There are other search engines out there. However, Google is the most popular search engine, with over 90% market share as January 2022. No wonder SEO specialists and digital marketers are trying to understand and keep up-to-date with Google Search Algorithm changes.
Google Search Algorithm is a highly complex system employed by Google to rank content. The search Algorithm examines hundreds of factors such as relevance and quality of content to provide the best answers to search queries. How the Google Search Algorithm exactly works is not known. They also update several times a day, so it would be impossible to keep up.
How do you improve your page to rank in Google's search engine results page (SERPs)?
Google has shared key ranking factors that we could use in our SEO strategy. Before discussing the key ranking factors, let's talk briefly about the process of ranking. Google's ranking process has three stages, and not all pages make it through to the next stage.
3 Stages of Google's Ranking Process
Stage 1 - Crawling
At this stage, Google conducts a "URL discovery" wherein it constantly looks for new or newly updated pages and adds them to its list. Google may then use Google bots (or spiders) to 'crawl' the discovered URLs. An algorithm dictates the Googlebot crawling activity and whether site owners allow access to the site.
Stage 2 - Indexing
After the page has been 'crawled,' Google tries to understand its content, including the text, image, key content tags, videos, and more. It then stores analyzed information in an extensive database called the Google Index.
Not all pages may be indexed. Google's ability to index a page takes into account the page's content and its metadata.
Stage 3 - Serving
Once a query is received, Google's Search Algorithm pulls the most relevant pages from its index to answer the question. At this stage, Google's key ranking factors come into play.
Google's Key Ranking Factors
Although Google does not divulge how its Search Algorithm works, they share key ranking factors that can be used in your SEO strategy. Consider these factors when optimizing your page to help you rank in the SERPs.
Meaning and Intent
The first thing that Search Algorithm tries to establish is the meaning and intent behind the query. This involves a series of complex steps which allows Google Search to understand:
After five years of development, Google's Search Algorithm incorporated the concept that multiple words could mean the same thing. This allowed such queries as "How to change a lightbulb" to yield pages that describe how to replace a lightbulb.
The search Algorithm tries to decipher whether searchers would like result pages in the same language as their query.
Scope of the query
Is the information required specific or broad? Are there words in the query that could indicate the need for specific information?
When somebody searches for Costco, are there indicators that help determine if they are searching for operating hours or nearby locations?
Is the searcher looking for results containing the "freshest" information? Prices and news updates are examples of queries that require the information to be current.
Once the meaning and intent of the query are determined, Google Search Algorithm checks the Google index to determine which webpages give the most relevant answer to a researcher's search query and ranks it accordingly. This considers using the exact keywords in the webpage's title, subheading, URL, and introduction.
Google Search Algorithm, however, measures relevance beyond simple keyword mentions. Their algorithm transforms data into relevance signals which helps determine which pages contain more relevant related content. For instance, for a search query containing the keyword "dog," web pages with pictures of dogs or a list of breeds will rank higher than pages with less information.
Google Search Algorithm determines the quality of indexed pages in terms of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) on a given topic. Then, Google's human search quality raters validate the algorithm's results based on the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEG). Once the strength of the E-A-T is verified, pages are then ranked.
Google Search Algorithm also determines if webpages give a "good user experience." User experience (UX) talks about how a webpage makes a user feel. Often influenced by the following, among others:
Page load speed
Google recommends a loading speed of under two seconds to provide a good user experience.
With the increase of users using mobile devices, pages must be mobile-friendly to get a good page experience. Check if a page is mobile-friendly here.
A Website must have a meta title and description in line with the search intent.
The more functional and user-friendly your website design is, the better the UX.
No intrusive interstitials
Advertising techniques used by sites must not be distracting or intrusive. Otherwise, they will take away from a good page experience.
Google Search Algorithm considers the searcher's location, past search history, and search settings in delivering results to their query. Thus, if you search for "football" in the United States, Google will most likely show results about American football first. Using the same search word in the United Kingdom will yield results about soccer first.
Google Search Algorithm is a complex set of updated and improved systems faster than anyone could keep up. While it is wise to be updated with the algorithm changes, there is no need to keep tabs on each improvement. If there are significant changes, Google will indeed publish an announcement.
In 2019, Google said, "We suggest focusing on ensuring you're offering the best content. That's what our algorithms seek to reward." Although Google has not shared the secret of how the Search Algorithm exactly works, they have given us valuable information on how we can rank on the SERPs. Make good use of the critical factors discussed here as guides when SEO on your website.