An Introduction to the Google Search Algorithm

In the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) the Google Search Algorithm is of central importance. It is the focus of many blog posts, rants, arguments and complaints. But what is it? At the simplest level the Google Search Algorithm identifies what stuff on the internet is most relevant to your search. But let’s take a closer look and get an idea of what is going on.

What is an Algorithm?

Before we start looking at Google Search, let’s step back and look at what an algorithm is. Wikipedia defines algorithm as a “step-by-step procedure for calculations.” Essentially, an algorithm takes an input, does some calculating and provides an output. For our conversation today we can think of a Google search. Consider this very simple visual representation using a flow chart.

Simple Search Algorithm Flowchart

Simple, right? You give Google a few words as an input, the search algorithm does some calculations and gives you a list of relevant stuff on the internet. While this isn’t wrong, there is a lot more going on.

Input: More Than What You Type

In the early days of search the input was what you typed into the search box and maybe a setting or two, but is has expanded to include many other clues about what may be relevant to you. Everything form search history and location to elements like spell check, autocomplete, and synonyms are also factored in.

Single or Plural?

Up to this point we have been talking about a Google Search Algorithm as a single entity, but in reality there are over 200 different factors being weighed to determine the most relevant information for you. Each of these factors are rigorously evaluated and adjusted so each search returns the best results. New factors are always being tested and tweaked to make things a little better.

If you want to explore some of the elements that go into search, I’d recommend looking at Google’s How Search Works and Dr. Pete Meyers’s A [Poorly] Illustrated Guide to Google’s Algorithm.

End Result

This where it all comes together: moments after you start typing a list of results is displayed, sorted using all the information available to help you find exactly what you are looking for. The beauty of the Google Search Algorithm is that for all the complexity that goes into it, the experience is incredibly simple. For most users, the flow chart at the beginning of this post covers all they need to know about how Google works. But if your business depends on people finding your site online having someone that cares about how all those algorithms work is incredibly valuable. Check out our online marketing offerings to learn how we can apply our nerdy love of all things web to your site.

While Kyle’s resume includes “former model,” our clients tend to appreciate his years of digital strategy experience. We love Kyle’s sense of curiosity, and that’s displayed here as he talks digital marketing, SEO, and more.

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