If you keep up with digital marketing or regularly look for information online, you’ve probably heard of Google algorithms and how they influence each of us. But have you ever wondered what they are, exactly?To understand what a Google algorithm is, let’s first look at what an algorithm is in general. The standard definition is: a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, typically displayed in “if”, “and”, “or” statements. Computers will use these statements to run a series of steps in the form of an algorithm. You may have used a simplified algorithm in a program like excel, where if 1 cell contains a certain value, then do x function. Now bring this example from a few statements to hundreds of thousands of statements, and this is the complexity of Google’s algorithm.
Google algorithms follow the same basic rules of an algorithm that we described but with weights for each of the statements/factors; these weights are the SEO ranking factors that Google uses. Think about the last time you searched for something on Google. Whether you typed “cute cat videos” or “bunnings sausage sizzle,” the search engine returned millions of results for you to choose.But how did the search engine decide which results to show you, and in what order? Google has an algorithm to decide what websites are served in search results, and this algorithm changes frequently, from minor to major changes. Google does not make the exact ranking factors of their algorithm public, however, here are a few elements that we know for a fact have an impact on a page’s ability to appear in the results:
Of course, these are just some of the characteristics the Google algorithm explores when determining how to deliver and rank pages. There are hundreds of other factors.
As the Google algorithm crawls (reads) a webpage, it gives that page a numerical value to each of the ranking factors on the page. Those numerical values are then added to the end result. Thus, the web page that has the most desirable traits will rise to the top of the page rankings because the algorithm assigns it more importance.Google calculates these factors incredibly fast, and the search result rankings may change as web developers or SEO consultants manipulate the attributes that contribute to page rankings across a website, or on a single page.A page that ranks third for a keyword may rise to the first position or fall to tenth as the content on both it and the other competing pages in the results change. Usually, the top spots are held by businesses that do search engine optimisation, or SEO, on websites. When conducting any SEO, it’s important to be on the lookout for some common SEO mistakes to avoid as a simple change to how content is labelled or laid out, can help achieve SEO success.
The Google algorithm is used for each search, whether it is a general search, maps or images, but it’s personalised each time for the end-user, the searcher. For instance, an individual searching for “buy hiking shoes” may receive different results than their friend who typed the same search term, but why do they have different results?The Google algorithm is adjusted for each search, this is because the numerical ranking factors given to websites will change based on the individuals’ search history, location, device type, time of day and any services the individual has connected to Google. All of these end-user factors are used to determine which website Google’s algorithm decides best answers the search query.This happens rapidly and Google’s algorithm has been designed to offer a wide array of personalisation. With each of Google’s major updates, the search results page has become more responsive to users needs, such as offering suggestions when the user types one term. This is an indication of a different type of algorithm being used to create an individualised drop-down menu of search suggestions based on the browser history, as well as other factors.
As mentioned previously, the Google algorithm uses keywords as part of the ranking factors to determine search results. The best way to rank for your specific keywords is by doing SEO. SEO is essentially a way to tell search engines that a website or web page is about a particular topic.Previously, it was common for many websites to “keyword stuff” their content. Web developers and SEOs alike assumed that the Google algorithm would think that the more keywords that were written, the higher that page would rank for those keywords.Once Google realised this, they altered their algorithm to penalise sites that stuff their pages with keywords, as well as many other “black hat” SEO practices. Because of this, you should avoid any tactic that is done with the aim of outsmarting search engines. Although they may not notice right away, Google will eventually pick up on what you are trying to do, and your rankings will suffer.
Google rarely gives any indication of changes to its algorithms unless they are major. Smaller changes are made internally and are usually not felt except as smaller ripples. It’s vital to stay on top of Google’s algorithm announcements, but it’s just as important not to overthink the algorithms or predict them.What we do know is that Google has been progressing to be as user centric as possible, the BERT and Mobile first updates are examples of this. Below is an example of a search result, before and after the Google BERT update in October 2019.
As we are moving into a mobile first world where website, social media and even telecommunications (5G) are built for on-demand services. Google is following suit and now index’s and ranks websites with mobile readiness and mobile speed first. To help SEO’s and Web Developers a like, Google has created a website devoted to bridging this gap. ‘Web Vitals’ is an initiative by Google to provide unified guidance for quality signals that are essential to delivering a great and consistent user experience across the web.
Web.dev have a detailed article on how to optimise core web vitals for page speed.
As smartphones become more powerful and the number of connected users globally grows to 5.2 billion, Voice Search has grown with it. 60% of businesses globally do not have a booking system in place, with this in mind, Google has “AI assistant phone calls” as part of Google My Business to help businesses manage this change. AI assistant phone calls have been rolled out in several countries, including Australia and New Zealand, this is an opt-out feature for Google My Business. Here is an example of a Google voice assistant making a phone call in real time.
Rich Snippets or Rich Results are a way of markup up a webpage to inform Google and other search engines how to display additional data. This extra data is usually pulled from Structured Data found in a page’s HTML. Common Rich Snippet types include reviews, recipes and events. Google has a detailed list of structured data types that can be used across Mobile and Desktop websites and how to use them.
Rich Snippets appear higher than regular organic results. These results take up even more digital real estate and have proven to lead to higher CTR and greater conversions as a result.
If you need help optimising your site for Google’s algorithm, feel free to contact us! Our dedicated team of SEO experts in Perth are happy to help you put a strategy in place for any SEO strategy ranking well in search engines and attracting more site traffic.