So, you want to know what Google does exactly? Better yet, you want to know how Google works? This may be common knowledge for seasoned SEOs. However, the same may not apply to younger SEOs. In fact, this post may lead to a few aha moments for developing SEOs. In this post, we’ll explore what Google does and how SEO works. We’ll do so in a way that’s easy to follow since understanding how Google operates seriously helps you create an efficient and effective SEO strategy. Ready? Let’s go!
How Does Google Work?
Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing follow links from one page to the next. Google consists of three key elements: a crawler (aka Googlebot), an index, and an algorithm. The crawler follows the complex highway of links on the web. It makes its way around the web 24/7 and records the HTML version of all the pages it encounters in a massive database called the index. Whenever a crawler encounters new or updated content on a website it updates the index. The frequency at which crawlers visit your website depends on the volume of inbound traffic your site gets.
In order for Google to know that your site exists, there has to be a link from an already indexed site going to your site. If crawlers follow said link, it will lead to the first crawler session and the first time your site is saved to Google’s index. This, in turn, allows your site to rank on Google’s SERPs!
Google’s Algorithm (aka Google’s Secret Sauce)
After Google indexes your site, it can then show it on the search engine result pages (SERPs). Google tries to match user search queries with web pages that it has indexed. In order for this to work, Google has a super-secret algorithm that determines which pages show and the order in which they show on the SERPs. While there are plenty of theories as to how Google’s algorithm works, nobody outside of Google’s inner circle really knows what factors determine how pages rank.
It’s essential that you understand that Google’s algorithm is by no means static. It frequently changes with new updates. The array of factors that determine the ranking and the weight assigned to each factor also change on a regular basis. The exact formula behind the algorithm is kept under lock and key, Google does shed some light on what its algorithm takes into account. While Google does share some insight into the algorithm, this does not mean that it shares all of the factors. Endless testing and experimentation provide a relatively good idea for the value assigned to the various contributing factors. There are a number of tools designed to help you write SEO-friendly content. My personal favorite is Yoast because they have an awesome WordPress plugin that is nothing less than magical.
Google’s Results Page (SERPs)
Google’s results page (aka SERPs) shows 7 to 10 links to sites that best fit the user’s search query in accordance with the algorithm. These search results are of the organic variety. The majority of searches yield hundreds of pages of links. The further your content ranks from the top of the page, the less likely someone is to click it. This is why it is essential that you write high-quality content that ranks high on the SERPs.
There are typically a handful of paid links above the top ten organic links on the first page of the SERPs. These links are ads, which people have paid Google to place above the organic results when users search for a specific term. The prices associated with these ads vary greatly depending on the overall competition for the search term. Furthermore, there are a handful of additional elements that you will find on Google’s search results page. Some of these extras include snippets, knowledge graph panels, and answer boxes…just to name a few.
The Value of Links for Search Engines
In order to best understand how Google works, it is critical that you grasp how it uses links. The number of links that point to a page plays a key role in determining the value of the page. That being said, the value of a page increases in Google’s mind with each additional backlink that points to it. Internal links also play a key role since they improve the quality and organization of your website – Google loves a well-structured website. It’s important that you understand that all links are not created equal. In short, links from sites with higher authority are more valuable than links from sites with little to no authority.
The importance of links ties directly into the value of active link building. Make sure that you’re collecting links that are useful and logical. Remember, garbage in equals garbage out. If all of your inbound links are from low-quality sites, then Google will ignore them for all intents and purposes.
SEO and Google
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art of optimizing content to try and make them rank higher than other content in the organic SERPs. In order for this to happen, SEO essentially works to shape a website so that it pleases Google’s algorithm. While it’s important to please Google’s algorithm, it is also vital that you draft content that is user-friendly.