How does Google’s algorithm work? Guide to improving your positioning

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Did you know that Google’s algorithm decides who appears in the first search results? That’s right, your web positioning and the impact you have online depend on this tool.

Therefore, if you want to be an expert in web positioning, it is important that you understand how Google’s algorithm works in order to take the necessary actions that will allow you to stand out from other websites. I write my papers about technology a lot, so, to help you with this, in today’s article, we, will review the Google algorithm and everything that this concept implies: what it is, what it is for, how it works, and which Google algorithms have been created to date.

What is the Google algorithm?

Google’s algorithm is a tool based on a set of mathematical formulas designed to simplify a search, as each one of them has the function of indicating to search engines the most precise and accurate results according to the keywords used.

Thus, when you enter a query in Google, you will receive as a result a list of pages ordered according to their relevance to your search. In other words, Google’s algorithm is in charge of showing the correct information and, to do so, it is based on specialized factors that we will review later on.

Also, we must emphasize that there is not only one Google algorithm, in fact, but there are also several; each of them is designed to make the results of the searches made by users more specific. 

So, what is Google’s algorithm? We can say that it is a tool carefully designed to rank web pages according to their relevance so that the search engine can satisfy the user’s requirements.

What is Google’s algorithm for?

Now that you have an idea of what Google’s algorithm is, it’s time to see why you should know about it.

As a user, you should know that Google’s algorithm is useful to list in order of relevance the results that appear in the search engine when you have a question or are looking for a product or service.

However, if you have a business or you are in charge of a company’s digital platforms, Google’s search algorithm can do more for you. Here is a list of what you can achieve if you know how Google’s algorithm works:

  • Achieve a better positioning of your website.
  • Achieve greater reach for your brand.
  • Achieve your digital marketing goals.
  • Get more relevance for your brand.
  • Reach potential customers.
  • Find areas of opportunity on your website.
  • Correct errors and improve user experience.
  • Get more specific and accurate results in your searches.

The importance of Google’s search algorithm for SEO is fundamental. Therefore, you need to be very aware of its changes and updates, since, although these may be minimal, they can still have a great impact on your website.

Keep in mind that, according to Matt Cutts, former director of Google’s anti-spam department, the search engine modifies its algorithms an average of 500 times per year -approximately 1 or 2 changes every day-.  Thus, Google’s algorithm can surprise us at any time.

To prevent your website from being affected, join us to discover how Google’s algorithm works in the following section.

How does Google’s search algorithm work?

Google’s algorithm takes into account the pages that prioritize the user experience, that is, those that include high-quality content and work properly on any device.

In addition, Google’s official search page states that the algorithm considers 5 factors to rank results in order of relevance. Below, we tell you more about them:

1. The user’s words

First of all, Google’s algorithm is guided by the words you have used in the search to understand what you need at that moment. According to the terms used, Google does the following:

  • It looks for matches in the indexes of pages covering the topic in question.
  • Interprets spelling errors.
  • Analyzes the type of query made.
  • Uses a system of synonyms to evaluate all possible answers.
  • Determines whether the search is specific or general.
  • Identifies whether it is better to display old or trending results.

So, it all starts with the words you use in the search engine so that Google’s algorithm finds exactly what you are looking for. The more specific you are when writing a query, the better the results will be.

2. Matching a search

Once the keywords have been correctly analyzed, Google’s algorithm proceeds to search for the most appropriate pages to answer your query.

This time, the tool analyzes the frequency in which your search keywords are repeated within the content of a website. Specifically, Google’s search algorithm checks the table of contents, title, subtitles, and body text for matches. For example, if you search “essay writer free” this tool will show pages with these words in the output.

Apart from the analysis between page content and keywords, the search algorithm does an even deeper analysis to answer the following questions:

  1. Does the website answer the user’s initial query?
  2. Does the content include images and videos?
  3. Is the web page written in the language of the query?

A page can secure a position in Google’s search ranking as long as it answers the user’s initial question, includes valuable information to improve the user’s experience, and, of course, complies with mentioning the query keywords.

Therefore, if you want your web page to stand out, you must make sure to create a high-value website. Include information from relevant sources, add interactive elements, and create an index to facilitate the reading of the content.

3. Positioning of web pages

Another factor that Google’s search algorithm evaluates is the usefulness of the web pages that align with the keyword of your query, especially based on the following characteristics:

  • Date of publication of the content.
  • A number of times the keyword appears in the content.
  • Quality of the user experience on the page.
  • Usability of the website in similar searches.

The purpose of this analysis is to keep users away from pages that are full of spam and offer a low-level user experience. In this way, the search algorithm promotes a safe ecosystem in which only relevant, but above all, quality information is shared.

4. Website functionality

Next, Google’s algorithm reanalyzes the information gathered in the previous points to make sure that each option meets the query. It then evaluates the functionality of the web pages, taking into account the following:

  • Cross-browser compatibility
  • Responsive design
  • Loading time

Each of these aspects together determines how the user experience will be. For this reason, Google is very rigorous when evaluating them. As Sebastián Galanternik tells us, “a web page that does not have a good loading time will not achieve a significant position in search engine rankings”.

