If you’ve done any reading on search engines or heard much news about them, then you’ve likely heard something about the Panda update, Penguin update, or most recently, the Hummingbird update. All of these updates are search engine algorithm updates.
You might be wondering what that means, exactly.
Search engines use mathematical analysis to determine how search engines should be ranked for queries when searchers make them. The fancy name for these mathematical calculations is “algorithm.”
An algorithm is a predefined set of calculations in computer science designed to automate a process of reasoning.
Google uses algorithms (note that there are really more than one) to analyze search criteria for the purpose of ranking websites. These algorithms are a sort of secret sauce that Google keeps close to its chest. They really don’t want anyone knowing exactly what their ranking criteria are because the concern is that people will use that knowledge to gain an unfair advantage in search marketing.
Many search engine marketers actually run a lot of tests to determine how Google uses its algorithms to rank web pages. But that’s getting harder and harder to do as Google expands its algorithmic search functions and increases the number of updates, which occur hundreds of times each year (over 500 algorithm updates were performed by Google in 2012 alone – more than one per day!)
For the purposes of most business owners, all you really need to know about search engine algorithms (other search engines use them too) is this: algorithms are the mathematical equations search engines use to determine where they will rank your website in the search engine results page. Google and the other search engines don’t publish their exact algorithms, but they do publish guidelines that all business owners should follow when they are performing SEO – or hiring a company to perform SEO – on their website.
Knowing the algorithm changes and what they mean will help you keep your SEO program on track and operating effectively with a positive ROI for your bottom line.