I hope I posted this is in the right spot...
What makes a page show up as number three versus number one on Google's homepage? Is it the amount of visitors?
I don't think it has anything to do with PR because there are lower PR sites above some of the higher ranked ones.
Nobody can authoritatively answer this question except for Google engineers. And they won't, cause it's a million dollar question - or rather billion
While no one knows exactly, probably because is varies from one term to another but contributing factors that have been found through testing to contribute include:
On page factors: While keyword stuffing for keyword density is popular with some people, the main one to worry about is the title tag (the first line you fill out to make a hub). Get the title tag to match the search phrase, and you have a good start. Other on page factors that are of lesser importance include header tags, keyword density, outbound links, etc.
Off page factors are considered to be the more important, sometimes touted to be 80% of the ranking factor. These include Page Rank (which derives from inbound links), number of inbound links, the anchor text of the inbound links, for just a few.
Throw in other factors like the age of the site (the infamous sandbox that makes it difficult for newer sites to rank) and trust factors (who is linking to you), and it's all anyone's guess when looking at any particular search term.
But having said that, if you want to improve your rank for a given term, the easiest thing to do is have the title tag match the term. And then get links.
a very good reply!
I'd add that getting inbound links from gov and edu websites would give a considerable boost in rankings But of course there are to many factors melting in their importance, and the true reason for #1 position sometimes can be achieved with just 1 inbound link, all other factors being of on-page nature.
Say, if you make a website for a key-phrase 'installing Microsoft Windows XP SP2 on a bare-bone PC' and get 1 anchored inbound link from Microsoft website itself, #1 is very likely to be occupied A useless example, though.
The time website exists plays its role too. Probably even hosting adds some value to a domain. And lots more factors...
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