How Google’s Algorithm Works: 2 Leaked Documents Expose the Truth

The recent leak of internal documents has revealed some (previously) unknown aspects of how Google’s algorithm works.. Some surprising, some expected, and some down-right creepy…We’ve poured over the data and compiled a list of the most important aspects of the elusive algorithm, and we’re handing it over to you for action (and safekeeping).

The Ten Previously Secret Aspects of Google’s Algorithm

1. What’s Your User’s Click Patterns?

Turns out Google tracks and utilizes user click patterns to influence rankings, and they prioritize pages with higher engagement rates​. 

What does this mean? 

Click patterns refer to the behavior of users when they interact with search results. This includes which links they click on, how frequently they click on certain types of content, and their overall engagement with the search results. 

A deep dive into how click patterns influence rankings:

📊 Engagement Metrics: Google uses metrics such as click-through rates (CTR) and bounce rates to gauge the relevance and usefulness of a page. Higher CTRs mean the page title and description are highly relevant to the user’s query, leading to better rankings.

⏱️ Dwell Time: The amount of time a user spends on a page after clicking on it (known as dwell time) is a key indicator of content quality. Longer dwell times = engaging and valuable content. So Google will rank these pages higher.

🚥 User Satisfaction Signals: If users frequently return to the search results shortly after clicking on a link (pogo-sticking), it signals to Google that the page did not meet their expectations. This can lead to lower rankings for the page.

🔄 Direct Feedback Loop: Google’s algorithm dynamically adjusts rankings based on real-time user feedback, ensuring that the most engaging and satisfactory results are given prominence.

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2. We Love AI, and So Does Google

It looks like Google’s algorithm relies heavily on AI, specifically to evaluate content quality. Not shocked? Neither are we. But, interestingly, the algorithm focuses on relevance and user satisfaction… rather than just keywords​​ as previously thought. Google’s AI systems analyze various factors to determine how well a piece of content meets user needs and its overall trustworthiness.

🔍 Relevance and Context: The AI assesses how well the content matches the user’s query.

📊 User Engagement Metrics (again): Engagement metrics such as click-through rates (CTR), bounce rates, and dwell time are analyzed as a measure of user satisfaction​.

Content Freshness: Google’s AI gives preference to fresh, updated content, particularly for topics where information changes rapidly​.

🎖️ Authority and Trustworthiness: The AI evaluates the authority of the content based on factors like backlinks, the credibility of the author, and the site’s overall reputation​​.

⚙️ Natural Language Processing (NLP): Google’s AI uses NLP to understand the nuances of the content, including tone, readability, and the presence of spammy or low-quality elements​.

3. Keeping Up With the Algorithm

So it’s true. The algorithm is changing constantly. It’s completely fluid. Search results are dynamically adjusted based on real-time user interactions and feedback. So…every second. This is great for the end user, because it ensures only the most useful content is displayed​.

As a business, here’s what you need to consider:

Real-Time User Feedback: Google monitors user interactions with search results, such as clicks, dwell time, and bounce rates, to adjust rankings dynamically. Content that receives positive engagement is pushed higher, while content with negative feedback may be demoted​.

🤖 Algorithmic Learning: The algorithm learns from user interactions to understand better what content is most relevant and satisfying. This learning process is ongoing, ensuring that the search results evolve with changing user preferences and behaviors​.

🖱️ Click-Through Rates (CTR): Pages with higher CTRs are often deemed more relevant to user queries, leading to improved rankings. Conversely, pages with lower CTRs may be pushed down the search results​ (Neil Patel)​.

↪️ Pogo-Sticking: If users frequently return to the search results after clicking on a link (known as pogo-sticking), it indicates that the content did not meet their expectations. This feedback leads to a drop in rankings for the unsatisfactory page​ (Search Engine Journal)​​ (Search Engine Land)​.

📊 Engagement Metrics: Other engagement metrics, such as the length of time users spend on a page (dwell time) and the depth of interaction with the content, are critical indicators used in dynamic adjustments​.

