Well it’s only taken 15 years or so, but Google finally published their Search Quality Ratings Guidelines for Webmasters. Nice to see them make an attempt at some transparency. This along with their nice Infographic on “How Search Works” seems to be a nice push by google to cleaning up some of the serious grey areas of their search ranking questions. As we all know, the search rankings are being tweaked in a hundred different ways, every single day. So we will never have a definitive answer on what makes a site rank well every time. There are just too many factors, but this helps.
You can grab the new Search Quality Ratings Guide here:
Also below you have the “How Search Works graphic which was inspired by Google’s The Story Of Send, an interactive infographic that Google released last year to explain how it handles email.
“We were looking at this site [The Story Of Send], Matt Cutts [Google's chief web spam fighter] and I and others on the [search] team and thinking, ‘Why isn’t there anything like this about search in a similar format?’,” said Jake Hubert, a product manager who works with Google Search.
Hubert was quick to note that Google has had plenty of resources on this topic on its site for years, but they weren’t really in a consumer-oriented format. “How Search Works” is expressly designed for search, though a big chunk at the end is still aimed at helping publishers understand what to do if Google isn’t happy with their site.
Crawling & Indexing
The area has three parts, beginning with how Google finds web pages (by “crawling”) and stores them to make them searchable (in what can be considered a big virtual book, called the “index”):
As you explore the area, there are links and hidden “Easter Eggs” you’ll discover that reveal more information, as you hover you mouse over certain areas and click.
Ranking Pages With The Algorithm
The second part deals with how Google returns matches in response to a search, how it decides which pages from the index should be ranked tops. This is all determined by Google’s “algorithms,” which look at over 200 different types of ranking signals to decide what to show:
One unique feature here is the ability to see “live spam” being removed from Google’s search results. It’s not exactly real-time, but you are shown results that have been removed often within an hour after they were dropped.
The area also includes a chart Google’s not released before, on “manual actions” over time — where Google’s human web spam fighting team has take some type of action against a site. You can see more here