The Voodoo-Magic of Google Ranking
Last century, it was the bunny ears; this century, Google ranking is today's voodoo-magic.
Nobody knows exactly how it works, but everybody's got their hunches. What we do know (or think we know) is that Google factors in things like word placement and frequency along with inbound links to weigh relevancy. For example, in 2003, Bush got "Google-bombed". If you searched for "miserable failure" in Google, the number one result was Bush's official government profile. Essentially, enough people had linked those words to that page to make Google think it was the most relevant page for those words. Ask Andy about it. Or better yet, search for "Jim Schettler".
Now, they've made it harder to GoogleBomb someone, but the concept still works the same way. It's likely that Google just looks more at the context before assigning rank. And it also gives much more weight to pages that have higher rank. So if you're site is a very popular site with lots of inbound links (people linking to you), then Google's going assign greater value to your links. So because my blog currently has a PageRank of 7, my links hold more weight than, say, a site with a PageRank of 2.
For example, imagine you and a friend are both selling our "beebubs". On a website with a PR of 2, a happy customer uses the word "beebubs" and links it to your beebub product page. On MY site with a PR of 7, I do the same thing, only link it to your friend's beebub product page. Now, after they get indexed by Google, when someone types in "beebubs", Google puts your friend's above yours because my reference came from a site with a higher PR (find out yours). Of course, Google takes into consideration things like what context the word was used in, where it appears on the page (headers weigh more) and other secret ingredients. Of course, this is all speculation, since Google isn't all that forthright in how it's done.
I've experienced this first hand. I actually landed a job because a client searched for "an amazing website" and found mine near the top. That was completely unintentional, but I'm not complaining. Of course, Google's attention span is almost as bad as the American Public. Tomorrow, I could be tossed out of rank quicker than you can say "Vanilla Ice", but it feels pretty good being on top.
Now if you could just stand up, please, move your leg a little to the left and touch the foil on the right bunny ear, I can finish my episode of MacGuyver. Thanks.
P.S. (We've got numbers. Let's come up with a fun association, e.g. Jim Schettler » Andy Martin's website and GoogleBomb the daylights out of someone. What'll it be? We'd have to pick a word or phrase that wouldn't be too common, like: "snake of pornea" or "reverse psychologist".)