I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been asked how Google search works and how to get higher rankings. In truth only the guys at Google know for sure exactly what the combination of factors are for the ranking algorithm are, however through a lot of testing and a lot of mistakes we have learned an awful lot. The information in this post is readily available for anyone to read direct from Google themselves but we hope that we can give a little more insight into how Google search works from a layman’s point of view.
Stage One Is Crawling And The Index
When you think about how google search works you have to take into consideration a few of the important factors about the internet. The internet browser that allows the internet to be what it is today was born in 1990 (the ability to transfer data was invented in 1978 but didn’t progress to be the World Wide Web until 1990) so the internet is just 26 years old! There are however 60 TRILLION web pages in the Search Index according to Google. Google send out bots and spiders to crawl your website and discover your content to add to the search index. If you wish you can stop Google from indexing your site but please don’t complain when you don’t get any search results.
Once crawled pages are sorted by their content and a number of other categories within the search index. All pages are kept track of in the index which is estimated to be over 100 Million Gigabytes. So a quick thought on the size of the index, one gigabyte is capable of holding around 500 of your holiday photos off your iphone (this is a the average size of 2MB per photo). So that means that the Google Index is the size of 50,000,000,000 of your holiday photos. Can you imagine being invited over to that evening at your friends house when they say “Lets break out the holiday photos!” you’ve got to hope they don’t have 50 Billion photos, no?
Stage Two Algorithms (Yes they exist)
The search team at Google are constantly writing and tweaking programs and formulas to deliver you the best results possible through your web browser, lets face it with 60 trillion possible pages to return to you there has to be some pretty serious filtering going on to make sure you get what you are looking for?
As you search the algorithms break down your search looking for information and clues on what information you are looking for from your search and to better understand the results you want. These include but are not limited to, your spelling, auto complete, your method of search (voice, image, text etc) then based on these factors Google Search pulls information from The Index to answer your query.
Google Search then ranks the results using over 200 different ranking factors. These factors include (and again are not restricted to), site and page quality, freshness of content, safe search, user context, translations, universal search and so on. These results are then delivered to what ever device you are using in under 1/8th of a second using a variety of different search result displays. These are:
Knowledge graph provides results based on a database of real world people, places, things and the connection between them.
These show a small preview of information such as a page title and some text from the page itself or the page description.
Google News Results include results from online news sites, blogs and newspapers from around the world, this information can be filtered using the tools to your local area.
Google Answers displays facts such as weather, sports results, the date of something, quick facts. This is where immediate answers are provided, below are two examples, one for the date of Fathers Day and the other is for the Champions League results. You can also see in the latter example that this has the ability to return a lot of information in this snippet of information.
Google Own YouTube = Video is Important! Video results in YouTube are displayed with the YouTube thumbnails so it is important that you get your thumbnails right in YouTube or you might be missing out on some easy traffic through to your website.
The Image results allow you to see at a glance which images are available for your search and allows you to expand on your image options at the click of a mouse.
So that is how the Google Index displays your results. However there is one more important part of how Google search works that is really important and requires a lot of attention from webmasters and website owners alike.
Google SPAM And How Google Search Works Around It
Many years ago in the before Google era of the internet (yes it was a long time ago and yes I am that old!) you used to be able to do all sorts of fun stuff to get things ranked. It was possible even a few years back to write a quick 350 word article, publish it on an article directory and see it ranked in Google in a matter of minutes. As SEO’s we used to put content on article websites on a regular basis to boost a sites ranking and traffic numbers because it was easy to do and a way of circumnavigating the hard way of getting things ranked. The search engines have come a long way and how Google search works has a lot to do with the Google SPAM team that are dedicated to fighting Spam in the search results.
There are several types of SPAM as Google see it and they outlaw a majority of them from the index, some always slip through the net because with over 60 Trillion pages to index and deliver them to your browser. The types of SPAM that are outlawed are:
The term pure SPAM means where web pages and sites have what is known as Aggressive SPAM Techniques, these are where the content is pure gibberish and makes absolutely no sense what so ever. It is also content that is scraped from other sites, cloaking pages so you see different content to what was promised. Basically all the things that the Google Webmaster Guidelines tell you not to do.
