We’ve all used Google before to try and find a product, service or some specific information. Perhaps you’ve searched for a hairdresser in your local area, or tried to find a company that can ship a specific product to Australia. No matter what you’ve searched for, Google would have provided you with an answer. So just how does Google decide which websites best match your search query? And how does the search engine rank one site over another?  

The answer lies within Google’s algorithm.

What is the algorithm?

The algorithm is the way in which Google takes into account a number of complex factors associated with a website. Search engine ‘bots’ crawl a site and take a look at these factors – everything from on-site content through to offsite information – determining just how well the site ‘answers’ a particular search query. Google’s algorithm is constantly being updated, with the aim being to provide internet users with the best possible service (i.e. more accurate results that better match a query). With this being the case, SEO company WME group review their processes regularly to ensure they are in line with any updates.

What factors does the algorithm take into account?

Google’s algorithm takes into account a large number of factors, including on-page content, website structures and title tags, and also off-site backlinks and citations.

Content

Website content is very important. It needs to be well written, informative and on-topic. Like many of the larger online marketing agencies, WMEgroup campaigns now rely on in-house writers to complete this labour intensive task. Google looks for content that essentially ‘answers’ a search query; it no longer merely matches keywords. This means that content needs to position a website as an ‘expert’ on the topic in question, and therefore it should include on-topic information and industry specific language. Keywords should still be included, but only minimally.

Website structure

When search engine bots crawl a site, they need to be able to navigate it easily – and understand what it’s about. A well-structured site with optimised title tags ensures the website is read accurately and favourably – an important factor when it comes to achieving a high search engine results page (SERP) ranking.

Backlinks

Backlinks are links created on another website that point back to a business’s website. They essentially show Google that people are ‘talking’ about a site elsewhere on the internet, and this helps to boost site authority. After all, if people are talking about a site then it must be useful!

From Google’s perspective, backlinks needs to be legitimate; they should be placed in authoritative, relevant sites and appear to be natural. Spammy backlinks are frowned upon, and Google can penalise sites that appear to be ‘manufacturing’ backlinks (these sorts of backlinks are commonly referred to as ‘black-hat’ SEO). The ‘Penguin’ algorithm update cracked down on poor quality backlinks. For companies such as WME, search engine optimisation campaigns had to be overhauled to prevent a drop in rankings.

Offsite citations

Similar to backlinks, offsite citations are ‘mentions’ of a site on other sites – without any actual links. For example, many PPC companies place their clients on reputable directory listings. As with backlinks, this helps to boost site authority as it shows Google that other people are ‘talking’ about the site in question.

A combination of factors

As you can see, there are a number of factors that influence a website’s SERP ranking. Google’s search bots crawl the site, take into account all of these factors – and then determine how they compare to other relevant sites. If a website is optimised effectively across the board, then it may be deemed one of the most relevant matches to a search query – therefore achieving that coveted page one ranking!