How Does Google Work?

To understand SEO, it’s important to have an understanding of how Google works. The search engine is incredibly complex, and Google is notoriously secretive about exactly how it works, but over the years they’ve revealed a fair amount of key information. 

At the core, Google exists to return relevant information to searchers. That’s why we all use it, right? We trust that most of the time, it will return information relevant to our searches. If it didn’t reliably do this, no one would use it. If you search for “dog food” and Google returns pages with fish tanks, that information is useless to you. 

In order to make users happy, Google is always trying to find the best, most relevant information for a given search. But how does it determine which web pages are the best and most relevant?

Ranking Factors

The Google algorithm uses over 200 different factors when evaluating pages. These factors help Google determine which pages to return in search results. You enter a search term and Google evaluates millions of pages by their ranking factors to find the results that best match your search. 

In simple terms, pages with higher “scores” are listed higher in search results than pages with lower “scores”. The better a page is according to all the different ranking factors, the higher it appears in the search results. 

As you would expect, not all the ranking factors are equal. Some are much more important than others. So which ones matter the most? Google hasn’t made it 100% clear which ones are the most important, but there seems to be a fair amount of agreement around a few:

  • Search intent
  • Backlinks
  • Page speed
  • User experience
  • Content freshness, depth, and accuracy
  • Site authority
  • Security
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Structured data
  • Optimized for voice search

We’ll go into much greater detail about each of these factors as we get further into this SEO tutorial for beginners. To go into much more detail about all the different ranking factors, check out Brian Dean’s post on Google’s 200 Ranking Factors.

If you want to succeed with SEO, focus on the factors listed above. In the articles that follow, we’re going to explore each of the factors and what they mean for your website in particular. 

By the end, you’ll have a much greater sense of how SEO works, along with specific action steps you can take to increase the amount of search traffic your website receives.