To all but a select few the exact nuances of Google’s search algorithms remain something of a mystery. As a result ranking within its SERPs (search engine results page) requires a little bit of experimentation. Here, we look at whether it’s possible to understand exactly what Google’s search algorithm wants.

Google’s dominance of the search engine market is well documented. Its latest share, compiled by comScore for May 2013, stood at 66.7%. You don’t really get much more dominant than that.

So, understandably, it’s imperative to have a good ranking within Google’s organic search results. A high ranking can pave the way to increased traffic volumes. And high traffic can yield those all-important conversions.

Google provides a lot of guidance, through its variety of regularly updated blogs, regarding what it wants webmasters to do. When it comes to its algorithms, though, it’s far more hush-hush.

If a webmaster were able to ‘crack’ Google’s algorithm, or reverse engineer it, they would effectively have a huge advantage over other website owners.

The question is, can we figure out what Google really wants, or must we simply follow the company’s vague guidance and hope that we can understand how the algorithm works?

Understanding Past Updates

The best place to start when it comes to understanding how Google works is to look at past algorithm updates.

Google makes hundreds of minor updates to its algorithm each year and also performs major updates every few months.

You can learn a lot about how Google works by looking at the update notes for those previous algorithm changes, and studying how other websites were affected by those changes.

It’s much harder to determine what’ll happen with future updates.

That’s because Google’s algorithm is incredibly complex and considers many factors, including:

  • Keyword choice and density
  • Number of incoming links
  • Page loading time
  • Mobile optimisation
  • Keywords in the domain
  • Title tags
  • Age of the domain
  • Bounce rate
  • Type and quality of those links

Each of these factors is considered before a page is ranked.

Some factors are given more weight than others; for example, exact match domains were considered to be incredibly important until a recent update, which reduced the weighting that was given to domains.

Other recent updates reduced the value given to links and put more attention on ensuring that sites had varied link profiles.

Cracking Google’s algorithm would require systematic testing of each ranking factor. And to achieve this you would need several domain names and lots of time and a huge amount of resources.

Listen to the Experts

There’s no need to spend time testing black hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing, buying links for PageRank or comment spam. Tens of thousands of webmasters have already tried those techniques – the results are out there for all to see.

The best practice-led approach is always the most recommended.

It’s become important to take a gradual approach in SEO – with focus directed to victories that result in long-term benefits as opposed to quick boosts. Some changes take time; the effects might not be seen for months – but it’s certainly worth sticking with these techniques.

Only Google’s developers know the exact intricacies of how the search engine works, but through careful testing it’s possible to figure out the most important thing: what works for your website.

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