Search Result Rankings

Each search engine uses a different method to determine which sites to list first when you do a search. The following is a list of some of the factors that are taken into account:

If your search term is in the title

The title is the phrase that appears at the top of your browser, above thenavigational buttons. In HTML, the title is defined using the<title></title> tag. Any words placed inside this tag will be indexed. The words that appear in the title will heavily influence the ranking of a page.

how often--and where--your search term appears in the text

Another factor that determines a documents ranking is how many times the word you searched for appears. So a document that mentions school five times will probably be listed ahead of a page that mentions school only once. Many sites try to increase their ranking by repeating keywords many times. Some search engines have caught on to this trick. For instance, Infoseek ignores keywords that are repeated more than seventimes. WebCrawler, meanwhile, has started clearing its index of pages that engage in keyword stuffing.

if your search term is in the site's description

Search engines use different methods to generate the sitedescriptions that appear in the list of results when you do a search.Some engines just use the first 200 words of the document--whichis why you sometimes come across incomprehensible descriptions.Others, such as Excite and Lycos, use proprietary technology togenerate their summaries. Still others, like Infoseek and AltaVista,support an HTML tag known as the META description tag. Thistag allows Webmasters to write their own site description. It'sincluded in the HTML document and is read by robots or spiders,but it's not visible on the site itself unless one views the site'ssource code. Besides using these site descriptions in their list ofresults, search engines will look in the description tag forkeywords when you conduct a search. Engines that don't supportthe META description tag will look for keywords in whateverdescription they do use.

if your search term is in the keyword tag

Another HTML tag that influences how a site is indexed by searchengines is the META keyword tag. Like the description tag, thistag allows Webmasters to influence how their site will be rankedby search engines, but without having to show visitors any extratext. For example, a site for a business that does Web marketingcan include a keyword tag that defines keywords such asmarketing, promotion, or advertising. These words form part ofthe code for a Web page, but they aren't visible to people whovisit the site. (It's kind of like including washing instructions orfabric content on a tag inside a shirt, rather than printing it on theoutside.) However, not all Webmasters use keyword tags, and notall search engines look for them.

Corporate Alliances

Several search tools allows companies to purchase placement in search results. Other tools adjust the advertising on the page to correspond to the words that you have entered. These arrangement are frequently called Corporate Alliances.
Keep in mind that these factors weigh more or less heavilydepending on the search engine you're using, and search enginesare constantly changing and updating their formulas to determinetheir relevancy ratings.

For some examples on how this ranking works see the Mount Everest Project