understand how it works and learn how to rank in 2019 – WAU
To rank in the top positions on the world’s largest search engine, you must first understand how Google’s algorithm works, its updates, strategies and more.
Google’s algorithm is one of the great mysteries of the internet.
There is no shortage of professionals trying to unravel its functioning. Meanwhile, Google keeps the secrets of ranking on the search results page under lock and key.
Why does he put a website in the first position at the expense of others? How does he make that judgment? What factors really matter to improve positioning?
Answering these questions is the major challenge for brands to winning first places in SERP and gain more visibility and organic traffic.
Now, if you are also racking your brains to answer these questions, we will help you. In this article, we will explain how Google’s algorithm works and how it has changed in recent years.
This is essential to understand how to prepare for it in 2019, with the tips that we will give at the end of the text. Want to know everything? Follow now:
How does the Google algorithm work?
Once upon a time, the internet. An inhospitable place, with only a few lost websites and poorly made GIFs.
However, it would not take long for this place to be occupied by hundreds of pages and Internet users looking for a lot of information and entertainment.
To make life easier for those who arrived in this new world, search engines emerged, with algorithms specialized in indexing internet sites. With them, it was easier to find anything.
However, it was not all flowers … The algorithms were still based on simple formulas for ranking. It didn’t even have to be one expert to circumvent the rules and win the best positions. That was how the black hat emerged, Google’s great enemy.
To save the quality of the user experience, then, search engines began to wage a battle against Internet villains. And so, algorithms have become increasingly complex.
This story from the beginnings of SEO helps explain the great purpose of Google’s algorithm: to improve the search and navigation experience.
It is for this purpose that the algorithm works. It serves to discover, understand and organize all the internet content to deliver the best answers for the user’s research.
In short, search engines are specialized machines for answering questions.
The best result is one that not only brings the user the answer, but also offers good navigation and allows him to accomplish what he wants without difficulties. But to get to that point, Google’s algorithm takes a path.
These are the steps of the algorithm to position each page in the SERP:
Find out all about Google’s newest algorithm update:
Google, we have a problem: understand the discussion on the possible February 2020 core update
Imagine several robots behind all the code and content that exists on the internet. This is what happens in the tracking process, which is done at all times.
In this step, Googlebot searches for new URLs to be indexed in its huge database. Uncovered pages that contain links indicate new paths, which robots take to find new URLs.
Therefore, the first measure of an SEO strategy should be this: be found. For that, you need to have codes and content that the robot can read and index.
The robot cannot read flash content, for example, which prevents it from being tracked. So, focus on developing websites with clean and simple HTML codes and make sure your content is accessible to crawlers.
Indexing is the second step, which also happens at all times. After crawling, the URLs can now go to the search engine’s database. So, now the role of the Google algorithm is organize the contents according to what they offer to the user.
To do the indexing, robots analyze your pages as if they were just text. See below how a Content Marketing page is viewed by robots.
To see your pages like this, just access the cached version and click on “Text only version”)
In order for your pages to be indexed correctly, it is important to pay attention to your keywords. They guide the organization of the Google URL index.
Thus, when a user enters a certain search term, he will already know what content meets his query.
Ranking is the last step. It happens whenever a user does a search on the search engine.
According to the search term, Google’s algorithm searches through all the contents of the index and delivers the results that answer the question, in an order that offers the most relevant answers in the first places.
So, you can understand that the closer to the top a page is, the more relevant it will be to the user’s search, in the eyes of Google.
Although the first two steps are essential, it is in ranking that the focus of SEO is concentrated. After all, nobody wants to be just crawled or indexed – the intention of SEO is to reach the top positions!
For this reason, there are several researches and studies, such as those carried out by SEMrush and Moz. In practice, they analyze the effects of a given action on positioning.
In addition to these analyzes, some statements from Google and its employees also help to understand the ranking factors. This is the case of the Google channel and Google Webmasters, full of guidelines and tips on the search engine.
Website speed, responsive design, usability, quality of backlinks, click rate on SERP and time spent on the page are some probable ranking factors identified in the studies.
Besides that, a website that appears first for one user may not appear for another, because SERP is also influenced by each person’s location, search history and search settings.
What were the main updates to the Google algorithm?
Throughout its trajectory, Google has improved its algorithm, always keeping an eye on its purpose: to improve the user experience. That’s why robots have changed so much.
It is estimated that there are more than 500 updates per year!
The algorithm becomes increasingly complex and demanding. If before it was easy to go over the best practices of the search engine, today it already has a technology smart enough to eliminate pages that do not follow its guidelines.
Artificial intelligence can even predict users’ search intentions.
