There’s no better way to describe the relationship between Google’s algorithm and modern SEO other than, “two peas in a pod.”
It’s Google’s algorithm that controls the behavior of search engines and influences search engine optimization (SEO) practices. On the other hand, SEO is a marketer’s best hope to ensnare Google’s complex system in hopes of ranking in searches, both paid and unpaid.
Like Tom and Jerry on a wild chase, the Google algorithm and SEO are inseparable. As a business owner who yearns to rank up in search engine results pages or SERPs — SEO service is your best bet. Your SEO strategy is destined to fail, however, if you don’t align your game plan to Google’s robust search criteria.
Countless online resources aim to lend some clarity to this topic, but rather than something concrete, most available information is speculation and conjecture.
In this article, we’ll dissect Google’s search algorithm, dissect how it works, and how to align your content for optimal results.
What is Google’s SEO algorithm?
To understand Google’s algorithm, we must first explore what “algorithm” means:
An algorithm is no more than a set of rules that are followed to solve a problem. In the context of modern SEO, the problems are every person’s search query and the solutions are the webpages that appear in your SERPs. And it is Google’s SEO algorithm that decides which content ranks in search results.
Google’s algorithm is a sophisticated system that Google uses to retrieve information from its search index so it can deliver the best possible results for a query. Using various ranking factors like meaning, relevance, content quality, usability, and context, Google finalizes which results make it to the first page and which ones remain on page 2,459 (nobody cares beyond page 3).
So before we uncover Google’s algorithm further, it’s helpful to understand the general concept of how the Google ranking process works. These are split into three steps:
Google uses computer programs called web crawlers, spiders, or bots that scour the face of the internet searching for new or updated webpages. You won’t rank in search results unless your webpage gets crawled and then indexed.
Tip: The more links a page has to it, the more visible the page becomes for Google. That’s why multiple SEO campaigns bank on link-building techniques.
Google then analyzes the URL and the content of every crawled page to decipher what the page is about. To do this, Google looks closely at the texts, media, and data available on the page and then stores all the information in a database called Google Index like a library, but instead of books, they’re webpages.
Tip: To maximize your webpage’s indexing potential, configuring your technical SEO is a must. That means making sure your sitemap, headers, and tags are in order.
Serving is the third and final stage, otherwise known as the ranking stage, that decides which of the pages are the most relevant and useful against a particular search query.
So, how does Google algorithm EXACTLY work? Well, the short answer is no one really knows, unless you belong to Google’s inner circle. And knowing the algorithm means having a lifehack to stay ahead of the curve.
The thing about Google’s algorithms is that they’re fleeting and ever-evolving. Most of the updates are ever so slight that they even go unnoticed. In Google’s defense, keeping its ranking algorithm a trade secret is a valid sentiment for 2 reasons:
- First, it protects the company’s value
- Second, it protects users from exploitative marketers who wish to manipulate SERPs to their favor
Violating the second is counterintuitive to Google’s mission statement: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
However, every once in a while, Google decides to let the public know especially when updates are too significant to disrupt currently practiced SEO principles. Typically, Google informs beforehand so webmasters can employ modern SEO practices to make the necessary adjustments. Here are they:
Major Google Algorithm Update Names
A dreadful day for most affiliate sites that relied heavily on disruptive ads and thin content. Although Google didn’t spell out Fred that much, everyone knows it has something to do with E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). Webpages that lacked EAT suffered from the Fred update.
Intrusive Interstitials Update
Pop-ups are one of the most popular tools used by marketers for conversion. However, Google’s 2018 update focus on devaluing webpages that used intrusive interstitials (pop-ups, modals, and overlays). As a rule of thumb, any website that uses spammy, disruptive, or bothersome ads are penalized.
At the turn of the decade when Google searches became more prominent on phones than PCs, Google rolled out their “mobilegeddon” update — and it was pretty straightforward. Either your webpages are mobile-friendly or not, there were no gray areas. The purpose was to improve the user experience among mobile users.
This rollout perhaps is what truly revolutionized Google search engines. By using machine learning, Google became capable of teaching itself using data inputs to provide the most relevant results to SERPs queries. In other words, Google transitioned from “reading” search characters to “interpreting” the entity they represented.
Panda was Google’s backhand slap to countless content farms that constantly produced tons of low-quality content. Since this update, Google’s algorithm values prolific and consistent content uploads over sheer volume. Panda heavily targeted websites with poor, non-useful, non-trustworthy content.
