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What is the Google Search Algorithm?

Google search algorithm refers to the complex set of rules, equations, and instructions that Google uses to determine the rankings of the content it displays on search results pages.

The term “Google search algorithm” does not refer to a single algorithm but to a set of algorithms. These algorithms work together to analyze various signals from a webpage and determine its quality and relevance to a search query.

How the Google Search Algorithm Works

Google has never explained how its algorithm works. There is also no information on how many algorithms are there and how they work together to power Google Search. 

However, we know that Google uses ranking factors to determine what content to display on the search results page. These ranking factors determine the content displayed on the search results pages and the order in which they are displayed. 

So, instead of focusing on the search algorithm, it is better to understand Google’s ranking factors and, of course, how Google search works. 

How Google Search Works

When you enter a search query into Google, Google checks your query against hundreds of billions of content in its Index. It then displays the ones it thinks are the most helpful, all in less than a second. 

The index is a database containing content Google wants to display on its search results pages. Contrary to what some think, Google does not display the live webpage. Instead, it displays the one in its index.

The process of Google discovering content and displaying it in search results is a three-step process involving:

  • Crawling
  • Indexing
  • Serving

Let us briefly address them one after another. 

Crawling

Crawling is the first step in the Google Search process. This is where Google’s bots, known as spiders or crawlers, browse publicly available webpages. 

Google crawlers visit URLs they have previously visited to check if they have been updated since their last visit. They also seek out new content published on the web. As they visit these URLs, they identify hyperlinks on each page and include them in the list of pages to crawl. 

Indexing

The crawled pages are processed and saved to the index. Google’s index is a massive database that stores the content on the pages Google has crawled. 

Google analyzes each page’s content during indexing. It reviews its text, images, and videos to understand the page’s subject. It also parses the HTML, extracts metadata, and evaluates the content for relevance and quality. 

Serving

Serving is the final step in the Google Search process. This is the point where Google retrieves content from its index and presents it on the search results page. 

Google first analyzes the keywords and context of the search query to understand the searcher’s intent. Its algorithms then decide what content to display to the visitor. 

Google’s algorithms use over 200 factors to determine the content to display to the searcher. These factors are collectively called Google ranking factors and are crucial for anyone looking to rank on Google.  

Google Search Algorithm Ranking factors

Google ranking factors determine the order in which webpages appear on search results pages. For you, these factors determine where your content appears on the search results page. 

Many SEOs have mentioned that Google has over 200 ranking factors, while others say it could be up to 700. However, the exact number and how they affect search results remain inconclusive. 

These ranking factors also affect the search results differently. While some are considered major ranking factors, that is, they have a greater effect on the search results page, others are minor. Some ranking factors also affect all searches, while some only apply to specific searches.

That said, some frequently mentioned ranking factors include:

  • Content quality
  • Verknüpfungen
  • Page experience

Let’s briefly address them below. 

Content Quality

Content quality is believed to be Google’s number one ranking factor. This makes sense, considering Google wants to display high-quality content on the search results pages. 

Google looks out for a few signals that indicate your content is high. One of those signals is ESSEN, which stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. 

EEAT indicates you are an authority on what you talk about. Trustworthiness is considered the most important of the four. Even if you are an authority and expert and have the required experience on the subject matter, your content will not rank if you cannot be trusted. 

Other metrics and signals used to consider your content quality include the helpful content system, which Google uses to determine which content meets users’ expectations.

Verknüpfungen

Links are a significant Google ranking factor. Google treats links, specifically follow links, as endorsements you receive from other sites. When a site links out to you, it is typically because your site contains helpful content. 

Studies have even indicated that there is a correlation between backlinks and search result rankings. The top-ranking content typically includes links from high-authority sites. The more authoritative the site, the better the link equity passed to the site receiving the link. 

However, you want to stick to links coming from high-quality sites. You will also want to focus on quality rather than volume. 

Similarly, internal links are helpful, too, as they help Google to discover other pages on your site. They also help Google to determine your content hierarchy and better understand your content.

Page Experience

Google rewards sites that take page experience seriously. Page experience is tied to your page’s crawlability und indexability. It also includes how visitors experience your site during their visit. 

Page experience and technical SEO go hand in hand. Without a good technical SEO, Google may be unable to crawl and index the page, making it impossible to serve on search results pages. The page will also experience a drop in rankings if it is considered unsafe or unusable to the visitor. 

Sites that offer a poor page experience, like being uncrawlable or taking a lot of time to load, will find it difficult to rank, even if they contain high-quality content. 

Curiously, you may observe that the three ranking factors above correlate with three types of SEO.

While Google ranking factors remain unclear, on-page, off-page, and technical SEO are clear to a large extent. So, when you optimize your site for them, you should expect that it would satisfy Google ranking factors and thus increase your chances of appearing on the search results page.  

Aktualisierungen des Google-Algorithmus

Google frequently updates its algorithm to improve the results displayed on the search results pages. However, Google conducts thousands of algorithm updates yearly, but only announces a few. 

For example, Google announces major updates to the core algorithm that powers Google Search about thrice a year. Google also announces updates to other algorithms once or twice a year. However, most updates to these and other algorithms go unannounced. 

Fortunately, many SEOs use rank-tracking tools to monitor Google for algorithm updates. When these tools record unusual volatility on the search results page, we know that an update is taking place. 

If you are trying to rank on Google, then it is important that you know the intent of these updates, when they are released, and the effects that they have on your site. You can refer to this page to monitor confirmed and unconfirmed algorithm updates released by Google

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