How Google’s Algo Has Developed

It’s practically common knowledge that Google dominates the search market – we’d make a hefty wager you’ve used it to find this article! As a marketing and communications agency, it’s important for us to understand the mechanisms being used behind the scenes and consider the factors that generate each set of search results. By doing so, we can help your website become bet­ter in the eyes of Google through following the rules and guidelines they provide

In the world of search engine optimisation (SEO) there’s been three defining moments in Google’s history – game changers that have transformed the SEO landscape. However, to truly appreciate the core of Google’s search algorithm, we must look at the original factors that were present at its inception and how these have developed alongside their fundamental goals.

The core of Google search: PageRank

PageRank is the beating heart of Google’s search results. The concept relies on a set of on-page factors combined with value passed from other pages via links. Through this model, Google sees the lattice of links between web pages as a voting system. In the early days, quite simply the more ‘votes’ a page received, the more authority the page carried for it’s given subject matter. Today, things are little more complicated.

Google’s development: 67% market share

Google quickly developed a significant market share pushing out rivals such as AltaVista, Lycos and many others. Eventually, Google surpassed the number 1 rival of its infancy, Yahoo, who continues to trail the behemoth along with new entrant Bing. In 2013, comScore estimated that Google holds a 67% share of the U.S search market. This is in comparison to Yahoo! who retains 16.5% and Bing who has amassed 12.1%.

Google’s fundamental goal: relevant, accurate and valuable results

Google’s job is to recommend the best websites for a user’s search term – it wants to be the friend you turn to when you have a question, need some advice or want go exploring with. Google’s main revenue stream, its ad network, relies on the fact that Google has become our primary information source and we trust the information it provides because it gives us relevant, accurate and valuable results to our queries.

These relevant, accurate and valuable results can’t be taken for granted and Google must proactively protect this asset from spammers and websites that try and game its algorithm (using black hat SEO). Google regularly updates the technology in its search engine to find the very best results on the web – with teaks being made almost every day!

However, there have been significant updates during the search engine’s history which have redefined how Google generates results. These are the game changers we mentioned earlier and have been developed to safeguard their primary business by refining results and weeding out spam.

2003: Florida update

This was the most significant update made to Google’s algorithm up to that point in its history. This update spelled doom for sites that relied on keyword stuffing, invisible text and hidden links.

2011: Panda update

Panda changed the landscape for modern SEO with a shift in focus from links to content. The update sought out what Google describes as ‘thin content’ and slapped websites with a penalty if they were found to not be providing relevant, unique or valuable content for users.

2012: Penguin update

This most recent large-scale update targeted links, a cornerstone of Google’s original algorithm. Penguin rooted out ‘unnatural’ links created by spammers and penalised websites using these methods to game the algorithm. This had a very negative effect on older websites that had previously relied of lots of links to gain authority.

What’s on the horizon?

Google’s highly secretive and closely protected algorithm has developed significantly over time but remains true to its overarching goal; to provide users with the most relevant, accurate and valuable results for their search query. Google is looking for the best websites on the internet and through the information they provide, constant experimentation and experience, we can determine the ingredients Google believes makes a good website. These ingredients are what provide the best user experience – the websites that Google search users want to find.

This is the core of Google’s algorithm…

… and although there a lot of elements to the recipe, fundamentally, Google wants your website (and wider online presence) to concentrate on providing the best experience for users.


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