13.09.2022 17:30

Google’s Ranking Algorithm Is Really So Complicated?

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Google is easy to take for granted. Many people search Google every day. Others do dozens to hundreds of searches per day. We have instantly presented with hundreds to thousands of relevant results, all of which offer the information or destinations that we require. It’s so easy, intuitive, and readily available that we don’t think much about what’s happening behind the scenes.

However, if you are in the SEO industry you will know that there is a lot happening behind the scenes. You need to understand how Google’s ranking algorithm works if you want your site to rank higher in search engines and get more organic traffic.

This is the issue, and it’s a huge challenge for new SEO professionals. Google’s ranking algorithm can be confusing, as any SEO expert will confirm. But is it as complex as they claim? How can you make it easier?

Google Search Algorithm Transparency

Google is determined to make the most advanced technology in the world. It’s not something you can hide or deny. Google doesn’t have to make sure everyone understands how this technology works.

It is well-known for keeping its core search algorithm secret. Although it doesn’t publish the algorithm officially, it does provide hints as to how it works. Why is it so secretive? There are several good reasons. Their search algorithm is proprietary and they don’t want anyone copying what they’re doing. This is an important business principle that should not be surprising to anyone who reads this.

It’s important, however, because search optimizers often seek the fastest path to increase rankings and generate traffic. Sometimes this is at the expense of the users. Google doesn’t want to reveal all the details about its ranking algorithm, as it wants a consistent user experience and reliable results.

It’s impossible to know how complex Google’s ranking algorithm really is because we probably won’t be able to see it.

Google Ranking Factors & What We Know

Let’s not forget what we know. We don’t know the code or how Google’s search algorithm works because Google isn’t transparent. However, by conducting our own experiments and accumulating data, we can compile a list of Google ranking factors.

It works like this. We can use a variety of tools to determine which websites and pages rank for what keywords and queries. We can analyze correlations and rule out other possibilities to narrow down the list of factors likely to allow a website to rank high.

This has its problems. It’s difficult to distinguish between correlation and causation. We know for example that pages that have high user engagement (as measured by time spent on the page) are more likely to rank higher. But is it because Google prefers pages with this factor? Do people spend more time on pages because they rank so highly?

Optimizing for any correlative factors or causal factors that we can find is a safe bet. This will position your website and pages to rank as high as possible. There are hundreds of Google ranking factors. There are many factors that are more important than others and some are easy to do. However, this list can be overwhelming, especially for those with limited experience in this field.

Beginning with the Basics

Many of the ranking factors that we know can be combined. There are many factors that influence the presence of keywords in header tags or in your body copy. However, this can be summarized as follows: It’s important to include keywords throughout your content, particularly in areas users will notice.

Zooming in enough will allow us to reduce Google’s ranking algorithm down to just two factors.

  • Relevance- Relevance simply measures how relevant a page is to a user’s question. Does this page have the content to answer the user’s query? Is this page able to answer the question the user asked?
  • Authority- Authorship is a measure of how reliable or competent the source is. Google will preferentially choose the most reliable and trustworthy results from thousands of possible results if it finds relevant results.

Focusing on these three things can help you achieve greater authority and relevancy:

  • Technical optimization on-site- What is the technical optimization of your website? What is the layout and code of your website? Technical optimization is the process of making your website easy to find and navigate. It also means that it loads fast and efficiently for users so they have the best user experience. This means that your website is secure. This means optimizing your website to work on mobile devices. This includes optimizing your website for speed, loading speed, and many other variables.
  • Site content- What type of content are you using on your site? How good is it? Websites that have a trustworthy, in-depth content rank higher than those without any content. Relevance is also important; onsite content offers the best chance to optimize for certain keywords and phrases.
  • Offsite content, links- Also, consider your offsite content and linked content. This is another way to optimize for relevancy. However, links are essential for building trustworthiness, authority, and authority. Sites with more inbound hyperlinks tend to be more authoritative in a predictable and measurable manner.

Additional Google Ranking Factors to Complexity

You might feel relieved that Google’s ranking algorithm is now clear after reading this simple breakdown. There’s more to the ranking algorithm than meets the eye, and that complexity extends beyond the simple list of ranking factors.

  • Semantic search- Google does not consider keywords in isolation or in strict one-to-one relationships. Google now uses semantic search to understand the meaning and context of keywords and phrases. This makes it more difficult to optimize specific phrases with old-school techniques.
  • User behavior- How does your behavior impact search rankings? While we can make estimations based on measurements it is difficult to know how much is correlation and how much causation.
  • Personalization- Optimization is all about helping users find what it’s looking for. Google uses many tools to personalize search results. You may see very different results depending on where you are located, what your profile is, and even how often you search for the keyword phrase.
  • Ongoing improvements- Google search isn’t a static entity. Google search is constantly evolving with new updates and user interface tweaks. The half-life of SEO knowledge is therefore very short.
  • Industry-specific variables- Google’s search algorithm does not treat all industries the same. Some industries need additional strategic considerations. Others simply have a harder job ranking.
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence- Google has been trying to automate its search engine and as many updates as possible in recent years. Google’s main method of automating search engine updates is to use machine learning and AI algorithms. This allows it to better understand users’ search behavior and apply updates based on that information. These updates can sometimes occur in a “BlackBox” which makes it difficult to comprehend all details, even for engineers who designed them.

Google’s Algorithm Is Highly Complex

What’s the bottom line? If you judge Google’s ranking algorithm based on its complexity, it is complex. It’s simple to summarise some of the basic ways Google works if you look at the practical results. We’ve only touched on the basics. With a little bit of reading, you’ll be able to understand the workings of Google’s ranking algorithm. However, automated AI updates have made it so that even the top Google engineers may not be able to fully understand all aspects of it. That’s fine.

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