How Search Engines Rank Pages

Curious how search engines rank pages? Read on this informative guide to get an idea how are pages are getting rank by Search Engine like Google.

Why do Search Engines Rank Sites?

There are so many sorting ways search engines can arrange their webpages. It will be so much easier and cheaper for them to just randomly arrange the sites or arranged them alphabetically.

But obviously, if that is the case, are they really helping searchers like us?

The users need to build trust in the search engine for them to come back for its service. It’s their satisfaction that we should always aim to satisfy. Search engines try its best to only recommend sites that they know we can all trust so that people can trust search engines as well.

But how do they really do it?

1. Classify

The first step is to classify or categorize the query coming in. once the query is classified, it gives the search engine the information it needs to perform all of the steps needed in the process.

In this step the engine will apply the labels like:

  • YMYL
  • Local
  • Unseen
  • Adult
  • Question

2. Context

In this second stage, the engine determines the environmental and historical factors that come into play. Once they know the category of the query, they apply, determine or pull the data related to elements deemed relevant for that query category and type. Examples of these environmental and historical factors are:

  1. Location
  2. Time
  3. The device being used
  4. Whether the query is a question
  5. The format being used for the query

Why is this stage necessary?

The search engine needs to know all of the relevant information from the user that is entering the query because once they gathered all of that, they apply, determine and collect all the data that can be related to the query category base on that information.

3. Weights

Before a search engine can determine what pages should rank they first need to determine which signals are most important.

When Google updated its ranking algorithm and implemented Google Freshness which states that 35 percent of search results be fresher and more recent pages. So, with the query type in hand as well as the context elements pulled, the engine can now rely on their understanding of which of their signals applies and with which weightings for the given combinations.

Now, this can either be accomplished through professional computer engineers or RankBrain. RankBrain is an AI that mastered the algorithm system. This artificial intelligence is used by Google to help them sort each page and gather relevant data needed.

4. Layout

We know that for a different query, the search result page layout changes. Each element showed in a search engine listing requires different kinds of a query for it to show up.

What’s important to understand in the context of this piece is that the different elements of any given search results page need to be determined more-or-less on the fly.

This is to say, when a query is run and the first three steps completed the engine will reference a database of the various possible elements to insert onto the page, the possible placements and then determine which will apply to the specific query.

They calculate the database they gathered to show elements that fit the user’s intent.

Now it’s time for ranking. The search engine now knows the classification of a query, the context, the information is being requested in, the signal weights that apply to such a query, and the layout most likely to meet the various possible intents for a query.

5. Ranking

In this last stage, it is, in fact, the easiest process. Here’s how the organic ranking works:

  1. The user enters a query.
  2. The search engine considers the type of query and classifies it.
  3. The search engine considers the user’s location and time to know more about their intent.
  4. The search engine takes the query classifications and user-specific signals and uses this to determine which signals should hold what weights.
  5. The search  engine uses the above data to also determine which layouts, formats, and additional data may satisfy or supplement the user’s intent

Once all of this is in hand, they pull in the various sites that can be considered for the search ranking, align it to the algorithm and determine the order of sites that should appear in the list.

They do this for each element in various pages. Videos stories, entitles all change, that’s why the engine needs to order these pages.

You might wonder why understanding search engines are important. It’s because this can help you focus your SEO efforts on things that actually matter and that can help you. It will make your ladder to the top easier to climb.


According to SEJ, “If you understand the core of how the engine function you will understand your place in that ecosystem. And that will result in strategies designed with the engine in mind and serving the real user – their user.”

Ready to work with a full-service digital marketing team? Contact us today and let us discuss you needs!

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