Want to know how this evolution in Google’s algorithm took place? Then follow the main updates of the last years:
This was the first update, officially launched in 2011, that impacted the SEO market. With this update, 12% of search results were affected and thousands of sites were downgraded in the ranking.
Google decided to punish pages with low quality content, which include practices like these:
- Duplicate or copied content;
- Keyword stuffing;
- Automatically generated texts;
- Pages with very little or no content;
- Pages full of advertising instead of valuable content;
- “Link farms” to generate more backlinks.
Although it was launched in 2011, several Panda updates have been made over the years and have affected more sites.
Launched in 2012, Penguin affected about 3% of the results of the search in English, already at its launch. Afterwards, he would go through several updates that touched SERP even more.
At this time, Google was already aware of the importance of SEO. However, the company wanted to avoid “super optimization” of the sites, which resulted in black hat practices.
For this reason, Google Penguin aimed again at sites that did not follow its guidelines with low quality content, which sought to deceive the algorithm.
This 2013 update was more focused on improving results than penalizing pages and websites.
From Hummingbird, the pages no longer needed to have the exact match of the keywords searched by the user. With the help of synonyms, the search term’s semantic field and the user’s search history, Google was already able to understand what he was searching for and deliver the right results.
This prevented, for example, the person from searching for the sport “tennis” and seeing several results with running shoes. And it also prevented the pages from being “super optimized” for a single specific keyword.
Thus, the algorithm has already evolved to understand the user’s search intent.
It is the evolution of the algorithm to show better local search results.
The algorithm started to strongly consider the user’s location at the time of research to deliver search results with local businesses.
The search for a restaurant, for example, started to show close results, within the city or neighborhood where the person was.
It is estimated that half of the sites fell in SERP, while pages of small businesses went up, which gained space with local SEO.
A major update related to the search results on mobile devices was being announced. Finally, in 2015, Google announced what the market called Mobilegeddon.
With it, mobile-friendly sites started to gain more relevance in the search results on smartphones and tablets. The intention was to improve the experience of mobile device users, who started seeing more sites with responsive design, better usability and fast loading.
In practice, the update did not have as much impact, as many sites had already prepared for it. But, afterwards, the optimization for mobile became even more relevant with other minor updates.
RankBrain is an evolution of Hummingbird. If the algorithm was already more evolved to understand search intentions, now it would use artificial intelligence and machine learning for this.
With that, the Google algorithm started to interpret users’ queries even better. Without human intervention, it automatically learns about the intention to search and deliver more relevant results.
It was a giant step in search engine technology.
How to conquer the Google algorithm in 2019? Check out 7 tips:
Now that you know the Google algorithm more “intimately”, it’s time to know how to achieve it for good!
As we said, the little robots are moving all the time, and the updates don’t stop. Therefore, every year it is good to think about the strongest trends to take your site to the top.
1. Overcome the reduction in clicks on organic results
Google is reducing organic traffic to your site.
Yes, the news that so haunts social media professionals – decreased organic reach – has also reached SEO. The tendency is that the organic CTR (the click rate on organic search results) is decreasing more and more.
Many of these clicks go to paid results (which is probably one of Google’s intentions to attract more advertisers…).
However, organic clicks are not just migrating there. They are also simply disappearing.
With the evolution of RankBrain, which we presented earlier, Google increasingly understands what users are looking for and delivers ready-made responses to the SERP itself.
This is what the user gets, for example, when searching for “maceió weather forecast” or “argentina president”. This also happens in searches about movies, series, flights, football matches, celebrities, word definitions, among other diverse searches.
For searches like these, the user no longer needs to access the page to find the answer. And what about your organic traffic? Falls.
Rand Fishkin, CEO and co-founder of Moz, points to this trend and indicates some strategies to keep his accessions growing:
- When searching for keywords, find out which ones have a high SERP click rate, not just search volume. In searches like the ones we exemplified above, the volume can be high, but it does not generate access to your site.
- Focus on long-tail keywords, which generally don’t generate ready-made responses from Google.
- Explore rich snippets to stand out in the SERP and entice the user to click on your link.
- Take advantage of all the organic traffic that Google still sends to your site by capturing visitors’ email to create an email marketing strategy.
2. Understand users’ search intent
Basically, SEO consists of making people search for something on Google and find the answer on your website.
That is why, one of the most important tasks of strategy planning is to understand how its persona do the research. What keywords does she use? What terms does she choose to search for what you offer?
Think With Google studies point to some trends in the search bar. The first finding is that searches are turning into conversations. Searches like “can I use Paypal on Amazon” or “which laptop should I buy” are on the rise.
In addition, the seeker is also becoming something of a personal advisor. “Best car insurance for me” or “best restaurant near me” are search terms that show users’ intention to meet their personal needs.
