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How AltaVista Ranks Search Results

To create documents that take advantage of the AltaVista Ranking feature, web authors should be familiar with how users can rank their search results and the factors that influence how AltaVista ranks the results of a search. Web authors may also want to use the META tag to control how AltaVista will index and display summaries for web documents.

Ranking Results

Users can use the AltaVista Advanced Search to rank results that best meet their search criteria and thereby have the most useful documents appear at the top of the Search Results list. (Note that if the Ranking field is left blank, AltaVista will return results in no particular order.) To rank results, the user must enter words or phrases in the Ranking field on the AltaVista Advanced Search page. Users can use the words that are a part of their query, or they can enter new words as an additional way to refine their search. Spaces are used to separate multiple words or phrases. For example, a user could further narrow a search for COBOL AND programming by entering advanced and experienced in the Ranking field. Be aware that ranking limits the user's ability to view the search results to the top 200 documents.

Factors that Influence How AltaVista Ranks Search Results

AltaVista ranks the results of a search based on a score that includes these criteria:

  • Whether the words or phrases are found in the first few lines of the document (for example, in the title of a web page).
  • The frequency of occurrence of a query word or phrase. Rare words in a query are weighted more heavily than common words (rarity is determined by the number of occurrences of the word in the index). For example, the word zebra is likely to occur less often in an index than the word animal and can therefore produce more precise search results when used in a query.
  • Whether all of the specified words or phrases appear in a document. A document containing all three words specified in a three-word query would rank higher than a document containing only two or one of the words.
  • Whether multiple query words or phrases are found close to each other in a document.
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