The everlasting mystery of the internet, the Google algorithm. Ok, maybe it isn’t a complete mystery. We have a pretty good idea of how it works conceptually, the details are just a little bit hazy. It is easy enough to understand the process, the criteria, and the philosophy behind it. Exactly how they are all combined, and in what ratios, is somewhat tougher.
All search engines use tools known as “crawlers” to go through all the web pages on the internet and analyze them for content. These automated bots strip information out of html text and prepare it for indexing.
This is where all the data that has been viewed by the crawlers is stored. When you initiate a search, it is this database they use to look for relevant information. As you might expect, going through this meticulously organized index is much faster than scanning billions of web pages each time a search query is entered.
These are the programs that determine which results to show and where to rank them. Google uses a variety that apply depending on the type of search. There are several things these programs do in an attempt to provide the best results:
Analyze the words
They use language code to look beyond the exact words that are used and estimate what the user actually means, in case the wording isn’t clear or ideal. This will take care of typos and try to narrow down words with multiple meanings. This is also why you see the “Did you mean…?” text.
Match the search
At this point, the algorithms are comparing your search terms to the information on web pages in their index. They are looking for volume of keyword occurrences and apparent relevance.
The competition starts here. For most searches, there are millions of sites with related information, so it is Google’s job to rank these pages as accurately as possible to meet the desires of the user. In addition to keyword volume, they will also measure the age of the content, the user experience of the site, and its popularity among previous searches.
This is information that is specific to the user. Past search history, location, and search parameters are three of the main criteria they use to provide the best results for each individual.
Before spitting out the results, the algorithms do one more pass to evaluate the quality of the results as a whole, in an attempt to provide a diverse, comprehensive set of options for the user to choose from.
Therefore, while details and emphasis change from time to time (i.e. mobile-first indexing), the overall method remains the same, which means the basics of SEO continue to be quality content, effective keywords, and easily navigable sites.
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