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RankPulse: Frequently Asked Questions

What is RankPulse all about?

Whenever you visit Google and enter a search term or phrase, Google's system must decide which sites to display first. Some terms appear in Google's database hundreds of millions of times, but the first page of results displays only ten websites. Google works very hard to ensure that the top results are the most relavent to your query.

Google, along with other leading search engines, rely on complex algorithms to determine which websites to list first; they tweak their systems daily. As a result, the rankings fluctuate, and that is where RankPulse comes in - we track and chart the daily fluctuations of 1,000 keyword searches at Google.

Search engines are amazing gateways to virtually unlimited content, and at RankPulse our goal is to provide some insights into how they work. One of our primary intentions is to show webmasters that although unscrupulous search engine optimization (SEO) techniques may yield temporary benefits, they are not foundations for a sound and sustainable website.

Why do search-engine rankings matter?

Let us imagine a company that makes widgets, and they have a large sales force trying to sell them worldwide. Suppose that they have a informative website, but that it only appears as the 27th result on a Google search; therefore, someone searching for widgets who typed "widgets" into the input box on Google, would have to click through to the third page before seeing the company's listing. Only a small percentage of users actually click through beyond the first page so the company would not get many visitors via Google.

Now suppose that the same company, added some informative articles about widgets and got links from sites throughout the industry and their search engine positioning jumped to #2. Widget sales would be likely to increase because many more people would discover their site. Most importantly, the type of people that search for "widgets" are a self-selecting group of people that are interested in widgets; they are therefore the perfect audience for a widget manufacturer! For this reason, search engine optimization has become big business, and some companies are willing to pay substantial sums to improve their search engine rankings.

How exactly do search engines select which sites to display first?

This is the million-dollar question. Since Google's primary service is their search service, the quality of their results is perhaps their most valuable asset. If they were to disclose their ranking algorithm, unscrupulous webmasters would invariably use the knowledge to secure top positions for all sorts of keywords. In the end, this would diminish the quality of the results, and Google would lose its pre-eminence in the world of search. As a result, Google's algorithm is a tightly held secret.

What can be done to improve my site's search engine rankings?

Although Google has not and probably will never release the exact nature of their algorithm, it is pretty easy to figure out some of the fundamentals. Google has provided some basic guidelines on how to improve your site's rankings.

In the end, the best way to ensure that a site is popular and highly-ranked, is to create great content. If you post interesting and relevant content, other sites will link to you, your users will want to revisit often, and Google will reward you with a high ranking. There are all sorts of techniques to improve your rankings, but by looking through the RankPulse data, we are convinced that building a great site is the most critical.

Some clever webmasters are able to acquire high rankings for vacuous sites, but in the end Google usually catches up with them. One of our primary intentions at RankPulse is to show the internet community that cheating your way to the top of a search ranking is not a sustainable business strategy; webmasters would be better served by spending their time building great websites! Our charts are littered with these flash-in-the-pan sites that shoot to the top of a ranking only to be demoted shortly thereafter. Of course, sometimes these types of rapid fluctuation occur due to an imperfect ranking algorithm.

Doesn't RankPulse contribute to the proliferation of empty pages that show up at the top of some searches?

On the contrary! One of our primary aims is to illustrate that the use of unscrupulous techniques in search engine optimization may work, but only temporarily. Search engines such as Google have virtually their entire net worth's at stake with their results algorithms. You can be sure that they commit sizable resources to prevent spammers from succeeding. We hope that Google will develop methods of ridding their searches of these empty results without penalizing the legitimate sites that deserve to be ranked highly.

By providing historical data, we aim to show that sites that are committed to quality content are rewarded by elevated search engine rankings. We hope that webmasters will realize that spending their time on building great sites is ultimately the best way to improve traffic.

With some dedication, we are confident that any webmaster can create a very popular destination. There are plenty of sites in our database that have remained in the top ten that are run by a single person! In short, we are firm believers that the implementation of shady search engine optimization techniques will not get you very far in the long run.

How do you get your data?

Google has admirably decided to allow developers to freely access their database via an API (application programming interface). Google has authorized us to make 1,000 queries per day and that is why the RankPulse database is limited to the same number of keywords. If Google allows us at some point in the future to make additional queries, we would be very happy to expand our offerings.

Our system makes the 1,000 queries every 24 hours and populates the database that is used to generate the charts presented on this site. Our data dates back to the beginning of January 2004.

Why is there only one or two sites displayed on a chart I selected?

We have designed a system that displays the maximum possible number of sites on a particular chart without being excessively confusing. Our scripts determine the relative activity of a particular keyword and then display the appropriate number of sites.

On particularly active keywords, as few as one site will be displayed; on some very stable keywords, as many as ten will be displayed. In the end, you have complete control over the chart, by selecting the sites you want to view by selecting the checkboxes in the table directly below each chart.

What keywords do you track?

We track 1,000 keywords that you can explore via our sortable list of keywords. You can also access our keyword list by browsing through our categories.

How did you choose which keywords to track?

Our keyword list was based on a wide variety of criteria. Some were chosen because they are very popular keywords, others because they are highly competitive. In general, we generated our keyword list with the intention of covering a broad spectrum of the internet. In some instances, we included singular and plural versions of the same keyword to see if the results are significantly different. We omitted offensive keywords, and those that were related to specific people, products or companies.

Can you track a particular keyword for me?

Due to the current limitations of the Google API, we are only allowed to make 1,000 queries per day. So, unfortunately, we cannot accommodate special requests at this time. If Google expands the number of daily queries that we are allowed to make, we may consider adding such a feature.

Why are there spikes in the RankPulse Index?

As is evident from the RankPule Index on the homepage, Google is constantly making changes to search results. Google seems to make small daily tweaks to the algorithm, but about once a month, they enact massive reindexings. During these times, there are significant fluctuations in results, and some sites drop out of the top ten, only to be replaced with other sites. The spikes in the RankPulse Index are graphical representations of these severe amendments.

Why are there sometimes two listings in the same domain in the top ten?

Sometimes Google's algorithm lists two sites from the same site in the top ten. On Google's results pages, they are usually listed, one after the other, with the second one indented. Since we track the top ten results for each keyword, if one site occupies two spots, we will list it twice. One or both of the listings, however, will have an ellipses (see following question).

Why are there ellipses (...) after some domain names?

Google doesn't only index homepages, but virtually all pages on the internet. Sometimes a page within a site ranks in the top ten, and instead of displaying long URLs, we truncate the addresses and append them with ellipses.

How can I contact RankPulse?

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to contact us at the following email address:

Are you affiliated with Google?

We are users of Google AdSense, but we are not affiliated with Google in any other way. Google™ is a trademark of Google Inc.

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