How Do Search Algorithms work?

We often focus our attention on the means to an end. How to write content that ranks higher in voice search? What is the recipe for a winning blog? Etc. Tangled in these questions, we fail to understand the fundamental problem of how all of it works?

Understanding the inner workings of how search engine works will enable us to understand not only how our strategy is coming to effect but the end goal more clearly. Today, we will touch base on how search algorithms work.

Understanding a Search Algorithm

Google defines an algorithm as “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.” However, a search algorithm is not one algorithm but several algorithms that combine to provide the most relevant answer to your query in the search engine.

Let us understand what these algorithms are, why they are necessary, and what they do with a food analogy.

Suppose you are having roast chicken, bread, and beans for dinner. To make the roast chicken, it requires seasoning, spices, and oil; all the ingredients need to be combined in a certain quantity, which requires a formula.

The other formula required for a perfect dish is the right temperature and duration to roast the chicken. Each element on the dinner table requires two sets of formulas i.e. 3*2, so we need six different algorithms to put the dishes on the dinner table.

There are also formulas behind the ingredients on the dinner table such as the feed given to the chicken, the type of seed used to grow the wheat, etc.

A formula is also required to personalize the dishes on the table according to the preference of different individuals.

Like the dinner table, a website has numerous features and sub-features. All of them require algorithms and an algorithm to bring the entire algorithms together to deliver the most relevant search result. A few characteristics of a website are URLs, internal links, content, external links, load speed, image, amongst numerous others. A search engine has hundreds of algorithms that rank a website on its characteristics and determines which site should rank for a particular query.

By now, it must be clear many algorithms are in action to deliver the SERP. However, there is also an algorithm on top of all these algorithms; it accumulates data from all these algorithms and brings them together.

Different Types of Algorithms and Formulas

Let us consider the Google algorithm as it is probably the search engine you are using. When we talk about the Google algorithm, we are talking about a wide range of algorithms, formulas, and sub-algorithms, each with a function of their own designed to fulfill a particular task brought together by the core algorithm to provide the result.

The different types of algorithms used by Google:

  • Google’s Panda algorithm weeds out low quality and thin content, while rewarding unique and compelling content. The primary function of this algorithm is to identify, judge, filter, punish and reward content based on a specific rule or formula. Within the algorithm, there may be several sub-algorithms; no one knows the exact number, maybe Matt Cutts has an idea.
  • The Penguin algorithm primarily addresses the abuse of link building, which is a great factor in ranking a webpage. The purpose of this algorithm is to target manipulative link building and link spam. However, this algorithm certainly requires data from other pre-existing algorithms for valuing links and new algorithms to identify link spam.
  • Organizing algorithms.
  • Specific task algorithms.
  • Core algorithm that brings all the algorithms together in SERP.

At a basic level, this is how search algorithms work.

What are Entities and how are they Used?

Entities are how Google sees the whole world. Everything is an entity. For example on the dinner table, the roast chicken is an entity; the people eating are all entities; the different items on the table combined are an entity. With the help of entities, Google provides a more accurate search for users. If you were to search for chicken salad and roast chicken, Google would view both the searches originating from the same entity chicken. Using this concept, Google identifies how millions of websites all over the world are interconnected.

Takeaways for a Website

After having read so much about the working of a search algorithm, you would want some takeaways.

Context is Important

Understanding how the algorithms work is essential in applying the context to what you are reading.

Whenever an algorithm update occurs, you should know that it is only one piece of an enormous puzzle. Knowing this will allow you to understand which dimension of the website is being adjusted and the role of the adjustment in the larger goal of the search.

Entities – Even More Important

Entities are playing a huge role in today’s search. They have their own algorithms, and with the growing complexity of search, their relevance is going to increase further. Identifying this will allow you to judge which links will be beneficial for your website and the valuable content.

User Intent is Supreme

The majority of the algorithms, sub-algorithms, and formulas are to serve one purpose – produce the most satisfying result for the searcher. Bounce rate is a factor that measures the satisfaction of a reader on a webpage in comparison to another webpage with the same entity. Google uses this to rank a particular website higher and drop the ranking of the other in SERP.

Briefly, this is how a search algorithm works.

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