Whenever someone conducts a search using the Google search engine, they will be directed to a list of (typically 20) results. These results are listed in order of how they are ranked (1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on). This means that the first website listed in your search is determined to be the most relevant.
The process that determines how Google websites are ranked is complex. Google uses an algorithm, which is a mathematical process, to rank websites. Although algorithms are created by humans, website rankings are determined solely by the algorithm results and not by human opinion or research.
There are over 200 factors that are taken into account when creating algorithms. Some of these more important factors are keyword usage, site structure, site speed, time spent on the site, number of inbound links and the quality of inbound links. Google constantly reviews, updates and adjusts their rankings based on website content. This allows websites the opportunity to potentially improve and move up in their rankings of search results. This would benefit all websites, as they would have increased traffic.
Websites are essentially competing with each other to ensure that they are among the top results of any search. Websites can do things such as improve the usability or structure of their site, add updated and relevant content. Thus, the more high quality a website is or strives to become, the more likely that the search result ranking will be higher.
Google offers a program called Webmaster Academy that offers website creators the opportunity to learn how to create a great website, teaches them how Google search results work and provide them with additional resources that will ultimately allow them to possibly improve their search result ranking.
For those using Google search, you can adjust your settings to allow more results for each search that is made. This allows users to also see the tops 30, 40 or even 50 websites that result from their Google search. This allows more access to results that Google algorithms have determined are useful and relevant, though users are most likely to stick to the top few results for any search, and with good reason.
The process for ranking search results is very involved but extremely important. With many search engines to select from, users will be more likely to use a search engine that gives top quality results and guides users straight to the information they need without spending large amounts of search time on the internet.