Understanding Search Engines

If you search for your name or business, you may be lucky enough to occupy the top spot at google, but if you’re not, you might be frustrated, wondering why whoever has made it to the top deserves that place.

To understand why, It helps to understand how Google and other major search engines (such as Microsoft’s Bing) rank their pages.

The first thing to say is that the precise details of how each search engine categorises content is a commercial secret to ensure that nobody is able to successfully “game” the system.

However, having a rough idea of how it works should help your page rank. At its simplest, search engines gauge both the quality and relevance of the results using a combination of the content on your page, the “meta description” (more on that later) and most importantly, the pages which link through to your site.


  • Ensure that you describe your work accurately and concisely using words that people are likely to search for eg: “John Smith, a North London sculptor working primarily with copper and found objects” is much better than “John Smith, artist working with 3d”
  • Write a concise “meta description” (found under the “search” tab in the preferences) describing your site in less than 30-40 words. The meta description is some text which is included in every one of your pages, but is only visible to computers. Google usually use this to form the description of your page in their results.
  • Encourage as many people as possible to link to your site every time they mention you online, but make sure that the links are used relevantly rather than haphazardly: if google sense that you are paying people to link to your site, they will ban you!
  • Try and get your site linked from sites which are well-respected and from sites with a lot of traffic : being linked from the Tate Gallery or an academic at UCL will increase your rankings far more than appearing on your friend’s Tumblr page.