Every day we use Google, but have we ever wondered how it manages to display the results of our queries? How does he select which pages to list on the first page of the SERPs? How does he classify all the sites on the web? There is of course SEO, but beyond SEO, there are its algorithms. Let’s try to understand how they work.
Table of Contents
- How does Google index all the sites on the web?
- What role do Google algorithms play in this indexing work?
- What impact do algorithms have on the work of webmasters?
- What are Google’s main algorithms?
- What criteria should we use to qualify a quality site?
- How do you know if you have been penalized for not respecting an algorithm?
How does Google index all the sites on the web?
A first correction is already necessary, not all sites are indexed by Google. This means that there are sites that will never show up in its search results, even at the very bottom of the rankings.
How is it possible? Quite simply because these sites are invisible and do not make any SEO effort to be referenced by the search engine. Yes, it happens, sometimes knowingly, but in the majority of cases, this invisibility is the result of the incompetence of webmasters who know nothing about organic seo and Google’s modus operandi.
Why are we only talking about Google in this post? Because for years, it has remained the No. 1 search engine worldwide, with more than 90% of the global market share. This is why it rains and shines on the web, a more than valid reason to enter into its good graces.
How to do it? You must learn about its instructions and requirements and then comply with them. Granted, it may seem difficult at first, but with hard work and patience, your SEO efforts will pay off.
But to understand what’s behind the scenes with SEO, here’s what you need to know.
- On the web, sites are connected to each other through links. This is why you have to work well on your netlinking, both internally and externally.
- Thanks to the links, Internet users move from site to site, but they are not the only ones. Crawler robots, also called “spiders” or “googlebots”, also follow these shortcuts. Just like humans, they browse the web by following links, consult the contents of the pages and, as they go, weave a vast web which is none other than the Google index.
- When the spiders arrive on a page, they study several points such as the keywords used, the inserted links, the illustrative images, the structure of the content, the micro-data… Basically, they analyze the seo of your website, quality, the relevance and the consistency of each content. After expertise, they can index the page and therefore make it appear in the search results, but only if it meets all the requirements that Google has established. Otherwise, it will remain invisible, at least, in the eyes of Google and the Internet users who use it to undertake research.
When it comes to the page’s positioning in search results, everything now depends on your SEO and/or SEA efforts. Being indexed is therefore a good thing, but in the end, it is useless if you appear on the hundredth page of the results.
For good reason: Internet users generally only consult the first page of SERPs, or even the first lines that appear. At best, they’ll go all the way to the third page, but never beyond. Coming back to the work of googlebots, this whole process is now automated thanks to algorithms.
What role do Google algorithms play in this indexing work?
Algorithms are kind of instructors or guides that tell crawler robots how to work. To make themselves understood by bots, they use mathematical instructions. Google has many algorithms at different levels, but in the area of SEO, their guidelines will focus on:
- Points to remember for indexing a page
- The technique for understanding these pages, because let us remember, robots do not have the same capacity for understanding as us humans. Certainly, thanks to the Artificial Intelligence deployed by the search engine, they are more gifted than before, but this ability relies, for them, on mathematical instructions.
- How to judge the quality of a page in order to rank it or not in the search results.
You should know that Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving. The mathematical instructions issued can then change daily as needed. The goal today is to improve the user experience (UX). To do this, constant innovations aim to improve the relevance of the results displayed, no longer according to the keywords entered, but according to the real expectations of Internet users who are behind these keywords.
The priority of the algorithms: to offer the most relevant results possible and therefore the results which can really provide clear answers to the users of the search engine.
What impact do algorithms have on the work of webmasters?
For webmatsers, understanding exactly how algorithms work is the first step in getting their site indexed. Then, you have to know their different requirements to properly reference the pages of the site. We have already talked about quality and relevance, but that is not all.
Over the course of updates and technological advances, algorithms are constantly evolving. Every day, Google carries out minor updates which do not really have an impact on the positioning of the sites. But in addition to these small improvements, it also conducts a few major updates per year and these can impact the overall ranking of sites. We surely remember the Medic Update of 2018 or the June 2019 Broad Core Algorithm Update. Many sites have been impacted by these.
But if we are already working on quality and relevance, can we still be affected by these updates? The answer is yes. For good reason, these are not the only requirements of Google and these requirements evolve as the needs of Internet users change. Yes, webmasters are not the only ones to be under pressure, because Google itself must maintain its very high level to remain a leader in its field. This explains why he keeps evolving and improving even if this should make him review his positions.
With each major update, the algorithms see their instructions evolve (and not change). In addition to quality and relevance, other ranking criteria are added, such as the speed of loading a page, the user experience, the security of a site, the ergonomics of the site, etc.
And in addition to the work of the algorithms in charge of SEO, the Mountain View firm has also deployed algorithms that play fonts on the web. Their mission? Hunt for indexed sites that stop complying with its evolving rules. If the latter persist in not respecting the new instructions established as updates are made, the sanctions fall and may lead to deindexing of the site.
