How Google Search Algorithm Works

Honestly, this isn’t going to be a long post of all the tips and tricks you can use to trick Google into higher rankings for your website.

We’ve been in the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) game for a couple of years and have found multiple instances where people who try to trick search engines end up short.

What we are going to focus on are the guidelines recommended by Google and the logic behind how these engines crawl your website so you can actually rank higher in Google sustainably.

What does this mean?

This means that by following the correct guidelines and logic, your website will stay in the higher positions of Google for longer and will withstand the dreaded Google algorithm updates.

So before we get into it if you are unsure what SEO means here’s an article about what does SEO stand for.

What are the 5 key factors that determine what Google shows its users?

Meaning of your query

To return relevant results for your query, we first need to establish what information you’re looking forーthe intent behind your query. Understanding intent is fundamentally about understanding language, and is a critical aspect of Search. We build language models to try to decipher what strings of words we should look up in the index.

This involves steps as seemingly simple as interpreting spelling mistakes, and extends to trying to understand the type of query you’ve entered by applying some of the latest research on natural language understanding. For example, our synonym system helps Search know what you mean by establishing that multiple words mean the same thing. This capability allows Search to match the query “How to change a lightbulb” with pages describing how to replace a lightbulb. This system took over five years to develop and significantly improves results in over 30% of searches across languages.

Beyond synonyms, Search algorithms also try to understand what category of information you are looking for. Is it a very specific search or a broad query? Are there words such as “review” or “pictures” or “opening hours” that indicate a specific information need behind the search? Is the query written in French, suggesting that you want answers in that language? Or are you searching for a nearby business and want local info?

A particularly important dimension of this query categorization is our analysis of whether your query is seeking out fresh content. If you search for trending keywords, our freshness algorithms will interpret that as a signal that up-to-date information might be more useful than older pages. This means that when you’re searching for the latest “NFL scores”, “dancing with the stars” results or “exxon earnings”, you’ll see the latest information.

Relevance of webpages

Next, algorithms analyze the content of webpages to assess whether the page contains information that might be relevant to what you are looking for.

The most basic signal that information is relevant is when a webpage contains the same keywords as your search query. If those keywords appear on the page, or if they appear in the headings or body of the text, the information is more likely to be relevant. Beyond simple keyword matching, we use aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether search results are relevant to queries. We transform that data into signals that help our machine-learned systems better estimate relevance.

These relevance signals help Search algorithms assess whether a webpage contains an answer to your search query, rather than just repeating the same question. Just think: when you search for “dogs”, you likely don’t want a page with the word “dogs” on it hundreds of times. With that in mind, algorithms assess if a page contains other relevant content beyond the keyword “dogs” — such as pictures of dogs, videos, or even a list of breeds.

It’s important to note that, while our systems do look for these kind of quantifiable signals to assess relevance, they are not designed to analyze subjective concepts such as the viewpoint or political leaning of a page’s content.

Quality of content

Beyond matching the words in your query with relevant documents on the web, Search algorithms also aim to prioritize the most reliable sources available. To do this, our systems are designed to identify signals that can help determine which pages demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness on a given topic.

We look for sites that many users seem to value for similar queries. For example, if other prominent websites link to the page (what is known as PageRank), that has proven to be a good sign that the information is well trusted. Aggregated feedback from our Search quality evaluation process is used to further refine how our systems discern the quality of information.

Spam algorithms play an important role in establishing whether a page is low-quality and help Search ensure that sites don’t rise in search results through deceptive or manipulative behavior. Google’s webmaster guidelines outline the techniques that characterize such low-quality spam sites, including buying links that pass PageRank or sneaking invisible text onto the page.

Content on the web and the broader information ecosystem is constantly changing, and we continuously measure and assess the quality of our systems to ensure that we’re achieving the right balance of information relevance and authoritativeness to maintain your trust in the results you see.

Usability of webpages

When ranking results, Google Search also evaluates whether webpages are easy to use. When we identify persistent user pain points, we develop algorithms to promote more usable pages over less usable ones, all other things being equal.

These algorithms analyze signals that indicate whether all our users are able to view the result, like whether the site appears correctly in different browsers; whether it is designed for all device types and sizes, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones; and whether the page loading times work well for users with slow Internet connections.

Since website owners can improve the usability of their site, we work hard to inform site owners in advance of significant, actionable changes to our Search algorithms. For example, in January 2018 we announced that our algorithms would begin to consider the “page speed” of sites, six months before the changes went live. To aid website owners, we provided detailed guidance and tools like PageSpeed Insights and so site owners could see what (if anything) they needed to adjust to make their sites more mobile friendly.

Context and settings

Information such as your location, past Search history and Search settings all help us to tailor your results to what is most useful and relevant for you in that moment.

We use your country and location to deliver content relevant for your area. For instance, if you’re in Chicago and you search “football”, Google will most likely show you results about American football and the Chicago Bears first. Whereas if you search “football” in London, Google will rank results about soccer and the Premier League higher. Search settings are also an important indicator of which results you’re likely to find useful, such as if you set a preferred language or opted in to SafeSearch (a tool that helps filter out explicit results).

In some instances, we may also personalize your results using information about your recent Search activity. For instance, if you search for “Barcelona” and recently searched for “Barcelona vs Arsenal”, that could be an important clue that you want information about the football club, not the city.

Search also includes some features that personalize results based on the activity in your Google account. For example, if you search for “events near me” Google may tailor some recommendations to event categories we think you may be interested in. These systems are designed to match your interests, but they are not designed to infer sensitive characteristics like your race, religion, or political party.

You can control what Search activity is used to improve your Search experience, including adjusting what data is saved to your Google account, at To disable Search personalization based on activity in your account, turn off Web & App Activity.

Taking all of the above into consideration it’s quite simple how to rank your website.

Well, maybe simple isn’t the right word to use. There are still plenty of complex strategies, copywriting, web design, and coding involved to get your website ranking efficiently.

So based on the above key ranking factors from Google we’ve come up with these simple, but effective, rules on how to ranking higher in search engines.

Add valuable Content.

Ask yourself.

Why would Google place me above my competition’s post?

Where can I answer an additional question or add more value to the searcher?

Remember. Google is trying to give the user the best result for their search. Not the page with the most keywords stuffed in.

Yes, you need to point Google in the right direction by using the keywords your user will input to find your page. But you need to still focus on creating better content than the other pages out there.

Don’t break the Rules. (Google will penalise you for this)

Follow the webmaster guidelines and you’ll be fine.

Breaking the rules your website and business might get a temporary boost above your competitors. But when (not if) the Search Engines pick up on the violation your website will be penalised and dropped from the rankings.

Make your website userfriendly

Speed. Speed. Speed.

Your site needs to be lightning-fast for users to have a pleasant experience and their queries to be answered as fast as possible.

Above that. Your website needs to be accessible for everyone.

Search Engines are important but your user is more important

You need to follow the best practices to make your website easy to crawl by using the correct HTML tags, keywords, and content.

But older tactics like keyword stuffing etc have created bad user experiences for users and search engines have caught on that this doesn’t serve the user’s best interests at heart.

Create pages that include your relevant keywords, but make sure to ask yourself if you are forcing something that shouldn’t be there.

Overall SEO doesn’t need to be hard. If you dumb it down and focus on working with Search Engines to give your users the best results you will be rewarded with higher SERP’s.

If you’re a business owner that’s not too clued up on the technical elements of SEO but you’re still interested in getting your business higher on Google search the right way. We do offer SEO services for businesses in South Africa.

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