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How does Google work?

Google is one of the most used search engines in the world. Hah, no surprise there.
If you have your own website you probably want to know how to rank higher in Google’s search results, correct?
Or you have a shitload of money that you give to an SEO specialist. This specialist makes sure that your website ends up on the first page of search results.
Or not, because nobody can guarantee that sensibly.

How does Google work then?

Searching starts with the internet, of course.
Without the internet, no Google.

The World Wide Web (part of the internet) consists of more than 60 billion pages and that number is increasing every minute. Just by hitting publish on this blog I added another one. And with me thousands of people do the same thing.

Imagine what it would be like without search engines to help you find the information you need.
I imagine a large paper recycling bin in which you are searching for that one newspaper with that one article.

Or the library in the olden days with those microfilm machines….you’ll be searching forever.

It is easy to criticize Google about privacy, but Google does make our lifes a lot easier.

Shall I tell you in day to day language (no tech speak or  double Dutch) how Google works?

Search spider

Google crawls like a spider in its web through all those pages. They use special programs for this (aptly named ‘spiders’) who spend the whole day crawling from page to page by following links.
When you have your own site, you can decide whether you want these spiders to go through your site or not. It could easily be that you do not want your site indexed. I have an e-learning environment that I do not want crawled. When I accidentally make a mistake in publishing pages then it won’t be visible for the whole world.

Index

Aforementioned spider sends information to Google about indexing your pages and stores this in a humongous database. This database stores information about your domain, the content of your page and a few other things. The pages are sorted by their content (and a few other factors). This index is larger than 100.000.000 gigabytes. 100.000.000! You read that right!. Compare that to the hard drive in your computer. My laptop’s harddrive is just 500 gigabytes.

Searching

When you type a search request into Google’s webpage, all sorts of algorithms try to find clues about what you really want to know. Think about spelling, synonyms, search methods en whether your search request is comprehended.  These algorithms are complicated programs and formulas which combined are Google’s power.
Marketing specialists would like to have their greasy little hands on the algorithms. Google has managed to keep them mostly secret up to now. Some things are known, many are not.

With the found clues in your search request results are fished from the database. More than 200 clues factors are used for this ‘fishing’; like the quality of your site and page, the ‘freshness’ of the pagina (so how old it is), the safety of your content, your context (previous search requests etc), translations and the search requests of the rest of the world (read Do I get the same Google search results as my friend searching for the same thing?). And all that within 1/8 of a second. Wow!

Search results

Google shows search results in different ways. Thinf of laptop searches, tablet searches, mobile searches, image searches and video searches. Look at the different options Google provides.

Google search result options

Google search result options

Meanwhile spam is filtered out. The majority of spam is automatically removed. Remaining suspicious pages are removed by hand if necessary.

So?

Now you know this you might have a different perspective on Google searches. Or you want to know what the clues are that determine how high a page ranks in the search results. Trying to influence/improve the ranking of your page is called SEO. This is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization.

Ranking higher with your site

Search engine optimization has become a whole separate industry.
There are companies that have this as their specialism.

Search engine optimization has 4 pillars:

  1. Keyword research
    Determining which keywords are good for your website/page/company.
  2. Text optimization
    Applying the found keywords to your website.
  3. Tech optimization
    The navigation and speed of your website can influence your ranking.
    Whether or not your site is responsive (suitable for all screen sizes) can influence your ranking.
    Whether or not the connection to your site is encrypted (and therefore safer) can influence your ranking (SSL, https).
  4. Backlinks
    These are links from other sites to your site.
    When you provide quality content people will link to it. This gives Google a signal that your site is of value.

White Hat & Black Hat

White hat & Black hat

Before you run off to the shop to buy some new hats, read on.

White hat and Black hat are SEO terms.

Black hat SEO techniques are the ones that do not follow the ‘search engine rules’. They are ‘shady’ and ‘dodgy’.
You might rank high with them initially but eventually Google will find out and you will get marked down.

White hat SEO techniques follow the search engine rules where all is above board. It is wise to stick to white hat if you want to rank higher in Google.

Panda, Penquin, Hummingbird, …

Google applies more than 6000 changes to its algorithms yearly. Most of them aren’t noticed but when these changes affect rankings in one major blow, these are named.

Panda (2011), Penquin (2012) and Hummingbird (2013) are some of those major updates. SEO specialist make a big fuss about these changes.

You know what?

The core SEO techniques never changed. When you provide a quality website with a fantastic user experience for your visitors and quality content, you do not have to worry about these individual updates.

Pagerank

Pagerank is mentioned a lot when you talk about ranking in Google. Pagerank determines the position of your page based on the number of quality links to your page. This was the first algorithm that Google used. and the most famous As you have read above, there are quite a few more now so the number of backlinks doesn’t just determine your position anymore. A good pagerank is awesome but not the only thing you need.

What now?

Before you decide to grab that big bag of money that you have lying about to go to a specialist to get your SEO sorted, I want you to stop and think. As a solo entrepreneur with a limited budget (you can only spend your $$ once, right?) consider doing SEO yourself. It is not difficult and not a lot of work. You just have to know the steps.

Start with the FREE SEO starterkit.

Do you do your own Search Engine Optimisation? I would love to hear in the comments below.

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