How does Google Work? Part 1: Understanding Google


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The simple question, “How does Google Work?" is hard to answer because there are many factors at play. We know most of the information but not everything. As an industry, we must dig a bit and try to figure parts of it out.

While Google doesn’t share their algorithm makeup (it’s their secret sauce), they share a lot of information that helps us figure out how they rank sites. And if you’re like most business owner’s you want to know, “How do you get ranked on Google?”. In this series, we’re going to work on answering that question.

However, it’s a complicated process, and there are multiple factors, so we’re going to break it down into more manageable sections.

The good news is that while there are multiple ranking factors, most of them are in your control. In today’s blog post we’re going to talk about one of the most critical factor’s, your site’s technical health. Website and blog health is an area that a lot of people don’t understand. Unfortunately,  you can’t dig your head in the sand and ignore this and expect to rank high in Google's search results.

Whether you consider yourself to be technical or not, does not matter. If you want to rank well in the search results, you must have a technically sound website.

Googlebot is Essentially a Toddler

I was at an SEO conference a few years back, and I heard a speaker describe Google bot as an unruly toddler. As a mom with an almost 3-year-old, I find this description very easy to understand. While Googlebot can do a lot, it still needs our help and precise instructions. As much as it may want to, it can’t do everything on its own yet.

Googlebot is not your independent high school or college kid. It’s your 2-3-year-old, maybe five at the most, and it needs your help to do its job.

As a toddler mom, I recently read a book that told me to think of my toddler as a caveman, not a little adult. Do you see where I’m going with this? Googlebot needs our help. If we want to be ranked well in the search results, we need to make it easy for Google to do that.

Understanding that Google is a Business, not a Service

Aside from the fact that we want to have good rankings, why would we care about helping Google? Well, think about this for a minute, Google is a business. They’re here to make money and provide value for their customers. They’re not just here to rank your website and provide a service to your customers.  When we talk about keyword rank, you must remember that Google is a business. Like any other business, they need to make money and keep customers coming back.

Google makes money based on ads on their search engine, so the more customers who use Google, the more money they stand to earn. Because Google makes money on ads seen by customers, they want to make sure customers visit frequently. They do this by working hard to provide the best search results they can for each query.

Google is not trying to make it hard for you to rank #1; they’re trying to make sure their customers get what they need, so they keep coming back. By providing relevant results that answer their customer's queries, Google builds their customer loyalty. And because Googlebot is a great tool but still young, it’s up to us to help ourselves be ranked. Would you ask your toddler to cook dinner on their own or would you have them help you? It’s the same type situation.

How Does Googlebot Crawl Your Website or Blog?

Googlebot follows the links within your website and crawls your pages that way. It reads the information on your site and uses that data to help rank you. If your site can’t be crawled, you can’t be ranked. Googlebot uses a mix of your XML or HTML sitemaps and the links within your site itself for the crawl. Therefore, your site’s technical foundation is critical to your success.

How do you know if Googlebot Can Crawl your Website or Blog?

If you don’t have a Google Search Console account already, you need to sign up now. It’s free. It’s easy to set up and is how you’ll find out if Google is having issues with your website. Start here and open an account. Google changed the name from Google Webmaster Tools to Google Search Console; it’s the same thing. You’ll see both names at times.

What should you check in your Search Console account?

  • Make sure you’ve submitted a sitemap. This document lets Google know where to go to find the URLs on your site so that it can be crawled.
  • Check to see if there are any indexation issues. Are the number of URLs submitted close to the number that Google has indexed? You want to be within 10%. Ideally, 100% match is your goal. If there’s a big discrepancy, then Google isn’t indexing your whole site, which means you’re missing opportunities to rank.
  • See if there are any error messages. If Google can’t crawl your site, they’ll let you know.
  • Review your 404 errors; if there are a bunch of not found URLs, Google will alert you. You need to clean them up.

There are other, more advanced, options within Search Console. Start with the basics and clean up any issues there first.

Knowing When to Hire Help

If this is a bit overwhelming or you look at your account, and you’re not sure what to do, hire an SEO consultant. It will cost you a little money for an SEO review. However, it’s going to benefit you in the end. I’ve seen companies clean up technical issues and have their keyword rank go up significantly because Google could finally crawl and index their website. When keyword rankings increase, we see traffic and revenue increase as a result. Hiring a technical SEO specialist is an investment with a good ROI in most instances.

If you’re trying to DIY your site, this is one area where you may need help, and that’s OK. Start with Search Console, address what you can and if you’re in doubt, hire a consultant. The team at Etched Marketing provides technical health clean up for our clients. If you're not sure how to fix the issues on your website, contact us, and we'd be happy to do it for you.

Next, in the How Does Google Work series

In the next blog post in this series, we’ll dig into how the content you write impacts your keyword rank. We’ll look into what you can do to improve your rankings and why quality matters.

Request your copy of the SEO checklist today and learn what to do on every page to rank higher on Google.