Penguin was the extension of Google’s fight against low-quality content, but this time around, with backlinks. Since link volume weighed much in ranking, blackhat SEO practitioners used manipulative and spammy links to outperform higher-quality sites. Penguin ensured that Google rewards only the natural, authoritative, and relevant links pointing to a webpage.
The Hummingbird was a rewrite of Google’s core algorithm that focused on making SERPs precise to the search query and intent using natural language search. Instead of Google doing a word-for-word match for queries, they doubled down on Google removing certain words to understand the intent behind the query better.
The Pigeon algorithm update aimed to strengthen local businesses that have a strong organic presence by rewarding their search visibility. In other words, Google let you find exactly what you’re looking for based on your location.
Some search queries in Google are more spam-prone than others, including gambling, drugs, pornography, and of course payday loans sites. Many marketers take advantage of high-volume and CPC keywords to manipulate traffic into their site and increase SERP ranking — purging these was the Payday Loan update’s aim.
EMD (Exact Match Domain)
The EMD update’s goal was to devalue websites that use exact-match domains or domains that use keyword phrases searched in Google. Most marketers at the time focused on building “exact-match” websites comprised of thin content but still manages to rank in Google, which the EMD update then culled.
Page Layout Algorithm
Google has always valued user experience along with top-notch content. And while other updates focus heavily on content, the Page Layout algorithm focused on optimizing every website’s UI to give visitors the best possible UX. That meant sites with static and pervasive ads above the fold or along the sides needed a revamp.
Modern SEO practices that abide by Google’s major updates meant that your site is on the right track from the search engine’s perspective. Conversely, violating any of these major ranking adjustments would render all SEO campaign strategies moot.
Last 5 Updates from Google
With everything that’s been said above, keeping in step with Google updates, no matter how minor, is necessary for all webmasters and SEO specialists. Algorithm alterations, data refreshes, and filters are the common culprits to blame when websites drop in SERP ranking or SEO visibility.
To help you plan out your modern SEO practices, here are 5 of the latest updates that Google announced over the last 9 months:
1. May 2022 Core Update – Google Search Improvement
The May 2022 core update began on May 2022 and was completed on the 9th of June. This core update exhibited more prominent volatility in SERP rankings than the previous core update last November.
Information from data providers like SEMrush and RankRanger revealed more drastic changes in the retail industry. Moreover, there are signs that Google bogged down AI-generated sites, and spikes were observed in high-quality human-written content, regardless of niche.
2. March 2022 – Product Algorithm Update
Google announced on March 23, 2022, a product review ranking update that aims to update segregate high-quality review webpages from those that aren’t.
The update urged review sites to publish helpful and in-depth product reviews that also practice neutrality (benefits, drawbacks, improvements from previous versions). Moreover, product reviews should be made from an actual user experience that includes information beyond the spec sheet.
So, if you’re an HVAC company that publishes product comparisons, you should make sure to provide in-depth analyses based on expert opinions and actual usage. Not only will you rank better, but also increase site visibility (which attract the green M&Ms).
3. February 2022 – Page Experience Update
As mentioned before, Google puts heavy emphasis on optimizing your website’s user experience and interface for the benefit of users. And this page experience update treads along the same path as Google urges webmasters to make the necessary changes on their sites. Here are the metrics for the February 2022 update:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) — measures page load speed
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) — measures how much a webpage experiences unexpected layout shifts that affect visual stability
- First Input Display (FID) — measures the time your browser takes to process an interaction from a user
- HTTPS Security — users expect a private and secure online experience that protects the data between a user’s computer and the website
- Absence of Intrusive Interstitials — no intrusive, pervasive, annoying ads
4. December 2021 – Product Review Update
Many think it was ill-timed for Google to roll out a product review update, especially during the busiest and most profitable time of the year for product review sites. The December update focused on introducing two new modern SEO practices when publishing product review content:
- First: Webpages must provide evidence that they used the product in question, in the form of visuals, audio, or links demonstrating actual use
- Second: Webpages must offer multiple buying options that offer readers the chance to buy from their “merchant of choice”
5. November 27, 2021 – Broad Core Update
Google calls the November 2021 “broad” to signify that it doesn’t particularly target any niches, but aims to optimize Google’s overall system. Many respected marketers agreed that the core update wasn’t as disruptive as feared, however, some noticed that Google seem to be indexing lesser content.
Amidst the recent updates, Google’s guidance remains firm across the board: To practice a holistic improvement on your overall website by providing the best possible content and not only focusing on singular aspects.
With the Google algorithms out of the way, businesses, webmasters, and anyone that aims to rank their webpages on search engines should focus on aligning their modern SEO strategies to Google’s requirements.
