information to appear in search results for your content, make sure your Google+ profile has a good, recognizable headshot as your profile photo. Then, verify authorship of your content by associating it with your profile. More information.

Add friends and colleagues to your circles

The Internet is a big place, but you can make it a bit smaller by adding connections to customizable social circles. Circles are a great way of organizing the people in your life, and they make it easy to choose who you'd like to share posts and updates with. You can get started by importing your contacts from Gmail, or from entering in your contacts manually. More information.

More help creating and managing your site