The websites that Google ranks on the 1st page of its search results for any given search term are the ones that they consider to be the most relevant and useful. They determine which websites are the most useful and relevant by using a complex algorithm (mathematical process) which takes into account 200+ factors.
Google doesn’t let people know what those factors are, however, through a combination of research, testing and experience, a good SEO consultant knows what the most important factors are. For example, most SEOs would agree that the following are all important ranking factors:
- Keyword usage
- Site structure
- Site speed
- Time spent on site
- Number of inbound links
- Quality of inbound links
The algorithm is designed and set-up by humans, however, the rankings given to websites are wholly determined by the outcome of the algorithm. There’s no manual intervention by humans to adjust the rankings specific websites are given by the algorithm.
The website ranked in 1st place is the website that the algorithm has given the best score to when taking into account the 200+ factors. Google is constantly reviewing, adjusting and updating its search results, so a website that is ranked 1st today could potentially not even be on the 1st page next week.
If a website stays where it is, rises or falls in the search results is dependent on one overall consideration – how it compares to the websites it is competing with i.e. the other websites who want to rank for the keywords that it wants to rank for.
So, for example, if a website that is ranked on the 4th page for a particular keyword phrase decides to improve its site structure, add new content and seek out new high quality backlinks, whilst the websites on the 1st – 3rd pages of the search results don’t also make improvements, then the website on the 4th page will rise in the rankings.
How much it rises is dependent on the existing authority and quality of the sites above it and how much value Google’s algorithm places on the value of the improvements that have been made to the website. It could rise up just a couple of positions or it could rise straight to the no.1 position.
There’s no magic button that an SEO can press that guarantees a no.1 ranking, however, by paying attention to the factors that the algorithm places value on, and actively working to improve them, they can guarantee to improve your website’s rankings in Google.