All About Google Algorithms and Why They Matter
Did you know that on an average nearly 63,000 searches are being made on Google every second? That means Google is simultaneously showing thousands of results to more than 50,000 people. How does Google handle it? Google Algorithms.
Before going any further on what is Google Algorithm, we’d just like you to know that:
And in this article, we’d cover why Google Algorithms matter for any business with an online entity.
What is Google Algorithm?
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Google Algorithms is the system Google uses to show your website as a search result for a query on SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). These algorithms retrieve data from Google’s search index and instantly deliver the best possible results for a query.
Why was Google Algorithm needed?
To understand how Google Algorithms came into being, you’d have to understand how searching engines worked before Google. Before the 90s, searching on the web was just like looking through a directory. You had all the content listed and you had to hunt for the relevant one. The search engines were mainly recording all the websites that existed.
It was only in 1993 that JumpStation, created by Jonathon Fletcher devised a web robot that would find pages on its own, build them into a repository or index, and also use a query program (like a web form) to help people find these pages. It was the first resource-discovery tool on the web. Back then, JumpStation would index and find results for searches merely based on the titles and headings found in the web pages.
A year later, came out Webcrawler which went beyond the titles and headings, and scanned the entire text on the webpage to index it. Using WebCrawler, users could search any word/phrase on the web instead of a pre-decided list by the search engine. WebCrawler became widely popular. At about the same time, Lycos, a similar search engine was also launched by Carnegie Mellon University and became a major hit.
Soon several search engines came into being and worked more or less on the keyword approach. These included Yahoo! Search, Excite, Infoseek, Inktomi, Northern Light, and AltaVista. They’d scan the page, find the most common keywords and then rank the page for it. All the webpages were stored in a web directory. They worked on the logic that a page which has a certain word would be a relevant search result for it. So, if you would’ve searched for the
word “Harry Potter” back then, the page with “Harry Potter” the maximum number of times would rank first.
As the keyword mechanism became widely known to the masses, people also found loopholes to trick these search engines. This led to the birth of the popular practice known as “keyword stuffing”. Instead of putting in the effort to create content relevant to a keyword, people would essentially stuff their webpage with a keyword multiple times to get better rankings. As a result, users got search results that were spam.
Then came Google, well-aware of the existing spamming issues in the search engine arena. Based on a recently developed algorithm (RankDex by Robin Li), Larry Page patented PageRank, Google’s algorithm to rank pages regardless of their content. The algorithm ranked pages based on the number of links they receive. It was based on the understanding that the page with relevant information endpoint of many links while spam pages don’t get links. (Now you know why Wikipedia pages rank at the top- everyone’s linking back to them!)
Needless to say, PageRank was a game-changer as keyword-stuffing no longer was the shortcut to rank higher. But that didn’t deter spammers from finding new ways to ‘fool Google’. In fact, tools like “Google bombs” and “Spam Farms” came into being soon after. They were complex networks of pages linking each other so that they could eventually increase the Pagerank of some target pages.
Did Google back down? No, instead Google upgraded Pageranks and developed Google Algorithms- an ever-evolving system for ranking relevant webpages. This brings us to the next big question- the mechanics of Google Algorithms.
How does Google Algorithms work?
In simple words, Google Algorithms scan your webpage, index it in its directory, and show it as a result for relevant search queries. But what do they look at while deciding which page should be shown as a search result and where should it rank? Here are the 5 things that Google Algorithms make note of while listing your webpage as its SERPs.
Google’s ultimate goal is to ensure that the user finds a result that’s relevant for their search and find it as soon as possible. To do that, Google algorithms understand the ‘meaning of the query’ that the user has. A simple part of it is to check the query for any spelling errors and also expand the umbrello of the search. One of the tools Google uses is its synonym system which identifies synonyms of the words you used and shows high-quality pages ranking for those. For instance, if you search for “Google Algorithms meaning”, Google would also show you results for pages like “Google Algorithms definition” and “What is Google Algorithms”. As the owner of the website, you should just try to use keywords that people are searching more for.
To rank your webpage, Google needs to know that the page is relevant to the user’s keyword query. While Google is mindful of the keyword in your text while mapping your page to a query, it also now has machine learning tools that let it know whether the other content on the page has relevant information regarding the keyword. For instance, we’d not be able to rank this article for the world Google Algorithms just by stuffing the phrase here a million times. Rather, long-tail keywords and details like “how does Google algorithms work”, “why Google Algorithms was needed”, “PageRank” tells Google that the content here is relevant to a query about Google Algorithms.
Google Algorithms also judge the quality of your content by understanding the pages that link to your page. If other prominent websites link to the page (the PageRank algorithm), Google knows the information is well trusted. Google now also has aggregated feedback that helps it decide the quality of information.
Now you’d be thinking if Google ranks webpages based on the backlinks, why can’t you just buy some of those to rank higher. We wished it was that easy to trick Google!
Unfortunately, Google has Spam algorithms that ensure that your sites don’t rise in search results through deceptive or manipulative behavior. In fact, it has listed factors like low-quality
Many website creators and owners often overlook this aspect of Google algorithms. While your ranking does depend on the content on it, Google also wants the people visiting the website to have a good experience. This is where Google Algorithms check the usability of your website while deciding on its rank. Using these algorithms, Google knows whether your website can be viewed well across browsers and devices, irrespective of their size. Your website shouldn’t look weird on mobiles. In fact, because 70% of web traffic comes from mobile, Google now checks your website’s mobile version first while indexing it and not the desktop version. In 2018, Google also added the loading speed of your webpage as a factor that affects your website usability. You can make uses of tools like PageSpeed Insights and Webpagetest.org to know the areas of improvement in your website. While these are the key factors that Google Algorithms look at, Google regularly updates these algorithms to make them more effective.
Why does Google Keep updating its search algorithms?
SEO experts and website owners striving to rank better on Google would probably relate to this meme. Google constantly updates its algorithms with ~500-600 major and minor updates happening each year. Why, you may ask?
Well, as Ben Gomes, Google’s Vice-President of Search, likes to put it, “our goal is to get you the exact answer you’re searching for faster.”
So, Google constantly keeps evolving its algorithms to find better and faster search results for its users. As technology progresses and the way people search evolves, Google adapts its algorithms accordingly.
While user experience and relevance is the primary reason Google keeps updating its algorithms, there’s another reason too. Google likes to stay ahead of the game. You see, in the constant bid to rank higher, people may come up with ways to work around the Google algorithms. But with constantly changing algorithms, Google doesn’t allow people to find shortcuts to defeat the Google system. Rather, you’d find that if you get the above basic right, Google updates will not affect the ranking. In fact, it may even boost your ranking. The updates are Google’s way of making sure that the spammers and tricksters don’t get to the top ranks.
In the End
The real hack for Google algorithms is pretty straight forward: create quality content. Google intends to provide the information they need. So, all you need to do is have well-written and well-presented content that people find useful. That being said, it is also important to stay up-to-date with Google algorithms that have happened in the past, and the new updates Google does to ensure that you are not in violation of any of them.