Every company  wants to increase their website's ranking on Google's search engine results pages. The closer a site is to the top, the more likely a user is to click on it. That first step is key for online retailers, as it's much easier to convert viewers into buyers and receive online payments once they're on a brand's home site.

According to Search Engine Watch, a live Q&A session with Google Ireland's Search Quality Senior Strategist Andrey Lipattsev brought to light the three most important factors when it comes to determining search results. Industry insiders were already aware of RankBrain, but Q&A attendee Ammon Johns suggested knowledge of the other two could only help the industry.

"It's content and links pointing to your site," Lipattsev said during the session.

These are simple answers that, as Search Engine Watch pointed out, marketers likely already knew. However, it's good to have that open verification from Google. It essentially establishes the death of black hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing and hidden text. Now that they have this confirmation, it's a good idea for marketers and Internet retailers to understand what RankBrain, external links, and content are and how they affect their websites.

In the beginning, search engines weren't very intuitive. As Search Engine Land explained, if a user were to type "shoe" into Google, he or she wouldn't have seen results for "shoes." This is because the two terms are technically distinct from each other, and search engines at the time weren't advanced enough to see their relation. As Google and other engines evolved, they got better at determining what it was users wanted. They gained the ability to show users relevant content even though the person's search used different terminology than the page.

RankBrain is the latest tool created by Google to understand what users search for. It can interpret patterns between complex searches to determine their similarities and then use that information to understand future searches.

This is great news for online stores. It means a user could type something such as "buy gluten-free flour online" and "Where can I buy baking ingredients for someone with a gluten allergy" and receive similar results. This puts online stores in front of a wider audience.

External links
A good indicator of online popularity is when several different websites link to the same external page. As SEO consulting company Moz explained, external links are some of the hardest to manipulate. This makes it easier for a search engine to determine how authentic a resulting page's popularity is.

However, the simple existence of an external link isn't enough. Search engines use other metrics to determine their relevance, including the popularity of the original page, the anchor text used for the link, and how the content on both pages relates to each other.

E-commerce stores can't guarantee external links from other websites unless they employ certain black hat SEO methods. Since Google frowns upon these, the best way to get external links is to create relevant content.

Google's own support site said people will come back to a website or will link to it from their own pages if they find it useful and unique. For e-commerce retailers, this idea is similar to a brick-and-mortar store. A business that sells something people want is far more successful than one providing a product or service no one cares for.

One noteworthy aspect of a site with relevant content is credibility. Google said testimony from real customers helps build a brand's reputation. In fact, providing reviews is a known way to increase online sales.

RankBrain, external links, and content are just three of the many markers Google uses to determine a site's relevance. Understanding how they work helps online businesses increase their rank in the search engine.

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