Ep 91: How Google Search works

19 Jun 2023

There’s a lot of confusion about how Google decides what it is going to rank and where for any search term. So this episode is an attempt to clear it up and explain in an easy to understand way


Find us at https://beyondthekitchentable.co.uk

Free PDF download: https://beyondthekitchentable.co.uk/downloads/

Blog post https://beyondthekitchentable.co.uk/blog

Follow us at https://www.instagram.com/beyondthekt

Email sayhello@beyondthekitchentable.co.uk


Hello, welcome to episode number 90, one of the website, coach podcast. And this week, I'm going to be talking about how Google search works. And more specifically how you can make it work for you. Because I think there's a lot of misunderstanding around this. Now. If you are of a similar age to me or a bit younger, you might well remember the yellow pages. This was the phone book. The go-to to look up the trade or business that you needed. So, if you needed a plumber, for example, or a yoga teacher, something like that, you could go to the yellow pages. Find the relevant section and look them up. And it had the best advert. I think the author was Jr Hartley and he was looking for a copy of his book on fly fishing and phoning all the local bookshops. Remember that? So, if you are a local business with a phone number, you could get a listing for free. Now you could pay more to have a more prominent listing. Or because it was alphabetical. If you were smart, you would just name your business, starting with a, so you came out at the top. Yes. That's why we had a driving school, a driving school, a one driving school, et cetera. It was simple. It was easy and the rules were clear. And many business owners seem to think that Google works similarly. Did, if you have a website you will get listed under relevant terms that people search for. In fact, I've had a few clients recently who've asked me to rank their website for specific search terms. That is add them to the list of terms that website ranks for. But Google doesn't work like the yellow pages. You don't tell it where to put you. It decides. And as I mentioned, there's so much mystery about how Google and indeed other search engines work. How do they decide which websites rank for different search terms and the order they rank? So I thought it would useful to understand how it works. Or at least this is my interpretation of how it works. It's not definitive guide and Google changes its algorithm thousands of time a year and Google doesn't publish its algorithm, but it does tell us some of the important factors. I'm not going to give you the precise way it works. That would be out of date by the time this podcast eighth in any event. But I am going to give you those principles and these principles generally do not change. So before we get onto what smooth those are, it's important to take a step back. And think about what goop Google does. And what motivates it when it's ranking search results. So Google is a business it's a very large and successful one. But it's a business. It is not a public service. It's motivation is to make money for shareholders. And as far as its search engine is concerned, it makes its money from ads. In fact, the ads on the search engine are Google's biggest source of revenue. It's about two thirds of its $280 billion in revenue. Come from search engines. Come from search ads. Now to maximize the revenue. It makes some ads, it needs to maximize the number of people using it. Search engine. There are about eight and a half billion searches on Google every day. People pay to advertise on Google because they have the chance of being seen by some of those eight and a half billion. Almost everyone uses Google. So it's a good place to advertise. And Google needs to make sure its search engine stays ahead of the competition. So people use it rather than one of its competitors. Now Google has tapped by a lot of it's competition, but that's another story. If Google search engine was rubbish, it would lose many of those eight and a half billion people. And it's revenue from search would go down. There are some cynical people who argue that Google doesn't show certain businesses in the search results. So they have to pay to come out on the top in the paid for results. Now I don't buy that argument at all. First of all, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest it's true. And if you understand the principles of their ranking, you'll see the results broadly. Follow this. Even if it might frustrate you that your result isn't in there. Secondly, it's not in their interest to get people searching poor results. Because people searching would then turn to being you who are on the search engine. So Google is motivated to give people using its search engine. The best possible results. So, if you can't tell Google what to rank your page for, how does Google decide? Well, first of all, you need to understand that Google actually ranks individual webpages, not websites. Although it can see the links between the pages on your website, or at least if you set them up to link to each other. And the Google bots constantly crawl the internet, finding webpages. Deciding what it thinks are about and adding them to its index. Is it found one of your website pages? What would it think it was about. If you try to make a web page rank for lots of terms. The reality is Google. Probably won't think the pages back, any of them. And therefore it's not going to rank it for those terms. Because it will think, and they're not strong enough for any of the terms. So a wedding photographer that lists 20 venues. They want to be a photographer at. We'll probably be ignored for all of them by Google. Because F or when Google finds that page, it won't think that page is about a wedding photographer at any of those venues. I mean, it might think they're a better wedding photographer, but it's not going to link them to those venues if they just mentioned the beach once and they mentioned 20 different ones. You're much better trying to rank a page for single term. Or maybe a couple of related terms than lots. So that wedding photography example would be better choosing the top, say six venues. And having a separate page on each. Yes. It's six times the work. I never said it was going to be easy. But if you're willing to put in the work that others aren't, then you're more likely to succeed. And that is actually the thing about search engine optimization is it does come down to work. And if you put the effort in, you can improve your rankings. Okay. But if, and when Google finds those pages, It will realize they're about wedding photography at those venues. So it will index them for those terms. I just want to add the Google reads words and whilst it's getting better contextualizing content, for example, it can understand the difference between. Apple as in the fruit. And apple as in the business, as long as there is some context around the word apple. There are limits. So when the first version of my website talked a lot about building a business beyond your kitchen table, the kitchen table, being a place of dreams, et cetera. I ranked more highly for kitchen cables and for websites. That's the true story. I soon learned. But seriously, a common mistake is not using language that is clear enough for Google to understand what your page is about. So it considers a page, title, URL, headings, and subheadings alt text on images and body text. In fact, I've got a checklist as a free download. So I put the link to that in the show notes. If you actually want to go and check out what it is that you need to put on your website in order for Google to understand what a single page is about. And obviously you can use that list to your advantage. Think about what you