When Google handles a search query, there is a lot going on behind the scenes that people don’t really think about. When you type something in and press enter, the results are actually determined by a complex algorithm which Google has been perfecting for years. Effective SEO involves an understanding of both how the algorithm works and the ability to adapt to any changes that are made. Let’s begin by taking a brief look at its evolution so we can better understand the state of the algorithm today.
Before 1997, Google wasn’t even named Google. For a brief period, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin used the nickname “BackRub”, a reference to the PageRank system that put Google on the map. Prior to Google, search engines dealt primarily with keywords, but PageRank changed all that by placing emphasis on both the number and importance of pages linking to a particular site. Since then, the algorithm has been modified numerous times to change the way it handles backlinks, as well as to add additional features.
After additional updates in 2001 and 2003, arguably the biggest change to the algorithm after PageRank came in 2005 when Google implemented personalized search results. This is extremely important to search, as aspects of personalized results like geo-location can increase a website’s chances of being seen by someone within a specific audience. By 2007, Google had grown beyond indexing just the Web to show results for things like images, books, and news; all of which could be accessed with the same query with Universal Search. Finally, the last major update in 2009 added real-time search, with the ability to display results from social media sites like Twitter as they are posted.
Keeping up with changes
Unless a major update is implemented, it can sometimes be difficult to gauge the scope and significance of minor algorithm changes. Without a transparent set of guidelines, many users are left to their own devices to try and pinpoint the exact nature of how Google handles search. Some will argue that backlinks are the single greatest factor in determining PageRank and the authority of a particular site. Others will argue that personalized search and trending results are beginning to dethrone the mighty backlink. Whichever the case may be, most will agree that good SEO alone is not enough to maximize your search potential, and that taking all aspects of the algorithm into consideration is an intelligent approach.
An excellent tool for keeping up with Google algorithm changes is the official YouTube channel for Google Webmaster Central. There you can find videos that address various issues which are added on a fairly regular basis.
Also, the official Google Blog is a great place to find legitimate information regarding not only changes to the algorithm, but other Google news as well.
We hope you have found this post informative, and that you will check back often for future posts about the Google algorithm and other great SEO tips.