What does this mean for your SEO strategy?
Optimization for search intentions is an important trend for 2019. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes to understand their doubts and needs along the journey.
In addition, with an increasingly complex search algorithm, you no longer need to focus on the exact keyword match, nor repeat it insistently in the content.
Here comes the importance of well-written content, which explores the entire semantic field of the subject in question. Synonyms, variations and related words, used naturally in the content, offer a valuable reading experience. And they make life easier for the algorithm.
Rest assured: Google will know how to understand your content and present it to the right people.
3. Put the mobile first
Since the first rumors of Mobilegeddon, optimization for mobile devices has become a trend.
Since this update, Google has taken several actions to prioritize sites that offer a good mobile experience. However, 2018 was the year that Google finally implemented the mobile-first index, which is expected to consolidate in 2019.
With this update, the mobile will be indexed first. This means that Google will start with the mobile version to decide where it will appear in the ranking.
This prevents, for example, sites with problems in the mobile version from appearing well positioned and impairing the user experience.
So, the time has come for you to also put mobile first.
For that, it is necessary to face a tradition of the design teams: start the projects thinking about the desktop version and, later, adapt for the cell phone. Natural, since the web started on the desktop computer. However, things have changed.
The concept of Mobile First Responsive Design is a trend in Digital Marketing.
This perspective puts responsive design first in projects, based on an understanding of the mobile context (how searches are done on cell phones).
4. Make your website faster and faster
Mobile experience doesn’t just mean beautiful and functional design on the phone. It also means speed.
If on the desktop speed of loading is essential, on mobile it becomes even more important. The context shows this: the user may be in traffic looking for a restaurant for lunch or in the mall searching for movie times. He needs an immediate answer!
Google knows this and dedicates all its efforts to create a faster web.
One of the most relevant initiatives for this was the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project. Sites that adopt this initiative see an increase in CTR, since the links are highlighted in SERP, and offer faster loading for the user. In 2019, this project remains firm.
Another important initiative was the adoption of speed as a ranking factor for mobile searches. Since 2010, it was already considered for desktop searches and, in July 2018, it started to apply also to mobile devices.
The movements show that Google’s algorithm is increasingly demanding with the speed of loading.
5. Develop authority on a subject
Google likes someone who understands a lot.
It is no coincidence that the backlinks you receive are so important for ranking. They show that you are a reference for the market.
For this reason, it is important to highlight to Google’s algorithm which topic you are an expert on.
Basically, the more quality content you post within a topic, the more relevant you are to Google. When a user searches for something within that theme, the search engine will be confident that you will deliver a good answer.
Also, explore the internal links to show Google the relationship between one article and another, as well as the hierarchy between them. The most relevant, in general, receives more links.
Focus is essential here. Define the theme in which you want to stand out and explore all the topics it covers, without escaping the main one.
For example: imagine if here on the blog we had 10 articles and 7 of them spoke only about email marketing. Google would understand that the blog is an authority on email marketing, not content marketing, as is the goal.
Therefore, here we address all matters that are within the “umbrella” of Content Marketing.
6. Ensure user safety
Google has long been concerned with user safety.
Even in 2014, the HTTPS protocol was already becoming a ranking factor for the search engine. At the time of this update, Google announced that it would give the sites time to adapt to be more secure.
In 2018, the internet experienced the Cambridge Analytica case, which affected thousands of Facebook users. Although what happened is not directly related to SEO, he ignited the data protection warning.
That is why, the tendency is that efforts in favor of user safety will increase.
One of Google’s important initiatives during that year was an update to Google Chrome. The browser started to mark all HTTP sites as “not secure”.
Let it be clear: if you have an HTTP site, it does not mean that you will be deleted or demoted in SERP. But, if you migrate to HTTPS, you can move up the ranking and still offer a safer user experience.
7. Structure your pages well to offer the best experience
None of the above tips will take effect if you don’t structure your site well.
Imagine you have pages with responsive design and fast loading. Cool, you are already steps ahead of many competitors! But, if the user enters your page and simply does not find what he wants, soon he will leave your site.
A positive experience needs to be complete, from when he sees your link in SERP to when he finishes what he wanted to do.
To do this, you must adopt a website structure based on Information Architecture. Organize your content into logical subdirectories and adopt friendly URLs. This makes user navigation more intuitive and makes it easier for Google’s algorithm to understand your site.
In addition, each page must also be structured with the user in mind. It is not enough to offer the information he wants. It is necessary to offer a simple and pleasant navigation experience.
Then, use titles and intertitles, bookmarks, numbered lists, images, graphics and everything else that can enrich the reading. This helps to keep the user engaged with the content and do it interacted