In other words, each update from Google requires webmasters to update their own site. This is why we say that organic seo is a continuous work since from one day to another, the priority criteria of today will perhaps take second place tomorrow.
To limit the impact on your sites, it is advisable to always comply with the first basic rules of the search engine such as quality, loading speed, links, ergonomics, tags…
What are Google’s main algorithms?
Since its creation in 1998, Google has used algorithms, one of the first of which was PageRank. The search engine uses it to analyze the backlinks of a site both in quantity and quality. It influences the positioning of the site in search results. He still occupies this role today, but several others have come to help him.
Following are the Google Main 14 Algorithms That can Impact your website rankings in search results:
1. Google Page Experience
Scheduled for this year 2021, this new update from Google mainly targets the User eXperience (UX) or user experience. For webmasters, improving the user experience on their site is therefore more important than ever. This is why SEO is shifting more and more towards SXO which combines both SEO and UX. Since the American giant has already announced the deployment of this update, it is better to take the lead than to undergo the reshuffle that will be inevitable.
Deployed in 2019, this update enabled algorithms to better understand Internet users’ requests. To do this, an analysis of the words and expressions used by users is carried out in order to prioritize them. This means that since BERT, googlebots especially favor quality content that provides genuinely useful information with high added value to Internet users. There, we bring relevance back to the fore.
Produced in 2018, this update mainly targeted sites focused on YMYL (Your money your life). This domain brings together the sectors of finance, health, well-being, advice on life… Through this improvement, Google imposes a higher level of quality on these sites so that Internet users can access accurate information, impartial and as much as possible, provided by professionals. Today, YMYL sites are no longer the only ones concerned, since all domains must comply with these recommendations.
Launched in 2017, the update called Fred aims to fight against the abusive display of advertisements. Sites that tend to display too much were the first to be targeted, as the overload of ads harms the user experience. Today, advertisements are authorized, but in small doses so as not to interfere with navigation on the site and consultation of content.
5. Mobile First
From 2015, the Mobile First index was born. This update added another classification criterion during the indexing of sites on the web, namely: the compatibility of the site’s pages with the small screens of smartphones. For good reason: more and more users are connecting to the Internet via their mobile. It was therefore necessary to adapt the sites to mobile screens so that all the pages are displayed in full. The goal: to prevent Internet users from scrolling from left to right, because this complicates the understanding of the content.
From 2017, the Mobile First index was deployed forcing webmasters to comply with Responsive Design requirements. As for the new sites created, they go directly under mobile indexing.
The update named Pigeon relies on the geolocation of Internet users to display search results. It especially influences local searches in order to provide precise answers to users. All local businesses have an interest in respecting the requirements that this volatile implies.
7. Phantom Update
Deployed in 2015, the Phatom update hunts down sites that publish mediocre and irrelevant content. Note that as early as this year, Google has already started to take user experience into account and from that time on, it has started cleaning up unnecessary sites.
In 2013, the Hummingbird update brought major changes to SEO as the search engine began to incorporate artificial intelligence.
Another update, the Rankbrain, was then released in 2015 to reinforce the improvements made.
Following these two updates, the algorithms began to understand the intent of Internet users rather than relying solely on the juxtaposition of keywords. The robots have even succeeded in interpreting the most complex questions since, from then on, they have been able to offer more relevant results and more precise answers according to users’ requests.
9. Google penguin
This other Google bird was launched in 2012. Like the others, it aims to improve search results. Its role, however, is to analyze netlinking in order to sanction sites that abuse it. Indeed, its great obsession is over optimized sites that use Black Hat SEO to boost their positioning in search results. In the majority of cases, webmasters who use this dishonest technique prioritize their ranking more than user experience and Google does not endorse this.
Since 2016, the Mountain View giant has even expanded the functions of its Penguin since it now requires part of its main algorithm which works in real time. Do not underestimate it, because the penalties can be very severe.
10. Page Layout
The Page Layout update is somewhat the ancestor of Fred since it was also responsible for sanctioning sites that abuse advertising, especially those published above the waterline. It was rolled out in 2012 and is one of Google’s first steps towards improving UX.
This update was rolled out in 2012 to deindex sites that offer illegal downloads. She also has her sights set on those who have received complaints about copyright infringement.
12. Exact Match Domain
Also in 2012, Google launched the Exact Match Domain update. As the name suggests, it is interested in the domain names of sites in order to prevent poor quality ones from appearing on the first pages of search results. It should be noted that at that time, some webmasters were using highly sought after domain names just to rise in the rankings of the SERPs.
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13. Google panda
Google’s Panda is also one of its most feared pets today. It was launched in 2011 and promotes itself as a search filter that sets the bar very high in terms of quality. After its deployment, many sites fell in the results of the SERPs, proof that it should not be underestimated, however cute it is.
To this day, its mission remains unchanged: to hunt for sites offering mediocre quality content with low added value. He also has other roles, namely detecting and penalizing duplicate content and keyword stuffing.
