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Google's Algorithm

Chris Hambly's picture
Submitted by Chris Hambly on 15 April 2011 - 11:45am

Google's Secret Sauce


This is a complex mathematical calculation which computes the "relevancy" of a particular resource in regards to what a user is searching for. You can think of this relevancy calculation as the corner-stone of Google's offerings. Google's algorithm uses over 200 signals for computation and is updated weekly!

Some people refer to this algorithm as Google's "secret sauce" and the same can be said for any other company dealing with search, such as Bing for example.

Often you will hear the phrase "what will Google do", this basically asks the question of how will the Google algorithm calculate the page content, how relevant will it deem the content, how will it rank this content in comparision to the competition.

Understanding the algorithm is at the heart of discerning what we must do to our pages in order to be deemed "relevant". This is by no means an easy task as search engine companies do not make their algorithm secrets publically available, no they understandably keep it very close to their chest.

Let's look at Google and use their words to explain what the key indicators for Google (and your content) are:

  • "Relevance. As Larry said long ago, we want to give you back “exactly what you want.” When Google was founded, one key innovation was PageRank, a technology that determined the “importance” of a webpage by looking at what other pages link to it, as well as other data. Today we use more than 200 signals, including PageRank, to order websites, and we update these algorithms on a weekly basis. For example, we offer personalized search results based on your web history and location.
  • Comprehensiveness. Google launched in 1998 with just 25 million pages, which even then was a small fraction of the web. Today we index billions and billions of webpages, and our index is roughly 100 million gigabytes. We continue investing to expand the comprehensiveness of our services. In 2007 we introduced Universal Search, which made search more comprehensive by integrating images, videos, news, books and more into our main search results.
  • Freshness. In the early days, Googlebots crawled the web every three or four months, which meant that the information you found on Google typically was out of date. Today we’re continually crawling the web ensuring that you can find the latest news, blogs and status updates minutes or even seconds after they’re posted. With Realtime Search, we’re able to serve up breaking topics from a comprehensive set of sources just moments after events occur.
  • Speed. Our average query response time is roughly one-fourth of a second. In comparison, the average blink of an eye is one-tenth of a second. Speed is a major search priority, which is why in general we don’t turn on new features if they will slow our services down. Instead, search engineers are always working not just on new features, but ways to make search even faster. In addition to smart coding, on the back end we’ve developed distributed computing systems around that globe that ensure you get fast response times. With technologies like autocomplete and Google Instant, we help you find the search terms and results you’re looking for before you’re even finished typing."


One very important concept to understand regarding the algorithm is Page Rank and you are advised to read through this detailed Wikipedia entry. You may wish to skip understanding the complex mathematics as it is not necessary for being able to be an SEO guru, but you are strongly encouraged to research Page Rank in order to be able to converse about the subject and apply a strategy to your own digital content, if you value search as a channel.


Let me know your thoughts about this.