How does Google Research work: indexing and ranking

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It is the daily work tool for  SEO, the reference all SEO specialists look at monitoring its variations (perhaps using the most reliable rank tracker out there!) and the pain of all those are not currently succeeding in reaching the coveted first page. How many of you truly know how does Google Research work and how are the contents actually displayed within Google Search pages?

What is the Google indexing?

Let’s start from technical notions and the basic meaning of indexing a site, essential topic to understand how Google Search works. With the term indexing we refer to the simple inclusion of a web site inside the search engine database, a.k.a the Google index that is described like a list of all the web pages known by Google.

Google indexing, how the scan works

In order to index a site, the search engine uses data gathered with a scan carried out by Google’s crawler – the famous Googlebot – that travels in search of new sites and simultaneously verifying previously monitored contents to report any variations due to the adding at the Google index; alternatively, is the site owner that personally notifies the URL to Google through the Search Console.

Sites that do not appear on Research

It goes without saying, but to launch a site online and not to be on Google (we are not talking about poor performance on it, but rather of absolute absence) is like owning a phone line no one knows the number of. It is always useful to specify that not all sites are added to the Google index and in some cases it is a choice (deliberate or not) of owners and managers, as recounted by John Mueller at the beginning of the year speaking about his biggest SEO success.

What is the noindex tag

We are specifically talking about the noindex tag that can be used to block Googlebot’s scan on the referral page or downright the whole site; whether one chooses to use the <meta> tag or the HTTP answer header, communicating the noindex to Google means to let him remove any correlated resources from Search, “regardless of the presence or not of other sites including links aiming towards the page”, as guidelines say.

What is Google ranking

Once the phase of scanning and indexing ends, we get closer to the heart of SEO activities, a.k.a the actual ranking on Google: from a technical point of view, to rank a site means to make it appear for specific queries among Google’s search result pages, the famous so-called SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), sorted out so to show only 10 results per page. The starring actor of the ranking process is Google’s algorithm, that takes into account the well-known ranking criteria in order to generate this constantly updating charts.

How much ranking matters on Google

Clearly, there is difference between being placed at the top spot of a SERP and simply appear among all other pages, to the point that an old joke claims that “the best place to bury a corpse is Google’s second page”, while a study (old, but still gold) estimates that while the first page generates 91% of the entire traffic on Google, the second barely reaches 5% and the following ones swing between 1% and other insignificant rates, to put it mildly.

The importance to rank on Google

Data that explain and justify the level of competition there is in the SERPs climbing, given the fact that both visibility and site performances strongly depend on the ability to reach the first positions among Google results. And that also explains the importance of optimizing a site in order to try and make it perform better, working all of the fixes and interventions of on-page and off-page enhancing to increase the ranking.

The meaning of organic ranking

We are speaking of organic or natural placement, the one we can precisely get through actions of site optimization, concerning the site structure, the cleanliness of the code, the usability, the attention to contents, the meta tag improving and all the different parameters we tackled on our guide to Google’s ranking factors, including the link earning activity that can be useful to increase the site’s authority on search engines.

To rank through paid ads

Alongside this, though, we should never forget that ranking is also established with sponsored links (also called pay per click), that are instead the paid adverts sold by search engines anticipating SERP on some specific relevant queries for the sponsored site. In this case, placement is based on criteria defined by the advertising network and, generally, it depends on the cost per click charged on the advertiser himself.

Difference between site indexing and ranking on Google

Lastly, it should be quite clear the difference between the indexing and ranking of a site on Google, by now: indexing is an automatic operation that follows the crawler’s scan and determines the integration of the site within Google index. Ranking is right the next step, so to say, a.k.a the assessing that Google’s algorithm makes on the site and its contents compared to its own parameters, confirming the placement (indeed) based on the queries of the users.

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