If you want someone to read something then it needs to be visible. Hiding text from the human eye is a spammy and frankly useless method of website promotion. Google can tell by the code around text if it is visible or not, hiding things gets found out by the bots we spoke about in the first part of this article.
If you arrive at a page and it is like the christmas turkey has been prepared to go in the oven with keywords all over the place and the content makes next to no sense then this is keywords stuffing. It also goes for images in the alt text, don’t stuff in your key phrase in the hope of getting ranked more. Yes we understand that your content needs to have the keyphrase in it a few times in order to get the little green light from the SEO plugin however it doesn’t mean that you need it a few thousand times on the page, in the code or around the images.
User Generated Spam
We always advise people to turn off the auto publish function on comments on blogs and forums. This stops people from posting pure trash onto your website. If you have a large amount of these comments in your blog posts then it will count against your site in the rankings as it is deemed by Google as SPAM. Don’t let people sneak trash onto your site by allowing them free access to your site.
A few years back the game of buying domains and selling them on or just leaving them in what is known as a parked state was a reasonably good business model. However now you can get a domain extension for pretty much anything that you want it is a lot easier to get a domain name for your business that isn’t being held to ransom by a domain broker. The method of putting a domain into Parked state used to mean that you would earn money from these domains when people arrived on the site and clicked on the links that were there. Now this is just seen as a spammy method of getting clicks and most of these sites are removed from the index.
Low Quality Content
Thin content, low quality content and just generally no content all come under this banner. If you have a page, product, post then it needs to have some content on it. The content needs to be clear concise and unique to your website. Mainly with products people fail to put a full description of a product and it suffers in the search results. Yes I know that Ebay and Amazon get away with it, but they have millions of products and you don’t so please write good quality content for all pages on your website.
Unnatural Link Patterns
When that SEO company call you up from far afield and they tell you that they have an amazing method of getting your website ranked with a “Private Blog Network” or “Blogging Pyramid” then be very careful, in many cases a lot of these have already been outlawed in recent Google Updates however those that have not yet been found will eventually get found and I ask you, is it really worth the risk of a short term gain for a long term penalty? I think not! Avoid schemes, gimmicks and fads when it comes to your link building and build good solid quality content!
We have all clicked on a page that has ended up with pushing us to a site or a page that we had no intention of ever seeing in our lives. These are called sneaky redirects and it is where a little snip of code has been used to send you to a completely different location to the one you are targeting. How Google Search works is to discover these little snippets of code and remove these pages from search. Normally it is just the page offering the redirect and not the destination that are punished.
Cloaking is a similar method to the above but rather than redirect you the script hides the original content that you were hoping to see once you got to the site and show you something completely different. For example you are searching for bananas and the search result that you click on is all about bananas only to discover a page about fish!
I know everyone that reads the information that I put out on a regular basis is probably bored of me telling them that they need to back up their websites and make sure that they are updated on a regular basis with up to date core and plugin updates. WordPress is notorious for hackers finding their way in through free out of date plugins. Hacked websites not only get discovered by Google search they also get removed and displayed in the search results as Unsafe! It isn’t worth having an out of date website, if you are unsure on how to do this then please have a look at our maintenance agreements to see how we can do it all for you!
Google do alert you to issues with your website through Google Webmaster Tools and it is important that you act on the alerts that you get to ensure that you stay up to date with what is happening with your website. Google is more likely to look at a reconsideration request if you are fast to act on issues with your website and get them fixed quickly.
Based on the information that Google provide to us we average over 300,000 items are removed from the index each month, only an average of 6,000 of these submit for reconsideration after trying to or fixing the errors on their websites.
All of the above factors go towards returning the answers to over One Hundred Billion searches each month. A quick mathematical calculation says that there are around 7,125,000,000 people on the planet, that works out an average of 14 searches per person per month!
From An SEO Point Of View
With that amount of information in the Google Index and the MASSIVE number of searches each month it is important that we understand how Google search works for us and how we can get the best results. In many cases when people come to us they want to rank for search terms that have hundreds of thousands of searches each month, these are not the beneficial search terms. UK Wedding SEO is a niche SEO company, we have been working with the wedding industry now for coming up to six years, our products are geared towards the masses of the wedding industry and adaptable to them. The same goes with how Google search works if you aim towards the niche area your chances of long term success are a lot higher than if you go for a broad audience.