What Is Google Algorithm? How Google Ranks Webpages

What Is Google Algorithm How Google Ranks Webpages

Search engines have become an integral part of our lives. When we need to find information online, most of us turn to Google. But how exactly does Google determine which webpages show up first in the search results? The ranking of search results is controlled by Google’s search algorithm.

In this post, we’ll take a detailed look at what a search algorithm is, how Google’s algorithm works, the history and evolution of Google’s ranking algorithm, and tips for optimizing your website to rank higher in Google search.

What Is A Search Algorithm?

A search algorithm is a computational procedure that retrieves and ranks information from a database based on the search query. The algorithm analyzes the search query and matches it to relevant pages in its index.

The indexed pages are then ranked by the algorithm based on relevance to the search term and other factors. The pages determined to be most relevant to the searcher’s query are displayed at the top of the search engine results page (SERP).

Search algorithms use different methods to match queried keywords to indexed pages. Google’s algorithm relies heavily on links between webpages to determine relevance. Other factors like page content, freshness, site speed, and usage data also play a role in Google’s ranking algorithm.

The goal of a search algorithm is to provide the most relevant and useful results to searchers. A good algorithm returns pertinent results on the first page rather than unrelated pages that require searchers to dig deeper.

How Does Google’s Search Algorithm Work?

Google’s search algorithm is known as PageRank. It was developed by Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin while PhD students at Stanford University in the late 1990s.

PageRank works by analyzing inbound links between websites. It assigns a numerical weighting or “rank” to each page on the web. Pages linked to by many other pages, especially other highly ranked pages, receive a higher PageRank score.

Google interprets a link from page A to page B as an endorsement of page B’s value. Pages linked to by many reputable sources are regarded as more authoritative and relevant.

In addition to counting links, PageRank analyzes the quality of those links. Links from established authoritative sites carry more value than links from lesser known sites. Link quality is evaluated by analyzing the quantity and PageRank of sites linking to each site.

Google has kept PageRank scoring details secret to prevent manipulation. But this link analysis serves as the core component of Google’s ranking algorithm.

Other known factors that influence Google rankings include:

  • Matching search query keywords – Pages containing the exact keywords searched get a relevancy boost. Keyword placement, repetition, and formatting like bolding and headlines are considered.
  • Page speed – Faster loading pages strongly outperform slow loading pages. Site speed indicates technical competence and commitment to user experience.
  • Mobile friendliness – Sites optimized for mobile rank much higher in mobile search results. Google prioritizes mobile experience as usage shifts.
  • Security – HTTPS encrypted websites are favored over unsecured HTTP sites. Google rewards secure, trustworthy sites.
  • User experience – Pages with quality content, minimal ads, and thoughtful design rank well. Google aims to recommend sites users find useful.
  • Freshness – Recently updated pages tend to outrank stale, outdated pages. Fresh content signals relevance and site investment.

Google is constantly tweaking its ranking algorithm – typically hundreds of times per year. The specific weighting applied to each ranking factor remains ambiguous. Keeping the algorithm opaque prevents sites from “gaming” it via questionable optimization tricks.

A Brief History of Google’s Ranking Algorithm

Google’s PageRank algorithm launched in 1998, but it has evolved significantly since then. Here’s a quick overview of pivotal developments:

  • 1998 – PageRank debuts, relying solely on link analysis to rank pages.
  • 2000 – Google starts personalizing results based on searcher’s location, past clicks, search history.
  • 2001 – Google introduces “hidden text” penalties against deceptive keyword stuffing.
  • 2004 – Site speed is incorporated as a ranking factor to improve user experience.
  • 2010 – Google places heavy emphasis on mobile optimization as phones become mainstream.
  • 2012 – Encrypted HTTPS sites get a boost in rankings for added security.
  • 2015 – Mobile-friendly and fast loading sites see a further rankings boost to meet shifting user needs.
  • 2016 – Google’s RankBrain AI begins optimizing results for more intelligent matching.
  • 2018 – Google updates to favor pages with thoughtful content presentation and site design.
  • 2021 – Core update “Mum” overhauls rankings to boost original reporting.
  • 2022 – Google refined search results with the “Helpful Content Update”.

Google is sure to deploy many more ranking updates as algorithms grow smarter and search behavior evolves. Understanding this evolution helps sites recognize when and how to adapt.

Tips for Improving Your Google Rankings

Now that we’ve demystified Google’s algorithm, here are some tips sites should follow to potentially improve their search rankings with Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

  • Optimize pages for organic search. Focus on tactics like keyword research, strategic optimization of page content like titles and headers, and promotion of internal links between related pages. Avoid shortcuts like excessive keyword stuffing.
  • Prioritize mobile site speed. Use best practices like compressing images, minimizing redirects, caching assets. Strive for load times under 3 seconds.
  • Earn high quality backlinks. Build relationships with reputable sites to earn contextual editorial links. Publisher outreach and guest posting on authority sites are great options.
  • Produce fresh, original content. Search engines favor new, timely content. Blogging and news updates show engines your site has staying power.
  • Design for site visitors. Clear navigation, well-organized content, and thoughtful mobile design indicate your site offers a good user experience.
  • Select the optimal hosting. Fast, modern web hosting plays a crucial role in site speed. Choose a high quality managed host.
  • Implement proper technical foundations. HTTPS, sitemaps, structured data, and clean architecture demonstrate your technical competence.
  • Monitor with analytics. Use Google Search Console and Google Analytics to detect ranking changes and optimize accordingly.

Success with organic search requires playing the long game. There are no shortcuts. By focusing on fundamentals like optimized content, backlink building, and speed, sites can build the trust and authority recognized by Google’s algorithm.


Google’s revolutionary PageRank algorithm paved the way for search engines to become the gateways to information they represent today. Link analysis remains at the core of Google’s ranking algorithm. But machine learning advancements have enabled Google to consider hundreds of other signals to connect users with increasingly relevant and high quality results.

No one outside of Google knows the exact workings behind the search engine’s complex ranking algorithm. But understanding the evolution of its underlying technology provides valuable perspective for sites aiming to rank highly. By adhering to Google’s evolving best practices, sites can organically build their search presence over time.

427 Digital is keen on knowing these updates to adapt to the ever evolving digital landscape. Contact us today to help you get your business shown on Google!