Search Engine Algorithms: How do they work?
Introduction to Search Engine Algorithm
We have just looked at the introduction to search engine optimization and how the search works. We would like to now look at the Search Engine Algorithm. Learning about this will help us in further understanding how search engines work.
Once they sort through the web pages in their search index, they find the most relevant and useful ones in just a matter of seconds. They then present the information to the users in an understandable manner.
The algorithms usually consider many factors before showing users the results.
Factors Considered by the Algorithms
Meaning of your query:
Search engine algorithms usually have to know what a user is looking for to know what to return (intent behind the query). Understanding intent basically means understanding the language, that is, the string of words used in the index. Understanding what a user is searching for involves steps. For example, they interpret spelling mistakes to know what a user is trying to mean, and also understanding the type of question using their synonym system.
The synonym system combines multiple words to mean one thing. For example, the algorithms match pages with the query, ” How to create a KRA pin” with pages describing “Registering a KRA pin”. Such a system took more than five years to develop and it improves results by over 30% in various languages.
In addition to synonyms, the algorithm also tries to understand the category of the query. That is, whether the information you are looking for is broad or specific. Are there words like pictures, opening hours, or reviews? What about the language that has been used to write the query? Does the user want a local or nearby business?
Google also has a freshness algorithm that checks if a user wants the latest information or now. If a user searches for a trending keyword, the algorithm will automatically interpret that fresh content is required hence up to date information will be required than older information.
The Relevance of Webpages:
After the algorithm has already interpreted and understood your query, it now checks the relevant sites. That is if the pages have all the information that is relevant to what you are searching for. One of the most important factors that show that a webpage is relevant is if there are the same keywords as in the query. If the appropriate keywords appear on the header and body, the page can be relevant.
Beyond the use of keywords, anonymized and aggregated interaction data are also used by the search engine algorithms to know whether the results to be displayed are relevant to the queries. Signals are then generated which helps their machines to better estimate relevance. For example, when a user searches a keyword like “SEO” the user doesn’t want to see a page with SEO 100 times. Having that in mind, the algorithm will try to check beyond the keyword, for example, images, videos, etc.
The Quality of the Content
The search algorithms also prioritize the content that is high quality and reliable besides matching the words in the queries. To achieve this, the algorithms detect important signals. For example the signals of authoritativeness, trustworthiness, as well as expertise in a specific topic.
They look at webpages that users seem to like for similar queries. Also, they check if other websites have linked to that page (called PageRank) as this shows that the information on that page is trusted.
The spam algorithm detects low-quality pages and ensures that those pages don’t appear on top of the search engine’s results pages. Most of the low-quality websites try to rise on top of SERPs using manipulative or deceptive methods. Various techniques describe what a low-quality page is as highlighted by Google Webmaster tools. They include buying links and also sneaking invisible text to your pages.
Settings and Context
The information like the location, search settings, and search history helps search engines to show the results to give to the users at that moment. They use your location and country to provide information that is relevant to your area. If are in Nakuru and you search for a hotel on Google, you will see the likes of Merica Hotel.
The search engine’s algorithm can also personalize the results you see based on your search activity. When a user searches for the keyword like “Mathare North” and they had recently searched for “Mathare North vs Thika United”. The algorithm will get a clue that they are searching for a football club and rather not a town or city.
The activity in your google account also determines your results. For example, if you search for “current events near me”, Google will recommend the event categories that they think you can be interested in. Even though the search engine’s algorithms try as much as possible to match your results, they are sensitive to other details. For example, your race, political party, and religion.
Usability of the Webpages
The search engines also use their algorithms to check whether a webpage is easy to use or not. The search algorithms check the signals that indicate if all the users can view the results they searched for easily. For example, if the results are displayed well in all the browsers or devices. They also check if the webpage loads easily for users with slow internet speed connections.
Search engines usually inform all the web owners of any changes in their algorithms in advance. This is to help them improve the usability of their website for an update is made. For example, they provide them with Webpagetest.com and PageSpeed Insights so that they can be able to see what needs to be changed to make their sites mobile-friendly. You can find more tools aimed at helping website owners improve their websites here.
Having looked at the Search engine Algorithms, you can check out the Google algorithm update history on our other article. But before you go to check it out, let’s look at why Google keeps on changing its Algorithms.
Why Google keeps on changing its Algorithms
Google keeps on changing its algorithms in order to:
- To give the best experience to its users. That is, they want to make sure that the website they display to their users when they search for a query is the right one.
- They want also to improve their users’ satisfaction. You can imagine if you are searching for something on Google and it gives you wrong results or websites completely not related to what you searched for. The users will be attempted to go for other search engines like bing and Duckduckgo.
- They also try as much as they can to promote relevant websites as they are tied to E.A.T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness). The sites that show these values are promoted more.
There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation,
hard work, and learning from failure.
– Paul Tournier