The expert comments that the loading time is one of the factors that most penalize Google’s algorithm since users tend to abandon those sites quickly. Therefore, Sebastián recommends paying close attention to this detail when building your web page.

5. User data

Finally, the fifth factor that Google’s algorithm takes into account is your data:

Location: Google analyzes where you are located to show relevant content based on the areas near you.

Search history: based on the previous queries you have made, the search engine can determine more precisely what results to show.

Search settings: here you can set the language you have selected and whether you have enabled Google’s secure search.

Recent searches: this is another element that allows the search engine to find accurate information based on your current needs.

Taking all this into account, Google’s search algorithm manages to offer the most appropriate results to answer the queries made by millions of users every day.

What are Google’s algorithms?

Now that you know how search algorithms work, let’s take a closer look at the different tools that Google has designed to monitor the content that is shared on the network.

As we mentioned before, there are several Google algorithms -each one focused on different topics-, since a single one would not be able to evaluate all the factors within a web page.

Here are the Google algorithms and that you should know to improve your web positioning:

1. Panda

This is one of the first Google algorithms. It appeared in 2011 and was designed to prevent pages from being saturated with a single keyword, as this does not always mean that they are quality results for user searches.

In addition, this Google algorithm also evaluates the quality of the content of the pages that appear in the results, in order to penalize those pages with unhelpful content that was not of value to users.

2. Penguin

Later, in 2012, Google’s Penguin algorithm arrived.

Penguin serves to limit the number of links pointing to your website because even if you managed to get into the first results, it was difficult to identify your company’s homepage.

This Google algorithm positively recognizes pages whose content provides more quality than quantity in the search results.


Similarly, in 2012, another Google algorithm emerged: Venice. In particular, this tool was created to delimit the results based on the geographic area of the search.

For example, if you searched for the term “Italian food” you would no longer get results from Italian websites, but the results of your search would be focused directly on the businesses closest to the location of your IP address.

Although it was a hard blow for international sites, the operation of this Google algorithm represented an advantage for local businesses and, at the same time, allowed Google My Business to be exploited.

4. Hummingbird

Just a year later, in 2013, Hummingbird appeared, Google’s algorithm that gives more importance to the order of the words used in a search, that is, it prioritizes the semantics of the queries.

The implementation of this Google algorithm allows searches to have a more human and understandable tone, so the results are also more understandable and of higher quality.

5. Possum

Three years later, in 2016, Google’s Possum algorithm is created, which turns out to be quite similar to Venice. However, with this new tool, the results became even more accurate and closer to the address of your geolocator.

For example, even if Google’s algorithm detects that you are in the capital of your state, it can still show you results about the bordering areas of your location.

6. Pidgeon

Another of Google’s location-focused algorithms is Pidgeon. Unlike Possum or Venice, it allows a local result, but with good performance, to appear before the big brands or general results.

However, it is important to note that if that same successful result is attempted to be geo-targeted, the algorithm could reduce its online presence. Therefore, to ensure that Google’s algorithm positions your results before those of large companies, we recommend you to have this SEO toolkit at hand.

7. Mobile-first index

Starting in 2015, Google began to bet on responsive web pages, that is, those that adapt well to any device -whether a computer, a tablet, or a cell phone-, so it created Mobile’s first index.

Now, if you are wondering how this Google algorithm works, you should know that it evaluates all the elements of the page: texts, buttons, links, images, etc.

8. RankBrain

Similarly, in 2015, the Google RankBrain algorithm was created. This tool aims to optimize the search engine’s ability to better understand the user’s intention when performing a search.

In addition, it is one of those responsible for determining the position of pages in Google’s search rankings. In other words, it is Google’s algorithm that is dedicated to analyzing in-depth -more than any other even-, the contents of websites to determine whether they are relevant or not for users.

9. The medical update

Now, if you’re wondering which Google algorithm is focused on the health and money sector, you’re undoubtedly referring to this one.

It was born in 2018 and its goal is to focus on medical topics that were not professional, to avoid misinformation on food issues, and credits, and, even, avoid fraud.

Although it was one of Google’s algorithms that shocked SEO professionals the most, the TechCrunch blog states the following, “Google is just trying to help. The company wants to ensure a pleasant, high-quality user experience. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

10. Core Updates

Finally, if you want to know what Google’s latest algorithm is called, this is the answer.

It is not a Google algorithm per se, but rather those small modifications we were talking about at the beginning. After the core updates, the most affected sites were those that had engines, pets, and health as their main theme.

Likewise, pages related to health, animals, travel, real estate, and travel also saw some changes in their positioning.

As you read in the beginning, Google changes its algorithms constantly, intending to provide the best quality results to users. However, as the Forbes website states:

“Don’t forget that, beyond the changes Google may implement in its algorithm, the quality of your content is the main thing you have to work on to get good results.”

Good! Now you know what Google’s algorithm is, what it’s for, how it works, and what are all the tools that evaluate your online performance to determine if the content of your page brings value. Therefore, you must start taking action based on what you have learned today to improve the positioning of your website.

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