How does Google's Search Algorithm Work?
Google’s search algorithm scours the internet constantly to find the best results for searchers. So how does it find your webpage, and how can you make it find it more often?

Getting your business or personal website to the top of Google search results isn’t easy. Between competition, paid ads, and a Google algorithm that might feel like it is closer to magic than science, it can be a daunting task for any marketer. You can hire an SEO company or service to help your business, but with a good understanding of what is happening behind the scenes, you can build a strong foundation toward becoming an SEO specialist and improving your Google pagerank, all without paying an SEO service expensive consulting fees.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization, more commonly known as SEO, is an enigma to some and a fire breathing dragon to others. The primary goal of SEO is simple, improving your Google ranking and putting your webpage before your competition. Google’s algorithm is a complicated pagerank formula that factors in visitors to your site, your use of keywords customers are searching for, backlinks to and from your site, and dozens if not hundreds of other factors (we don’t know exactly what Google is using in its algorithm, and they aren’t telling) that generally lead them to trust that your site is a better source of information for the customer than another site. On top of that, the algorithm is constantly updating to stay on top of current search trends, technology, and advertising abilities. Each Google update can have significant effects on a company’s Google index scores, so businesses invest a lot of time and money into making sure they are following every SEO best practice possible to outrank their competition.

But how does Google know what is on my website?

Google parses every website’s code and saves all of what Google believes is its meaningful information to a massive database that are hosted from even more massive data centers that it calls upon when customers make a new search. The information Google is primarily collecting is keyword terms that are on your site, but a lot of other data is also being collected, like each site’s page map, where those pages link to, whether or not the links contain ads, the construction of those links, and much more. Because of all of the other data Google is collecting, SEO is more complicated than just filling your website with popular keywords that relate to your company. This will certainly help, but the variety of keywords used, the relevance to what customers are searching now or searched for in the past, how many and which of your customers are using the same keywords in the same way, and many other factors influence how your site will be ranked.

Google can only analyze, rank, and present the websites that it knows about, and contrary to conventional belief, Google doesn’t know about the whole internet. Google finds websites using what is called a web crawler or spider. These crawlers will start on a web page and crawl it until it finds a link, then it will follow that page’s links and look for more links. As the web crawler is finding new links, it is connecting them into a large relational network. This process, while faster every day, is very time consuming and thus has been refined to only crawl websites Google deems as important enough to be crawled. Google decides importance based on backlinks, making them a very important part of getting your page identified, crawled, and ranked sooner.

What can Google see on my page?

While Google’s crawlers are very intelligent, there are some things that it cannot see. For instance media like music, videos, and images (things the software cannot read) are hard for Google to identify and determine relevance. Media on sites should always have alt text, titles, descriptions, and tags for the crawlers to read, otherwise they risk not being “seen” by Google and having a relevance negatively effected.

Knowing, now doing

Creating a rock solid Google SEO strategy isn’t as simple as knowing what is happening in the background, but it gives important context and foundation for every company’s ultimate Google search goal: having the best SEO and thus more clicks, more revenue, and more long-term success. Understanding Google’s algorithm is the first step of many, but with some practice and persistence, it is the first step toward the first page on Google.

Cameron Beck