Google Ranking Algorithm

What Is The Google Algorithm?

The Google algorithm is a complex system of formulas that Google created to determine which web pages should rank in the search results for specific search queries.

Think of Google as a huge system of mathematical formulas that operates in real-time. When people search for a keyword, Google looks through its index of content and decides which pages best answer that keyword.

The algorithm is believed to consist of over 200+ Google ranking factors.

An estimated 8.5 billion searches are made on Google every single day.

Content relevance, source expertise, backlink profile and user experience are currently considered some of the top Google ranking factors.

Over time, Google updates its algorithms to improve the results for its users. These updates consist of small tweaks and larger reported updates.

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How Does Google Search Algorithm Work?

Google’s search algorithm works by considering a number of factors and signals, such as the search query, content relevance, page useability, user location and source trustworthiness.

The factors are then analysed by the Google ranking algorithm formula, which produces the rankings of pages in the Google search results.

The importance of each factor and signal changes based on the search query.

Think about it like this…

There are three core parts to Google’s search algorithm:

  1. Crawling and Indexing: Google’s web crawler, Googlebot, crawls the internet and adds websites to its index.
  2. Query Processing: Google’s algorithm processes the search query to understand what information the user is looking for.
  3. Ranking: Google’s algorithm then ranks the indexed pages based on various factors to provide the most relevant information first.

Sounds simple, right?

The truth is that no one knows EXACTLY how Google’s algorithm works because they’ve never released all the details.

But Google gives broad advice to help website owners and over the years SEOs have learned a lot about the algorithm through testing.

What Algorithms Does Google Use?

Google uses several different smaller algorithms that make up the main Google algorithm.

Here’s a list of the algorithms Google is using today:

1. Core Algorithm

Think of Google’s core algorithm as the main algorithm.

It combines all of the smaller algorithms together to power the Google search results.

2. Ranking Algorithm

Google’s ranking algorithm is designed specifically to decide which pages should rank in the search results and the order in which they should be shown.

There are a huge number of unknown factors that make up the ranking algorithm. But there are also several Google has confirmed:

Google has confirmed these factors as part of the active ranking algorithm.

Panda is one of the most significant updates ever introduced to the Google ranking algorithm back in 2011.


Google developed PageRank to assess the importance and relevance of webpages based on backlinks.

The algorithm looks at the quality and quantity of dofollow links a webpage has and assigns it a score. The overall score emphasises the authority of each page.

Pages with higher PageRank are considered more trustworthy and rank higher in the SERPs.


Google gets millions of new search queries it has never encountered before every single day.

This was a big problem for Google – Until they developed the RankBrain algorithm.

RankBrain is an AI-powered machine learning algorithm developed by Google to better understand the context and intent behind complex searches.

This allows Google to still show relevant results to a user, even if it doesn’t completely understand what they typed in.


BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is a deep learning algorithm that understands context.

It was developed so that Google could better understand the nuances of words and how they relate to each other in each search.

Mobile-First Indexing

If you didn’t know…

The world has gone mobile. Statistics show that about 60% of all searches are now on a mobile device.

Mobile-first indexing means that Google primarily uses a website’s mobile version to decide its ranking position in search results – Even if the search is done on a desktop.


Hilltop is a smaller algorithm that identifies the most authoritative pages and documents on a specific topic.

Think of it like an index for “expert documents” only.

Spam Algorithm

Google’s spam algorithm does exactly what it sounds like it does…

It removes low-quality, spammy websites from the search results by finding websites that violate Google’s spam policies.

These can include:

  • Participating in link schemes
  • Creating spammy content with AI
  • Manipulating the algorithm on purpose

And more!

Penguin was the name of the update that introduced the spam algorithm in 2012.

How Often Does Google Change Their Algorithm?

Most SEO experts estimate that Google changes their algorithm 500 to 600 times per year.

This usually consists of 8-10 major updates Google confirms each year.

The rest of the updates are generally minor tweaks to Google’s systems.

You can follow Google Search Status Dashboard to see every time Google release a large update.

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