The first massive challenge is to locate new data, record what it’s about, and then store that information (with some accuracy) in a database.
Google’s next job is to figure out how to best match and display the information in its database when someone types in a search query. Scaling becomes a problem, though.
Google processes over 3.5 billion searches a day, and that number increases every year.
That means the information in its database needs to be categorized correctly, rearranged, and displayed in less than a second after someone expects it.
Time is of the essence here, because speed wins, according to Marissa Mayer back when she worked for Google over a decade ago.
She reported when they were able to speed up Google Maps’ home page (by cutting down on its size), traffic leaped 10 percent within seven days and 25 percent just a few weeks later.
Google won the search engine race because it’s able to:
Find and record more information
Deliver more accurate results
Do both of those two tasks faster than any other search engine
One of the reasons Google is the front of the pack comes down to the accuracy of its results.
The information it displays is more likely to match what users are actually looking for.
Think about it this way.
When you type something into Google, you’re expecting something. It might be a simple answer, like the weather in your city, or maybe a little more complex, like “how does Google’s search engine really work?”
Google’s results, compared to other search engines, tend to answer those queries better. The information was the best of the best.
This breakthrough came from an initial theory Google’s co-founders actually worked on in college.
Why Do Links Matter to Google?
Google’s co-founders were still at Stanford in 1998 when they released a paper entitled “The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web.”
RankBrain, however, is still a main component. It helps analyze or understand the connections between those links and content so Google can understand the context behind what someone’s asking. This is often called semantic search.
For example, let’s say you type in the word “engineer salaries.”
Now think about that for a moment. What type of engineer salaries are you looking for?
It could be “civil,” “electrical,” “mechanical,” or even “software.”
That’s why Google needs to use several different factors to figure out exactly what you’re asking for.
Let’s say the following events played out over the past few years:
You’re getting a degree in computer science.
Your IP address puts you on the campus of Stanford University.
You follow tech journalists on Twitter.
You read TechCrunch almost every single day.
You Googled “software engineer jobs” last week.
Google’s able to piece all of these random bits of data together. It’s like a bunch of puzzle pieces suddenly coming together.
So now Google knows what type of “engineer salaries” to show you, even though you never explicitly asked for “software engineer salaries.”
That’s also how Google is now answering your questions before you even ask them.
For example, do a generic search right now for anything, like “pizza.”
Now, what do you see?
You see the typical ad spaces up at the top.
However, the local results below the ads are assuming that you’re asking “where to get pizza.”
The Knowledge Graph on the far right-hand side is serving up almost every fact and figure about pizza imaginable.
RankBrain process and filters all this data to give you answers before you even ask them.
Change your search up a little (like this one for “pizza hut”) and the search engine result page (SERP) changes with new information.
That way, all you have to do is write out the specific title and description in plain text (as opposed to getting your hands dirty with code).
Otherwise, the actual page content should be written for humans (as opposed to keyword stuffing to tricks or fool the search engines).
Instead, here’s how your page content should look:
I wrote an in-depth response to help someone figure out a solution to a complex problem (keyword research).
Even though it’s a complex subject, I was trying to give them a simple, step-by-step solution so they could fix that problem ASAP.
Google even takes website usage data into account now to determine how helpful your content is.
For example, let’s say that someone clicks on your website from Google and is turned off by the poor design or hard-to-read content. So they ‘bounce back’ to Google immediately to find a different result.
That’s a bad sign! Google determines you weren’t a happy searcher. So maybe Google will try to find a few other results to swap out with that one to hopefully make everyone happy.
That’s why I also break up the paragraphs and include a lot of images. The goal is to help people quickly find what they’re looking for.
I want them to read the page faster and digest the information more easily so that they’ll stick around longer instead of bouncing away.
That’s the key to ranking well in search engines. Give the people what they want, keep them around or coming back for more, and Google will be happier as a result.
Let’s go back to our clogged drain example to see how this works in another context.
Those are all pretty good results!
In each case, the person who crafted each page provided a detailed answer to a common problem.
Let’s zero in on that second SERP result, “7 Brilliant Ways to Unclog a Drain (Photos)” from Yahoo, to discover what they’re doing so well to hit number two on a big, popular search query like that.
This seems like it might be a good result because it gives us multiple methods to try, along with photos so we can see exactly what’s happening.
Let’s click on that to see what they provide.
Pretty good overall!
It provides the user with good, quality content to help solve a problem. The better your content does that, the more links or ‘upvotes’ it will receive when other people find it useful, too.
Links and other citations or social signals help alert Google. They tell the search engine that your page is on the rise and to start paying attention to your website for these topics.
Your page will get better treatment, move up in the rankings, be exposed to more people, get more links or votes as a result, and continue that upward trend.
That’s where the genius of Google’s process comes into play.
It makes people happy by giving them exactly what they’re looking for. When you do it right, it gives you compounding benefits that can take off all of a sudden, expanding your website traffic as a result.