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An All-In-One Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet For Success

We’ve all been here: one day you’re on cloud nine after seeing your page land on page one of Google’s search results, but some time later you check that same page and find it’s dropped a few spots. What’s the deal with that?

Google’s algorithm is constantly changing and evolving, causing marketers and businesses like you to have that “What the heck?!” moment when your page rankings change. 

In an effort to help you avoid those moments, we’ve created a Google algorithm cheat sheet to help you navigate the highs and lows of creating and maintaining website content that tops search results and masters Google’s algorithm.

Today we’re covering the following about the Google search algorithm:

Keep reading to learn from a Google Premier Partner and award-winning SEO agency about what makes the Google algorithm tick and how you can stay on top of it.

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What is the Google algorithm?

First, let’s state the obvious: what exactly is the Google algorithm?

The Google search algorithm is a complex system of rules used to rank websites in search results. These algorithms pull information from pages and uses it to rank them based on quality and relevance to a user’s search query.

Google’s algorithm ranks pages based on a complex series of factors, which change frequently via algorithm updates.

The bad news? Google won’t reveal its top ranking factors, there’s only so much we know about what goes into Google choosing the top-ranking pages. The good news is, we can still give you a solid rundown on some of the key Google ranking factors that we do know about.

Key Google algorithm ranking factors in 2024

Some of the key Google algorithm ranking factors include:

  • Page speed
  • Content relevance
  • HTTPS status
  • Link quality
  • Website design
  • User engagement

Read on to learn more about these ranking factors in more detail.

Page speed

A top priority when it comes to Google ranking factors is page or website speed. A lagging page offers a poor user experience, and in a world where people want information and want it fast, pages with slow speeds tend to see more users leaving quickly.

Improving page speed for Google’s algorithm isn’t about having a loading time that’s milliseconds faster than your competition, though. Rather, it’s about meeting a minimum standard and providing visitors with a great user experience.

Content relevance and quality

Publishing quality content on your site is key to staying on the good side of Google’s algorithm, as is publishing content that’s relevant to your target keyword.

High quality content should keep users on your page for longer periods of time and have a lower bounce rate. Additionally, it should be helpful to the user and relevant to the search terms they entered to find your page.

HTTPS status

Your HTTPS status, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure status, refers to the security of your site. A network protocol standard, HTTPS encrypts data and ensures its safe transfer across a secure connection. Without it, your site information is visible and vulnerable to hackers.

Link quality

When creating high-quality content, you also want to ensure you’re linking to relevant and informative pages. Otherwise, those links could hurt your rankings. Associating your page with other reputable, relevant pages looks good on you, and looks great in Google’s eyes.

Website design

The design of your website plays a big hand in how the Google algorithm sees your website because it affects user experience, engagement, and overall perception.

Bad web design can make it hard for users to navigate your site, and if trying to find a page becomes too much of a hassle, users will abandon your site altogether, hardly interacting with it. When Google sees users quickly leaving your site due to bad design, your rankings will take a hit.

The Google algorithm is also going to look at the accessibility of your site too, specifically on different devices. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly and accessible to Internet users surfing the web on devices other than desktop computers or laptops.

User engagement

We briefly mentioned this already, but it’s worth noting again — high bounce rates, or the rate at which users quickly leave your site without having interacted with it, can negatively affect your Google search rankings.

Higher bounce rates indicate that the quality of your content may be low, or your web design is poor. Whatever the reason, high bounce rates means less user engagement and ultimately, lower rankings.

Important Google algorithm updates

The history of Google’s search algorithm is full of updates to its ranking factors. Below are some of the key Google algorithm updates over the years.

Google Panda

Google Panda was a major update to the algorithm that cracked down on “thin content,” or low-quality content. This includes websites with high ad-to-content ratios, content farms, and other quality issues. This Google algorithm update affected almost 12% of all search results, causing dramatic losses for some companies and ranking boosts for others.