want Google to rank your page for. And use those words in each of those places so that Google can easily see what that page is about. Um, I talked, I've done a number of podcast episodes on how to rank on Google. The most recent is episode 61, which was all about doing your own SEO. So go and check that out. If you're interested in doing it. And once Google has indexed at web page for term. Then you're in with a chance to rank for that, but that really is the first step Google's got to understand. What your page is about. Now unless you're very niche. Chances are when somebody types a search term into Google, there'll be a lot of web pages that Google has indexed for that search term. So, how does it decide the order in which to rank them? Well, it considers two key factors. Relevance. Trust or authority. So talk about relevance. First of all, relevance is kind of what we've just been talking about. It considers how relevant each of the index pages are to the person searching. So partly that's the content. And obviously there are some pages which are going to be much stronger in terms of the content than others are, even if it'd been index for the same term. But Google tries to work out the intent of the person searching. And it tries to serve results, which are most relevant to them. So, for example, if somebody types in personal trainer, It might think that that person is looking for a personal trainer. That's a very reasonable assumption. So it will serve up what it thinks are the strongest results for that person. Now that might be a list or a directory of personal trainers. And individual personal trainers. But it's likely to favor personal trainers, which are closest to the person searching. Even if they haven't specified a location. And we actually looked at this for a client recently and found they ranked number seven for particular term. When we searching from Cambridge. But they ranked number 40 with the same search term, but setting the location of searches London. Even though they have clients from both. Probably more from London actually, because they are a venue with overnight accommodation. And whilst you can't control the location. You can make sure your pages as relevant as possible for the term you want to rank for. Now, I don't think Google always takes location into account. If you're searching for how to, I don't know, make a chocolate cake. It can see that the intent is that you want to make a chocolate cake and it doesn't really matter where the recipe comes from. So the other is trust or authority. So Google also considers how trustworthy or authoritative the website is when deciding how to rank for any search term. I mean, it doesn't want you to get spammy results. Because remember it wants to give its clients the best results. So, if it decides to pages are equally relevant, it will choose the one that had trust most. And in fact, the one that it trusts the most might even outrank a better page of content. Just like if you asked two friends to recommend, say massage therapist, And they recommend a different therapist. You're more likely to go with the one, the person you trust the most. Or has greater authority, the one that they recommend. So, what does Google consider factors of trust or authority? Well, there's actually quite a long list and I'm just going to talk about some of the key ones here. So the first and most important is backlinks from other reputable websites. This is huge. Google considers backlinks to be a vote in favor of your website. But it takes into account the sorority of the website, giving the backlink. So anybody buying backlinks from dodgy sources doesn't gain. Another one, which is really important is reviews, particularly Google reviews, because again, ALO, you can gain these to a certain extent. Um, but you should always be asking for reviews because Google does look at this. It looks at where those reviews have come from. And in order to leave a review on Google business and you do actually need to have a Gmail address anyway. It thinks about the age of your website. The longer you've been around, the more established you are, the more you can be trusted. It looks at whether your website has an SSL certificate. That's the padlock, which is a sign of encryption. If sign up security. It looks at the page experience. How fast your website loads, whether annoying popups, et cetera. Well, I'm not sure it quite falls into the category of trust and authority. I'd also like to point out that Google likes to see links on a webpage to links to other websites and internal links. Because Google uses these to crawl the internet. Now that's not all. The combination of relevance and trust or authority should give a set of results that are pretty good for the person searching. But Google then takes into account user behavior. So very few people click on the top search results, but lots more people click on the second result. Then over time, it will upgrade the one people are clicking on and downgrade the one that gets ignored. And I suspect that's how I managed to wet perform results. That should have been higher than mine on at least one blog post that was on page one of Google. I used to collaborate title, which encode clicks. But post itself was very relevant. Good. So I don't think it was click baity. Similarly, if Google sees people click on one result, but quickly click off, whereas they spend more time on another result. It will understand that people searching. Don't like one of the results and it will over time, it will downgrade it and it will promote the result those searching do like. So Google does take into account user behavior, and that's often where you can see some anomalies in terms of some of the search results. Okay. So I'm hoping that quick was around how Google works has helped you. It's actually pretty logical and intuitive. It's not quite the dark heart, that those who do SEO for a living might lead you to believe. ALO. I would say getting results on SEO does take a lot of time and effort. And the key points to remember are. The Google is a business and it's committed to getting the best search results for its client. The people searching. So you need to make sure that your result, your page is one of the best possible results for that particular search term in order to be in with a chance. Also Google uses links to crawl the web and find web pages. And when Google finds web page, it reads it to find out what it is about and decides whether it should index it and what it should index it for. And when it comes to presenting the results. Google considers the searcher's intent and then presents results based upon relevancy and trust or authority. In order to build up your trust or authority. Getting backlinks from reputable sources is a hugely important factor. As is getting Google reviews. But Google also considered searches behavior and upgrades or downgrades results based upon what people click on and what people spend time on. So that's it. Please do let me know if that's helpful and particularly what has landed with you. What. Of those things that I've just listed. Did you not expect, so please do get in touch and email me. I'd love to know whether you found that helpful. I'm at say hello at, beyond the kitchen table.co.uk. Or follow me on Instagram. I'm up beyond the KT and please do feel free to send me a message on there as well. And if this is kind of thing that you're interested in learning a bit more about than I am planning to run a series of workshops and probably some online courses after the summit in it. So please do get in touch and let me know if that's something that you might be interested in and I will let you know when they come out. So that's it for this week have a great week and i'll see you next week Week.