4. Your Site’s Authority Matters More Than Ever

Authority and trustworthiness of sources are given even higher weight than before, especially for YMYL (Your Money Your Life) queries.

What does this mean?

Content from recognized experts, credible institutions, and reputable websites is more likely to rank higher in search results.

How to increase your site’s authority:

1️⃣ Obtain Backlinks from Reputable Sites: High-quality backlinks from authoritative sites signal to Google that your content is trustworthy and valuable.

2️⃣ Highlight Author Expertise and Credentials: Content written by or associated with experts in the field is given higher priority, especially for YMYL (Your Money Your Life) topics.

3️⃣ Site Reputation and History: Sites with a long-standing reputation for quality content are favored in search rankings.

4️⃣ Post Accurate and Reliable Content: Accurate, well-researched, and reliable content, supported by credible sources, is prioritized.

5. Content Farms

This comes as no surprise, but worth a mention. By learning how Google’s algorithm works, we found out that it actively demotes websites identified as content farms.

What this means for your site is, you need to be displaying original and valuable content​​.

What’s a content farm?

👎 High Volume of Low-Quality Content: These sites generate massive amounts of content on various topics, often lacking depth, originality, and usefulness.

📖 Keyword Stuffing: Content farms typically overuse keywords in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings.

💻 Poor User Experience: The content is usually written quickly and cheaply, leading to poor readability and a lack of valuable information for users.

🔗 Link Schemes: They often participate in link schemes, exchanging or buying links to artificially boost their search rankings.

6. Google Studies YOU

Creepy, but true, but creepy. Google uses extensive behavioral data to personalize search results. What is the algorithm doing?

It’s providing users with the most relevant outcomes based on their previous searches and interactions​.

What exactly is behavioral data?

Put simply, it’s the information collected about users’ interactions with websites and search results.

🔍 Search History: Google tracks users’ past searches to understand their interests and preferences. This history helps tailor future search results to align more closely with their behavior.

🖱️ Click-Through Rates (CTR): The frequency with which users click on certain types of content informs Google about their preferences, influencing the prioritization of similar content in future searches.

⏱️ Dwell Time: The amount of time a user spends on a page after clicking on a search result indicates the content’s relevance and quality. Longer dwell times generally lead to higher rankings for that content in future searches.

↪️ Bounce Rates: A high bounce rate (users quickly returning to the search results page) signals that the content did not meet user expectations, leading to lower rankings.

👀 Engagement Metrics: Metrics such as page views, interaction with multimedia content, and social sharing provide insights into user engagement and satisfaction.

📌 Location and Device Data: Google personalizes search results based on the user’s geographical location and the device they are using, offering more relevant local and mobile-friendly content.

7. How Google’s Algorithm Works: User Dwell Time

This one seems to be a recurring theme with Google. So listen close:

The amount of time a user spends on a page (dwell time) significantly affects the page’s ranking.

Longer dwell times = higher content quality​.

8. Is Your Site Mobile Friendly?

It looks like mobile-friendliness is a crucial ranking factor, with Google prioritizing sites that offer a seamless mobile experience​.

What does this mean for you? If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, you could miss out on a lot of traffic.

9. Google is Cracking Down on Spam

By reading how Google’s algorithm works, we can deduce that advanced algorithms are used to detect and penalize spammy practices, including link schemes and automated content generation​.

10. Preference for Fast-Loading Pages

Page speed is a critical factor in ranking, with faster-loading pages being preferred in search results.

Now that we’ve crunched the facts, let’s discuss how this directly impacts YOU.

How Google’s Algorithm Works: The Impact on Your SEO Efforts

1. Higher Standards for Content Quality

You need to produce high-quality content that encourages engagement. Your content should meet user needs and maintain its relevance over time

2. A Clear Emphasis on User Experience

Make sure your content is user-friendly, across both desktop and mobile devices.

3. Focus on Authoritative Content

Establishing authority through credible, well-researched content is even more critical than anyone realized.

