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Google's Algorithm Explained

Last updated 7 years ago

Ever wonder how Google decides which websites to show on its legendary search engine (in other words, its algorithms)?  And how can your company use search engine optimization (SEO) to drive business to your website?  Remember, search engine optimization is the process of gaining traffic from the free (organic) listings on search engines.  All major search engines (think Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) have their own algorithms to determine which websites are shown based on their individual definition of relevancy.  Take a look at the picture below for a visual explanation.  Search engine optimization is the complete opposite of paid search marketing.  Paid search marketing is the process of obtaining traffic by buying ads on search engines.  Basically, the more you invest in paid search marketing, the higher probability that your ad will be shown.  Think of it like this: increasing your budget means increasing your airtime.

I hope you now better understand the difference between search engine optimization and paid search marketing.  In a perfect world, businesses would know exactly what the algorithms contain for each of the top search engines, but that would be too easy, right?

It is quite interesting to note the following about Google, nevertheless:

1) Google adjusts its algorithms at least 500 times a year.  Why so many changes?  Google's main goal is to provide the best search experience for its users, which results in them keeping its position as the number one search engine.  

2) Google has employees called "raters."  These raters’ responsibility is to view rankings side by side and then judge which ranking has the most relevancy and quality.

3) Google uses the term, "sandbox" to describe when it conducts live experiments on actual users.  Software engineer Mark Paskin, says, "we send a very small fraction of actual Google traffic to the sandbox [where] we compute lots of different metrics" (Crum).

4) Can you guess how many experiments were run in 2010?  Answer: 20,000!

5) After conducting various tests and experiments, how does Google decide which changes to make to its algorithms?  Essentially, a launch decision meeting takes place where the leaders of the search team view the data and make final decisions.  If the data shows that a change is a good idea for Google users, then the change is implemented on Google.  Easy enough, right?

Although we will never know the exact formulas for Google's algorithms, we can be sure that the algorithms will never be considered complete.  Like other technology, it is constantly changing and business owners need to be mindful of this.  Marketing your company through one form of media like direct mail just does not cut it anymore.  Your business needs to be found everywhere, including the Internet.  You need to make it easy for potential clients to find you; otherwise, they will find someone else.

Does your company have a search engine optimization campaign and/or a paid search marketing campaign?  Did you think Google modified its algorithms as often?  Why or why not?

About Alan Moore: Alan is an Internet Marketing Consultant with ReachLocal Baltimore.  His mission is to help you increase your revenues and decrease unproductive advertising expenses through proven, online marketing strategies.  He manages over $1,000,000 in yearly marketing budgets and has worked with local businesses, agencies and the US government.  Give him a call at (877)655-3438 to schedule a free consultation.

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