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Decoding The Google Algorithms

December 9th 2015

The Google Algorithms are huge, complex and pretty much undecipherable.  Harsh, but true.  There is no way that anyone, despite what they might tell you, can guarantee ranking a website in position 1. All we, and all other Digital Marketeers can do, is to try to give Google exactly what it wants.  This can essentially be summed up in a few bullet points;

  1. The text on your website should be written for PEOPLE not for search engines
  2. Your website should be easy for search engines to get to (including all sub-pages)
  3. Your website should have links pointing to it, and should link to other sites where appropriate
  4. Your brand should be represented consistently across your website, and your presence on social media sites
  5. Your website should provide users with what they were searching for as quickly as possible

Whilst fairly simple points, achieving these 5 factors takes considerable time, and takes a considerable understanding of The Google Guidelines.

Decoding The Google Algorithms

Of course the exact workings of the Google search metrics are far too complex for any one person to understand.  In fact most of the information about ‘how to rank your website’ is kept a closely guarded secret.  Whilst most people could satisfy the above 5 points, it is no guarantee you will outrank your competitors.

Google has recently released a document however which has had very little press, but goes a long way to explaining how some of their systems work.  The document is aimed at evaluators.  To explain, an evaluator is someone employed by Google (a human) who tests search result accuracy.

For example, they might type into Google “fashion blog”, and then sift through the results rating each result one by one.  The outcomes are then used to determine if the search results were good, or bad.  The evaluators then feed this data back to Google, who can access and tweak their algorithms in order to improve results in future.

Ok…getting back to the document which Google recently released.  The document is entitled ‘welcome to the search quality rating program’…catchy eh?  The contents of the document are slightly more interesting than the title would have you believe, and are something of a holy grail to anyone looking to rank their website.

First off, you can download the full document HERE. Be quick though, we don’t know how long it will continue to be available for.

The Holy Grail

You will not digest the entire document in one sitting, unless you have the brain of Stephen Hawkins, combined with the memory capacity of a small super-computer.  However, a glance or two each day will reveal some secrets which might shortcut your route to having a fully compliant and well ranking website. We will certainly be putting some of the guidance into place in our web and digital marketing work.

Page Quality Rating

You only need to scroll as far as page 7 before things start to get very interesting.

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Note the comment “how well the page achieves it’s purpose”.  Which is to say if someone is searching for “how to repair an iPhone”, how well does the page on your site relay information on ‘how to repair an iPhone’.  They go on to say…

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Note the comment about “different types of pages”, and the fact Google grades them differently.  Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 14.04.59

This obviously indicates that the grading system very much changes depending on the type of website, as well as the authority (Klout) of the company behind it. Google later describe how this authority is determined by rating the brand.  They also cover the topic of the rating system differing for different types of site.

Your Money Or Your Life

Yes, believe it or not, Google has a rating called YMOYL.  Site’s classified as YMOYL have the highest rating system, meaning that in order to appear in search results, they have to be absolutely relevant to the search and tick pretty much every box.  You could safely surmise that Google is exposing a handicap policy, where sites trying to get your cash quickly (YMOYL) are given the most handicap, and sites looking to help the user are given less handicap.

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We believe what Google is trying to achieve with this type of classification is quality results depending on the search.

Your Content

The document goes on to discuss main content, and the type of content on pages.  The classifications of type of main content make extremely interesting reading.

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i.e what is the main content on the page.  Google do talk about TABS, which confirms that Google not only looks at visible data on each page, but data which might require the user to click/hover to view.

The summary of page content on page 11 is worth reading and re-reading, as it is a good indicator of the type and volume of content they are looking to find on each ranking page.
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The best snippet you can take from the above is “think about the purpose of the page”.  Design your own web-pages, and write the content of your pages with a purpose.  Be that to explain a product, a service, or indeed to give users information & guidance.

The Home Page

Every web designer should take careful notice on the information on page 12.

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So….make absolutely certain that on your inner pages, your logo links to your home-page, and that you have HOME (or words to that effect) on your navigation menu.

The same is also said of the contact page, which Google is using to determine your authority, and trust worthiness. They also indicate they like to see privacy policies on a website, which is an easy fix for most website owners.

Reputation

Google talk a great deal about reputation.  They are clearly giving major credit to sites who have a strong reputation.  They even explain how an evaluator can go about trying to establish the ‘reputation’ of a company using a few searches.

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We would defiantly recommend trying the above with your company name.  As a ranking factor it is likely to be minor, but it is certainly a ranking factor and one to be aware of.  Be conscious however, that Google does state that a small company might have a superb product, but very few reviews due to its size.

High Quality Pages

Google is classifying certain pages as ‘high quality’, and on page 20 they go into detail describing the key factors.

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This means that your page needs a good volume of text about the relevant topic.  The text should be well written, and technically correct.  Most significantly, the website (not page) should have a good reputation for the topic.  So if your brand is associated with manufacturing curtain rails, it is going to be easier for you to rank pages about ‘curtain rails’ than it will be on less relevant topics.  Your relevance score will be assumed from your external links, your reviews and your citations found on other websites, as well as the overall content of your website.

Design

The document has some great tips when it comes to design.  The best snippet we have picked out is on page 22.

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Remembering that MC refers to ‘Main Content’, these guidelines are pretty important.  “Front and center” is a new phrase for Google, where previously they have stated “above the fold”.  They are indicating that they want to see the content without the user having to scroll down.  Whilst this could be a tough undertaking on some home pages, it is a very important consideration when it comes to inner pages, blog posts and product pages.  Keep in mind mobile design too, as Google is looking at how your website responds at different screen sizes.

Webmaster Guidelines

The guidelines are talked about on numerous occasions in the document.  The Google Guidelines should not be underestimated, and can be seen here.  These guidelines outline how websites should and should not work, and what Google considers to be best practice.

Project Dupe

You have to love the catchy sub text Google is using.  Project Dupe refers to their mission to filter out duplicate content in the search results.  In particular Google encourages its evaluators to choose two results which are duplicates displayed on the same page of search results.  What does this mean…..

If you copy your content (e.g. product description) from another website, and that website already ranks on Google…. your website won’t rank in competition to it.  There are some exceptions, such as song lyrics.

Summary

In summary, make sure that your website, and the content of it, has relevant information and displays it in an easy to get to way.  Don’t make users search your site to find relevant content, display it to them as fast as you can.  Don’t think only about SEO, think about users!  Use good quality unique text, clear images, and make sure your brand has a good reputation. Make sure your content is designed and written for people, and the search engines will follow.

 

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