For years, search engines have continued to introduce new factors into their algorithms to make their search results more relevant and to keep savvy search engine marketers from "cracking system."
We've seen many ranking factors come and go in importance. For example, years ago, META tags were key to success, or so we thought. Stick in META tags that were loaded with your keyword phrases, and you were sure to achieve top rankings.
Then, we had keyword weight as a ranking factor. We struggled to determine keyword weight of our competitors' pages, then duplicate that weight in all of various areas of our pages.
Along came link popularity, and with it, massive link farms and link exchange programs. Web site owners joined as many as they could in an effort to boost sheer number of incoming links pointing to their sites.
In midst of these evolving ranking factors came changes to page components like title tag. Put your keyword at beginning of tag for maximum ranking potential. Oops. Things have changed. Put your keyword as 3rd and 4th words in title tag. Wait - let's try 2nd and 3rd words.
These are just a few of ranking factors that have come into play over last several years.
Can you see potential for problems here?
After all, including keywords in your META tags doesn't mean that page is more relevant for those keywords. Just because you have 12,792 worthless links pointing to your site doesn't mean your site is relevant for your keyword phrase.
Now, we're in middle of another "link popularity" or "link reputation" surge. But rules have changed. Now, we want sites that are related in content to our site, or authoritative, popular sites in our focus area.
Okay! Now we're beginning to get on right track! After all, if an important, authoritative site in a particular topic area links to your site, it must mean that your site is important and popular for that subject too. Or, if other sites in your subject area link to you, it must mean that your site is truly about that subject as well.
Equally important, or even more so, comes "link reputation" factor. If enough popular sites in your topic area use your important keyword phrase when linking to you, it's telling search engines that your site is relevant for that keyword phrase. After all, Web community has deemed to describe your site using that keyword phrase, which is a vote of confidence to search engines.
Makes sense, except for one small problem. I can have a site that's devoted to wireless Internet connections, and you can have a site that's devoted to kitchen utilities. I can link to your site from mine and use keyword phrase "kitchen utilities" in link text. Some of engines appear to use link text as determining factor when deciding link reputation, not contents of page pointing to site. So, two sites that aren't related in content whatsoever could potentially help boost link reputation of each other's sites. We may see engines consider other factors in near future, such as contents of title tag on page containing link, which will help solve this potential problem to some degree.
However, when looking at all of factors listed here so far, do any of them truly prove that page is relevant to a particular keyword phrase?
With relevancy comes a much more stable, trustworthy search engine. When you search for a particular topic, you're assured of getting search results that contain pages with good, solid content related to that keyword phrase.