Google Penguin

Taking affect in 2012, Google Penguin targeted websites that used black hat SEO techniques and engaged in aggressive webspam tactics. Instead, the algorithm update encouraged websites to create high-quality sites and content that promoted great user experiences.

Google Hummingbird

Google Hummingbird aimed to bridge the gap between the keywords people used in search queries and the type of content they wanted to see. In other words, it was about better recognizing and understanding search intent and ensuring the most relevant and informative content was shown to users.

Google RankBrain

The RankBrain update was released as an extension to Google Hummingbird. Google RankBrain employed machine-learning artificial intelligence (AI) to sort through search results and better understand the intent of search queries.

How often is there a Google algorithm update?

Google Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and RankBrain are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Google algorithm updates. Google makes adjustments to its algorithm constantly. In fact, Google’s algorithm sees thousands of updates each year, ranging from minor tweaks to massive changes.

If that’s the case, how am I supposed to know which updates are important? How do I track it all?

We’re glad you asked. Let’s dive into how you can keep track of Google algorithm updates without feeling overwhelmed or worried you missed something important.

How to track Google algorithm updates

Below are a few simple ways you can stay in tune with Google’s algorithm updates:

  • Monitor your web analytics: Search rankings will fluctuate with an update, so keep an eye on your search rankings and web analytics for any major changes. If you notice one, do some research to see if an update was launched and could be to blame.
  • Use an algorithm tracker: When you pair an algorithm tracker like Moz’s MozCast or Sensor from SEMrush, with your website analytics, you can keep an eye on the updates that directly affect your website traffic and performance.
  • Use social media: Social media can be a powerful ally in tracking Google algorithm updates. Head over to Twitter and follow @searchliason, where you can get algorithm updates straight from Google.
  • Partner with an agency: Frequent Google algorithm updates mean you need long-term SEO care. While you can do this yourself, working with an agency can be incredibly helpful, because you’ll have an SEO specialist who lives and breathes search rankings and can help you keep track of incoming algorithm updates.

5 tips for mastering Google’s algorithm

We won’t leave you hanging — check out five tips to master the Google algorithm.

1. Ensure fast page speeds

No one wants to wait for a slow page to load — not even Google! When building or optimizing your website for SEO, ensure your page speeds are meeting the standards set by Google’s algorithm.

Check out our SEO audit tool that analyzes your site speed below:

SEO and Page Speed Checker

2. Create quality content

The Google algorithm rewards those who provide relevant, quality content. When creating content for your website, whether it’s product pages or blog posts, make sure it provides value to your users. High-quality content will keep users on your site longer and encourage them to come back to your site. In the eyes of Google, this is great for better rankings.

3. Ensure your HTTPS status is intact

Your website data is important, and so is your customers’. To stay on Google’s good side, make sure your HTTPS status is secure. This way, you can keep your data secure from potential hackers and breaches.

4. Build a strong link profile

Having a strong link profile on your site tells Google that your website is reputable and trustworthy. You can build a strong link profile by ensuring that you’re creating quality content and linking out to other trustworthy sites.

5. Build a responsive website

When designing your website, keep mobile devices in mind. Internet users aren’t restricted to computers — they’re surfing the web via smartphones, tablets, and a host of other devices. By creating a responsive website, you can make yourself more accessible to Internet users and encourage more engagement from them.

Looking for an all-in-one SEO audit tool? You’ve found it

SEO checker provides data on key metrics to give you:

  • Complete SEO score
  • Site Speed Analysis
  • Content Grade
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BONUS: Partner with an award-winning agency

When you partner with an agency that deals with SEO and Google rankings on a daily basis, you’re partnering with a powerful ally that can help you stay on top of the rollercoaster that is Google algorithm updates.WebFX is an award-winning SEO agency and Google Premier Partner that’s helped generate over $6 billion in revenue for its clients. Learn how WebFX can be the perfect partner for your business by giving us a call at 888-601-5359 or contacting us online today.

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