How to improve your search engine ranking: Myths and reality

Ao Jan Su, Y. Charlie Hu*, Aleksandar Kuzmanovic, Cheng Kok Koh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Search engines have greatly influenced the way people access information on the Internet, as such engines provide the preferred entry point to billions of pages on the Web. Therefore, highly ranked Web pages generally have higher visibility to people and pushing the ranking higher has become the top priority for Web masters. As a matter of fact, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has became a sizeable business that attempts to improve their clients' ranking. Still, the lack of ways to validate SEO's methods has created numerous myths and fallacies associated with ranking algorithms. In this article, we focus on two ranking algorithms, Google's and Bing's, and design, implement, and evaluate a ranking system to systematically validate assumptions others have made about these popular ranking algorithms. We demonstrate that linear learning models, coupled with a recursive partitioning ranking scheme, are capable of predicting ranking results with high accuracy. As an example, we manage to correctly predict 7 out of the top 10 pages for 78% of evaluated keywords. Moreover, for content-only ranking, our system can correctly predict 9 or more pages out of the top 10 ones for 77% of search terms. We show how our ranking system can be used to reveal the relative importance of ranking features in a search engine's ranking function, provide guidelines for SEOs and Web masters to optimize their Web pages, validate or disprove new ranking features, and evaluate search engine ranking results for possible ranking bias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalACM Transactions on the Web
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Learning
  • Ranking algorithm
  • Search engine
  • Search engine optimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications


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