Thanks to him, Google was able to clean up its results base by removing pages that definitely did not meet its new requirements.
Deployed in 2010, the Caffeine update focuses on page indexing and crawl speed. In other words, it allows its spiders to work faster in order to offer recent results in the SERPs. Today, googlebots crawl pages instantly so always take care of each piece of content before uploading, because bots will scan it very quickly.
What criteria should we use to qualify a quality site?
If there is one term that we use from the start, it is the word “quality”.
How can we ensure that our site is of quality?
According to Google, a good site is one that:
- Meets the expectations of Internet users (UX) by facilitating their access to the desired information and by responding exactly to their request. If a person makes a query like “yellow rose meaning”, the search engine will only display relevant pages that have content on it.
- Respects the requirements of its different algorithms (SEO). The only difficulty on this point is that there are a lot of algorithms and everyone has different expectations. Your quest for quality will therefore consist in always keeping these requirements in mind and knowing how to associate them in each content provided.
In short: the quality depends entirely on the expectations, and the human users, and the crawler robots. This is why it is important today to talk about SXO (Search eXperience Optimization), and no longer about SEO. The latter takes into account both the needs of users and robots.
What criteria should be used to achieve quality?
To hope to appear in the first search results, here are the points that you must take care of:
By the time we have been rehashing it, you must surely already know the little phrase “content is king”. Today, more than ever, it is time to take it out and apply it. For good reason, if Internet users come to the web it is to find content, and good. Whether it’s in-depth texts, guides, news, videos, images, podcasts, white papers, webinars, product sheets… everything you post on your site should be original., unique and with high added value.
Each word, each sentence, each questioning… must provide precise and useful information. Obsolete information will also be avoided, unless you are talking about history. Note that this is the aspect of content that Internet users are looking for.
As for the spiders, the expectations are a little different. Of course, there is the richness of the background, but you also have to think about the structure of the text which must be pleasant to read, the readability of the sentences, the quality of the images you insert and the keywords used. It is thanks to the key expressions used that googlebots will make you appear in the SERPs according to the queries launched. However, keyword stuffing or keyword over-optimization should be avoided, as Panda doesn’t like it. Moreover, he never misses an opportunity to detect this kind of practice and beware of you if you try to arouse his fury.
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The overall structure of the site:
There is no point in posting quality content on a totally messy, insecure and cumbersome site.
It is also more relevant to work on the technical aspect of your site before starting to fill it with content. To do this, consider mobile indexing, or switch from classic http to https. Also make sure that it has an SSL security certificate especially if payments must be made on your site or if you intend to request personal data from your readers.
Another essential point: its ergonomics. Make access to information easy for Internet users. This concerns the different categories and subcategories to set up, the tags, the sales funnels and also, the loading speed of the page. A page that takes more than 3 seconds to display scares off a large part of Internet users.
The reputation of the site:
The notoriety or e-reputation of the site directly influences what is called “site authority”. The more famous a site is, the more Google will want to highlight it on the search results pages. But how do you make yourself known on this gigantic canvas?
Above all, you have to try to stand out from your competitors by offering unique and well-referenced content. Then you have to do some publicity on social networks. Finally, you have to improve your netlinking campaigns.
Netlinking is the main base that will help you make yourself known on the web. On the one hand, the links will facilitate the navigation of Internet users and bots on the web and on the other hand, it is by following links that spiders discover new pages to index.
In addition, in the logic of Google, a site that receives a lot of quality links can only be relevant and therefore to be highlighted. There, we evoke another key point: the quality of the links. Yes, they must also be neat and to do this, we will especially focus on their consistency with the subject, with the field of activity, with the content and with the link anchor.
All this means that to achieve excellence in the eyes of Google, SEO is a must. Of course, you already know that this brings together many techniques (not all mentioned here), but to be applied with those we have mentioned.
How do you know if you have been penalized for not respecting an algorithm?
On the web, there are many sites that are not indexed and therefore have no chance of appearing in Google’s results. Among them, some are just not well referenced while others have been deindexed for not meeting the requirements of its algorithms. Yes, the penalties should not be neglected, because your visibility on the web is at stake.
It is essential to keep track of statistics on a daily basis to monitor the ranking of your site. In terms of penalties, two cases are possible:
- You notice a “sharp drop” in your pages in the SERPs. This can be explained either by a penalty or by a major update from Google. In both cases, it is an automatic penalty assigned by an algorithm.
- You receive a warning message from Google following an inspection by one of its employees. This is called “manual penalty”. In this case, all you need to do is resolve the problem raised and then request a review from the platform to have the sanction lifted.
Be careful, the sudden drop in the SERPs should not be confused with a slight drop, but over the long term. The sudden drop is equivalent to a decline of several pages (30, 40…) in the SERPs and this, overnight. The slight loss of positioning is done smoothly with a decline of one or two pages on a daily basis, but over the long term. In the latter case, it may be SEO efforts to strengthen. An SEO audit may be necessary to determine what areas need improvement.