Understanding Google’s Search Algorithm

Understanding the mind of the search giant

Google Ticks the BoxesSEO’s continually fret over exactly what it is that Google values and what it builds into its algorithm to measure that value.

Google drip-feeds snippets of information through folks like Matt Cutts, Google’s Spam Czar, and we are then often able to extract and extrapolate some of the important factors affecting our’s and our client’s search rankings.

Updates, changes are made and over time and through monitoring and measuring rankings and site analytics we are able to glean if our assumptions have themselves any real value. Often they are but sometimes they are not.

Search is a moving target and Google’s search algorithm even harder to hit!

Google Quality Raters

However, it’s long been known that Google also employs real people as quality raters to monitor and measure the effectiveness of its own algorithm.

Google tested over 13,000 algorithm changes last year so a quality rater is a pretty important job. And, to aid them in classifying queries, measuring relevancy, and rating the search results, Google provides them with a guide. The most recent was published in March of this year.

Whether it was intended for public consumption or not is debatable as many of the original blogs and sites who published it were asked to remove any links to it.

The guide focuses on rating SERP (search engine results page) quality based on specific queries made. It would appear that relevancy, intent of returned content and specificity of landing page to search term, are all factored in to the results displayed.

Although the majority of published copies have been removed the guide can still be found if a specific enough search is made (I won’t provide a direct link in the spirit of Google’s request).

However, Dr. Pete, President of User Effect, has published some insights it contains into the mind of Google in a blog post on the SEOmoz blog end of last month covering the main topics highlighted below. The full blog post can be found here.

The following is a list of 16 insights into the human side of Google’s quality equation, in no particular order…

  1. Relevance Is A Continuum
  2. Relevance & Spam Are Independent
  3. The Most Likely Intent Rules
  4. Some Results Are “Vital”
  5. Generic Queries Are Never Vital
  6. Queries Come in 3 Flavors
  7. Useful Goes Beyond Relevance
  8. Relevance Implies Language Match
  9. Local Intent Can Be Automatic
  10. Landing Page Specificity Matters
  11. Misspellings Are Rated By Intent
  12. Copied Content Can Be Relevant
  13. Some Queries Don’t Need Defining
  14. Ads Without Value Are Spam
  15. Google.com Is Low Relevance
  16. Google Raters Use Firefox

If you have read through the above explanations on the SEOmoz blog post it gives some valuable insights into Google’s thinking and the various elements that need to be considered when creating content for your site.

Search Engine Land also had a blog post The Google Quality Raters Handbook earlier in the year which expands on some of the ideas and concepts outlined above and also worth a read.

3 Keyword search typesOne of the interesting aspects is the segmentation of keywords into 3 different types and consideration should be given to how best to identify and target them in your content creation.

All keywords/phrases are not equal and not treated as such and knowing how best to target them with appropriate content will pay dividends and will be covered in a future post so watch out for it.

Do you think knowing the mind of Google and its rating guidelines will pay dividends for you?

About Rob Willox

Inbound Marketing and SEO professional working and living in Scotland. Owner of Search Marketing company, WebMedia Inbound Marketing dedicated to helping small businesses get more from the internet and improve their profitability.
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