Web search engines rank websites based upon a variety of factors to determine which sites are more desirable to their users. It is rare that companies would share how they rank sites because it could lead to an abuse of the system and ruin the search results. However, Microsoft has recently made a post on their Bing blog which details some of the ways they determine a site's rank. The method generally follows a common sense approach to judging the difference between a good and a bad site.
Microsoft uses three main criteria to judge a website's quality, they are authority, utility, and presentation. These three factors are filtered through an algorithm to decide how the site should be ranked. Microsoft was careful to not be too specific and prevent webmasters from exploiting the algorithm to favor their site even though it shouldn't. The brief amount of information in this posts leads readers to think, make a straightforward website, with minimally intrusive ads, and be clear about who is writing posts and where they are getting their information.
Cheating the search engine algorithm is a classic attempt of websites to gain popularity. With this glimpse into the intent of Bing's ranking engine, the general public can better understand why websites are lower than others, and why their site may not be as hot as they'd like. Common pitfalls of websites are over serving of ads, and the ads are disguised as navigation elements like drop downs or download buttons. Posting content without a clear author also damages the rating of sites because it becomes unclear who is being trusted.
The primary take away from this Bing blog post should be, create good content with clear ads and don't try to cheat the system. When websites' popularity is only because of exploiting search engine algorithms then that popularity will only last a short amount of time. Bing and Google can easily spot abusers and easily shift their technique to punish abusers and continue providing great access to the best content.