The Four Pillars of Modern SEO
Think of the 4 pillars as scaffolding that makes up a holistic SEO experience to ensure top-level traffic is driven into your webpages. Here they are:
1. Technical SEO
The first pillar begins with technical SEO. Why? Because there is no other ‘SEO’ unless you ensure that your webpages’ links and information have been crawled, collected, and indexed by Google’s spiders. And there are two ways to give Google’s spiders instructions on whether to crawl your website or not:
- Robot.txt files tell spiders which pages they shouldn’t crawl. This is normally done to keep crawlers from indexing thin, duplicate, and private content.
- XML sitemap is the polar opposite of robot.txt as they list all the webpages that you do want to be crawled, indexed, and shown in SERPs.
On top of crawling and indexing, technical SEO is about improving other technical aspects of a website. So you may want to follow this technical SEO checklist to help improve your business’ organic rankings:
- Install an SSL certificate to signal Google that your website is secure and safe for users
- Optimize a mobile-friendly version of your website
- Improve your site’s loading speed
- Remove any duplicate content
- Add structured data markup on your website to add rich snippets to your meta descriptions (when applicable)
- Register your website on Google Search Console
2. Quality Content
If you take a peek at Google’s reminders whenever they roll out a new update, one thing’s ever-present: Improve your content.
At the end of the day, quality content is king. Optimization tactics are meant to augment the already top-notch quality content published on your webpages. Nevertheless, there are 5 factors you should consider when talking about content and modern SEO:
Unique and well-written content that adds value to your readers.
Infuse your content with keywords that you want to gain exposure for in SERPs. Make use of main keywords, related keywords, and natural language processing to build the context.
Google loves up-to-date content. Make sure you keep your content fresh and frequently updated. This is especially relevant in your blog section.
- Type of content
Content is more than just the text found on the page. You may want to integrate other consumable content like images, videos, and visually appealing elements. If you’re a home service business, we urge you to include images of your services and products.
Whenever you’re producing content, make sure they align with your audience’s potential search intent. The more cohesive your publications are to their query, the better you will rank in Google SERPs.
3. On-Page Optimization
Optimizing content for users is one thing, but improving your on-page elements for search engines (and also users) is another. Here are the common on-page optimization practices you should take into account:
- Page titles, meta titles, and meta descriptions
Search engines like Google use these pieces of information to develop snippets regarding your content, and they are helpful to also improve click-through rates in SERPs.
- Heading tags
Properly labeling your headers with the appropriate heading tag helps break up content into readable chunks, improving the average time on the page. Plus, headings tags help Google identify headings from main texts.
- Alternative text
Alt text gives search engines a written description of an image within your content, helping them derive meaning.
- Internal links
These links allow Google and website visitors to easily access other pages on your website. The hyperlink must convey the context and meaning of the internal link. These also pass rank juice from the current webpage to the hyperlink’s destination.
4. Off-Page Optimization
As the name suggests, off-page SEO is the opposite of on-page. This aspect denotes the authoritativeness, relevance, usefulness, and trustworthiness of your website on the internet, with respect to how other websites echo back to you.
There are three ways to secure a strong off-page SEO:
The more external webpages linking back to you, the more Google notices your website making rounds online. Additionally, the more authoritative a website that links back to yours, the higher authority score your website gets.
For example, an HVAC business that gets a link back from popular domains like Carrier Global will make Google trust your website more.
- Local search profiles
Pro Tip: Encourage your happy clients to rate your business in Google Map listings to increase the authority and SEO power of your business.
- Social media influence
A backlink from Facebook to your website doesn’t give the same trust and authority as outlined above, while LinkedIn and Twitter rank in search engines. Nevertheless, social media profiles like are valuable sources of traffic to your website.
Modern SEO vs Google Algorithm Updates
The world of SEO is ever-changing, and is sure to evolve countless more times as Google continues to “improve” its search algorithm. Just remember, Google is in it to win it, regardless of the true costs to your business.
The goal of modern SEO is to eliminate any refuted practices as demonstrated by Google’s core and periodic updates and to employ good, acceptable, and effective SEO practices in online campaigns to ensure positive SERPs ranking potential from Google.
More Google Updates Are On Their Way
With Google’s history, there are more major updates coming our way in the next few months. It’s a great idea to start optimizing your business’ webpages according to the most significant core updates in the last decade and the 5 latest updates from the time of this article posting date.
Modern SEO combined with adherence to Google’s algorithm, you can ensure a significant increase in sales, more generated leads, and a secured brand image.
If you need help optimizing your home service business to outperform your competitors, the Wizard of Ads™ has got you covered. Book a call now and let’s make your business into a household name!