For those of us whose professional focus is to rank well in online search results, search engine giants such as Google and Bing may, at times, seem to be omnipotent oligarchs hell bent on keeping us confounded with their continuous algorithm updates – more than 600 a year.

But nothing could be further from the truth.  Just like any business owner, their goal is to provide a satisfying experience to nurture brand loyalty.  They know that if the search results they provide leave the user unsatisfied, that user will search elsewhere.

To help you better understand how search works, here’s an overly simplified explanation of several factors and how they influence search results.  Search engines employ software called “spiders” to continuously crawl the internet, indexing and re-indexing web pages…billions of pages.   So when someone searches for Hugh Jackman, the search engines pull any page that references “Hugh” or “Jackman.”

Knowing that you don’t want to sort through pages devoted to Hugh Hefner, Hugh Laurie, Jackman Fabrics or Hugh, Maine, the search engines rank pages, placing the ones most relevant to your search closest to the top.   Below are only a few examples of the hundreds of factors that affect search results.

  • Keyword proximity. If a page mentions “Hugh Jackman” rather than “Hugh Laurie recommends Jackman Fabrics,” the first site is placed higher than the latter.
  • Keyword density. A page that mentions Hugh Jackman in the headline and then several times in the copy, will rank higher than a site that only mentions his name in the cast credits.
  • Freshness of content.  If a website’s latest Hugh Jackman entry reviews his 1999 depiction of Curly in the made for TV “Oklahoma,” it won’t rank as high as a website covering his latest performance in “Logan. “
  • Links to site. Websites that other websites link to for information on Hugh Jackman, such as Entertainment Weekly or TMZ, will rank infinitely higher than the Worldwide Wolverine Whitepaper, a blog written by a middle-aged former D&D dungeon master from his parent’s basement.
  • Age of site. The older your site, the more reliable the search engines will perceive it to be.
  • Site traffic. The more web traffic you have, the more popular your website will be perceived.
  • Social Media engagement. If a website’s content it being liked, shared, retweeted and +1 , search engines will consider your content to be fresh, relevant and engaging.

So the next time you conduct a search query, take a moment to marvel at the quality of information that is returned to you in less than a second.    Mind blowing isn’t it?  FYI – More than 58 million results for  “Mind Blowing” results were returned in .69 seconds.