If you've been trying to boost your SEO to no avail, it may come from not understanding Google's search ranking algorithm. Click here to learn everything you need to know about how Google works.
If you told anyone 30 years ago that they would one day be able to find anything on the internet, they would've laughed and continued flipping through their encyclopedia. But that's exactly what Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the creators of Google, figured out how to do. And within years, they transformed the way the world finds information.
But how did they do it? How did they collect information from all over the world and put them neatly in one place for you to find? The answer is their search and ranking algorithm, a scientific process that Google uses to collect, sort, and rank information.
Whether you're just curious about how Google works or a new website owner who would like to improve your website ranking, read on to find out more about the fundamentals of Google's search engine algorithm.
How Google Finds You
Google has an army of digital robots called crawlers and indexers that are constantly sifting through millions of websites every day.
Every time you create a new page on your website, one of these crawlers will come to take a look and the indexers will decide what place to give you in the Google index.
The Google index is the place that holds all of the websites in their repertoire. When you hit "Search" on Google, you're only seeing the first page of the index. If you look at the bottom of the page, you'll notice there are actually dozens, if not, hundreds of more pages containing the information you need.
But Google knows you don't have time to look through thousands of web pages so they prioritize the most useful ones at the top for you. But how do they know which ones are the best ones for you? This is where search engine ranking matters.
How Google Decides Web Page Rankings
Every web page that appears on Google's search engine has a page ranking. The first website you see when you search for something (excluding the sponsored ads) is number one.
There is plenty of research done already that proves web pages on the first page of Google receives over 95% of web traffic. And websites on the following pages receive less than 5%. You can see why then it's desirable for most web pages to be on the first page.
But with nearly 2 billion websites in the world soon, it is impossible for every website to be on the first page of Google. What does Google do then?
Evolution of Google Ranking Algorithm
Google uses various methods to rank web pages on their search engine results page (SERP). Together, all of these methods make up an algorithm. No one knows exactly what the algorithm includes and even if they figure it out, it constantly changes. Information changes and the way people look for information also changes.
One of the main ways Google used to rank websites was by using keywords. Keywords are the words that people type into Google's search box when they want to find something. Naturally, Google thought the best web pages for these users would be the ones with the highest amount of matching keywords.
Theoretically, this was a great idea until people figured out the algorithm and started to cram their websites with keywords. And as a result, the accuracy and quality of content on these websites decreased.
The web pages that showed up at the top of Google were no longer the best ones but simply the ones with the most keywords. Google took this as a lesson and decided to change their ranking algorithm.
Today, Google still uses keywords as part of their search algorithm but it's no longer the focal point. Instead, they consider a variety of other factors to return the best results to you.
Domain authority is a phrase to describe the trustworthiness of a website. In other words, how qualified is the website on the topic that they are about?
If a website receives thousands of viewers or more per day, that tells Google people like going to them and they are probably a reliable source.
A website with higher domain authority is more likely to show up on the first page of a SERP than a website with a lower domain authority. This is also to ensure users are getting the best quality content.
Another way Google customizes their search results for each user is by looking at their search history. It uses the information as context to pull up the most relevant results.
For example, if Google knows you've been looking up information on comic book characters and you type in "Robin," they're more likely to show you web pages about the superhero character than the actual bird. This is why sometimes it feels like Google is reading our minds.
You might've noticed Google seems to know where you live and it does. And it uses this information to find search results that make sense to you. For instance, if you look up "dentists " Google will probably return dentist offices near you. This is to help you save time from having to look through hundreds of dentists in your city.
Interpreting Spelling Mistakes
Spelling mistakes are a common occurrence with users and Google knows it. To make things easier for their users, Google programs in millions of misspelled words in their system so when you misspell a word, it'll automatically detect your mistake and suggest the closest match.
Getting on Google's Good Side
Google doesn't share their best search algorithm with the public. The reason for this is to prevent websites from cheating the system and creating content just to match the algorithm.
Google favors websites that create useful and quality information. If you don't provide either of those things and you use dishonest techniques to gain traffic on your website, Google can ban your website completely from their index.
On the other hand, Google does share plenty of tips with the public on how to improve site ranking organically. And the more of those tips you follow, the higher your chance is of appearing at the top.
Here are some of the best ways to get on Google's good side:
Create a Site Map
One easy way to improve your website's ranking is by creating a sitemap. A sitemap is an outline of your website's structure that you can create to let Google's robot crawlers know how to read your website. It's like handing someone a map of your house so they can quickly understand the layout instead of having them come into your house and roam around.
Learn SEO Strategies
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a bundle of techniques one can learn to improve their website's search engine ranking. SEO techniques include everything from website design to proper keyword usage. You can learn them by yourself or you can hire an SEO expert such as SEO Company New York to help you.
Another way Google encourages websites to improve their content is by offering the public their "Webmaster Tools." This is a digital library of resources and guides available for all website owners to learn how to create, organize, and display information better.
Create Quality Content
As many tricks and tips as there are to improve website ranking, there isn't anything more effective than having quality content. Afterall, Google's job is to deliver information and if the information they deliver isn't accurate then people are going to stop using them.
No matter what you do, Google will always prioritize websites with useful and engaging content before anything else.
New Ways to Deliver Information
With thousands of new websites added into their indexes each day, Google knows it's only becoming harder for users to find the information they need. To make this easier, Google came out with many new ways to display search results.
One of these ways is a "Featured Snippet" which is a box that displays answers to queries at the top of the page. Other ways include the Knowledge Graph, Rich Lists, Directions and Traffic, and much more.
But how does this affect the Google search algorithm? Well, if your website provides information that is perfect for one of these features, you are more likely to be featured in them. It's like a shortcut to the top of a SERP.
Making the Algorithm Work for You
Google has long stated their mission is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." This means the easier and quicker you can help people understand information, the more likely Google will rank your web pages at the top.
Understanding how Google's ranking algorithm works are vital for any website owners but keep in mind that algorithms change all the time. What worked today might not work tomorrow, so what's even more vital is that you stay updated on SEO trends and algorithm news.
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