4. Google’s Algorithm Is Clever, You Can’t Trick It

Avoid manipulative practices, such as link farms and keyword stuffing, to prevent penalties that will result in lower site traffic.

5. Behavioral Metrics Matter

Keeping score and optimizing metrics like click-through rates, dwell time, and bounce rates is vital to keep Google’s algorithm favoring your content.

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The Impact on Your Ad Strategies for Google Ads and PMax Campaigns

1. Relevance and Quality of Ads

Ads need to be highly relevant to the user’s search intent and provide genuine value.

2. User Engagement Focus

Creating ads that drive higher engagement and interaction will improve performance.

🔥 Our hot tip? If your ad is clever, funny or emotive, it will be more likely to drive engagement.

3. The Cross-Road Between Your Ads and SEO Practices

Ad strategies should complement SEO efforts by reinforcing high-quality content and a positive user experience.

4. Enhanced Targeting and Personalization

Personalization is key. Leverage behavioral data to more accurately target your specific user segment. It provides for a better user experience, which we know is important for that algorithm.

5. Ad Speed + Mobile Optimization = Happy Algorithm

Again, back to the mobile. Ensuring your ads load quickly and are optimized for mobile is not important, it’s crucial.

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Our Hot Takes on How Google’s Algorithm Works: Actionable Insights for Businesses

  1. Invest in High-Quality Content Creation
    • Allocate resources to create original, informative, and engaging content that addresses specific user needs and queries.
  2. Optimize for Mobile and Speed
    • Ensure your website is mobile-friendly and loads quickly to improve both user experience and rankings.
  3. Monitor Behavioral Metrics
    • Use analytics tools to track user engagement metrics such as click-through rates, dwell time, and bounce rates, and make data-driven improvements.
  4. Build Authority and Credibility
    • Focus on producing authoritative content, gaining backlinks from reputable sites, and maintaining a trustworthy online presence.
  5. Avoid Manipulative SEO Practices
    • Steer clear of black hat SEO tactics and focus on ethical, user-centric strategies to avoid penalties.
  6. Enhance Ad Relevance and Engagement
    • Design ads that are highly relevant to user search intent and encourage interaction to improve ad performance.
  7. Leverage Personalization
    • Utilize behavioral data to create personalized ad campaigns that target specific user interests and behaviors.
  8. Stay Updated with Algorithm Changes
    • Regularly follow updates from credible sources and adjust your strategies in response to new developments in Google’s algorithms.
  9. Integrate SEO and Ad Strategies
    • Ensure your SEO and advertising strategies are aligned to provide a cohesive user experience and reinforce each other’s effectiveness.
  10. Focus on Long-Term User Engagement
    • Aim to build long-term relationships with users by consistently providing valuable content and a positive experience.

FAQs

Google’s algorithm considers many factors, but some of the most important include:

  • Content relevance: Does your content address the user’s search query comprehensively and accurately?
  • Content quality: Is your content well-written, informative, and engaging?
  • User experience: Does your website load quickly and offer a positive user experience (mobile-friendliness, clear navigation)?
  • Backlinks: How many high-quality websites link to your content?
  • Technical SEO: Is your website structure optimized for search engines (e.g., proper use of title tags, meta descriptions)?
  • Create high-quality, relevant content: Focus on informative and valuable content that addresses your target audience’s needs.
  • Optimize for relevant keywords: Research keywords people use to find information like yours and incorporate them naturally throughout your content.
  • Build backlinks: Encourage other websites to link to your content by creating shareable content and guest blogging on relevant sites.
  • Ensure a good user experience: Make sure your website is mobile-friendly, loads quickly, and is easy to navigate.
  • Optimize website structure: Use clear titles, meta descriptions, and proper heading tags (H1, H2, etc.)

Google constantly updates its algorithm to fight spammy tactics. Focus on creating valuable content and a positive user experience. Don’t try to trick the system with keyword stuffing or other black-hat SEO techniques.

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