Google has just released a new page, A guide to Google Search ranking systems, which is full of great information for those looking to improve their website’s ranking.

The page goes into detail about the different ranking systems that Google uses to organize trillions of searches every year.

Some of Google’s systems, like those that interpret intent, took years to develop and have been shown to improve results across as much as 30% of worldwide searches.

This information can be helpful for both creators who want their content to rank higher and for those who want to understand how Google’s automated ranking systems work.

google ranking

1) BERT: better search intent

Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) is an AI system Google uses that allows us to understand how combinations of words express different meanings and intent.

Google Search

What it means for you:

Google is better able to understand the context of your content and match it with the search intent of users. This helps ensure that the content that ranks is the most relevant to their queries.

2) Crisis information systems: access to critical info

Google has developed systems to provide helpful and timely information during times of crisis, whether those involve personal crisis situations, natural disasters, or other wide-spread crisis situations:

  • Personal crisis: Our systems work to understand when people are seeking information about personal crisis situations to display hotlines and content from trusted organizations for certain queries related to suicide, sexual assault, poison ingestion, gender-based violence, or drug addiction.
  • SOS Alerts: During times of natural disasters or widespread crisis situations, our SOS Alerts system works to show updates from local, national, or international authorities. These updates may include emergency phone numbers and websites, maps, translations of useful phrases, donation opportunities, and more.
Google Search

What it means for you:

Ensuring that your content is timely, accurate, and relevant can help you show up in crisis-related searches. It’s important to make sure that your content is up to date and that you’re optimizing for the right terms.

3) Deduplication systems: to create a variety

Searches on Google may find thousands or even millions of matching web pages. Some of these may be very similar to each other. In such cases, our systems show only the most relevant results to avoid unhelpful duplication. Deduplication also happens with featured snippets.

Google Search

What it means for you:

To avoid having your content omitted from results, ensure that it is unique and provides value to the reader. You should also look into how you can optimize for featured snippets so that your pages are more likely to show up in them.

4) Exact match domain system: to outsmart those trying to outsmart Google

Our ranking systems consider the words in domain names as one of many factors to determine if the content is relevant to a search.

However, our exact match domain system works to ensure we don’t give too much credit for content hosted under domains designed to exactly match particular queries. For example, someone might create a domain name containing the words “best-places-to-eat-lunch” in hopes all those words in the domain name would propel content high in the rankings.

Google Search

What it means for you:

If you’re trying to rank for a particular keyword, consider the tradeoff of using the exact match phrase in your domain name. It won’t necessarily earn you any extra points with Google and may even hinder your chances of ranking.

Instead, focus on creating valuable content that is relevant to the topic at hand.

5) Freshness systems: everyone loves new content

We have various “query deserves freshness” systems designed to show fresher content for queries where it would be expected. For example, if someone is searching about a movie that’s just been released, they probably want recent reviews rather than older articles from when production began.

For another example, ordinarily a search for “earthquake” might bring back material about preparation and resources. However, if an earthquake happened recently, then news articles and fresher content might appear.

Google Search

What it means for you:

Make sure to update your content regularly, especially if it’s about an ever-evolving topic. This will help ensure that you can rank for these queries and that users are getting the most up-to-date information from you.

Additionally, when appropriate, consider creating “evergreen” content that can be updated and reused over time. This will help keep your content fresh, even if it does not cover timely topics.

google search intent

6) Helpful content system: to show genuinely valuable content

Our helpful content system is designed to better ensure people see original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results, rather than content made primarily to gain search engine traffic.

Google Search

What it means for you:

When creating content, focus on producing helpful, original work that is of value to your users. This will help ensure that your content ranks well and is seen by people who can benefit from it.

Consider adding multimedia elements like images, videos, or interactive content to make your pages even more engaging and valuable.

google search rank

7) Link analysis systems and PageRank: to determine authority

We have various systems that understand how pages link to each other as a way to determine what pages are about and which might be most helpful in response to a query.

Among these is PageRank, one of our core ranking systems used when Google first launched. Those curious can learn more by reading the original PageRank research paper and patent.

How PageRank works has evolved a lot since then, and it continues to be part of our core ranking systems.

Google Search

What it means for you:

When linking between pages on your site, always use descriptive anchor text that accurately describes the target page.

Consider incorporating internal links into relevant content in order to make navigation easier for users and help boost the ranking of important pages.

Additionally, consider earning links from other authoritative, reputable sites as another way to increase your ranking.

google keyword rankings

8) Local news systems: show NJ news to NJ people

We have systems that work to identify and surface local sources of news whenever relevant, such as through our “Top stories” and “Local news” features.

Google Search

What it means for you:

If your website covers local news, make sure to mark up your content with local business structured data. This will help Google better understand the geographic relevance of your content, making it easier to surface in search results.

9) MUM: for featured snippet copy

Multitask Unified Model (MUM) is an AI system capable of both understanding and generating language. It’s not currently used for general ranking in Search but rather for some specific applications such as to improve searches for COVID-19 vaccine information and to improve featured snippet callouts we display.

Google Search

What it means for you:

When creating content, create a clear FAQ/question section to answer specific queries. This will help Google find the answers.

10) Neural matching: for internal linking

Neural matching is an AI system that Google uses to understand representations of concepts in queries and pages and match them to one another.

Google Search

What it means for you:

When creating content, focus on providing clear and descriptive titles for your pages and link to relevant pages within your content.

11) Original content systems: who’s the real deal

We have systems to help ensure we are showing original content prominently in search results, including original reporting, ahead of those who merely cite it. This includes support of a special canonical markup creators can use to help us better understand what is the primary page if a page has been duplicated in several places.

Google Search

What it means for you:

When creating content, aim to provide original information or insights and avoid merely repurposing existing content.

Otherwise, you can use a canonical URL to help differentiate.

Some of the reasons you may have duplicate or similar content can include:

  • device-specific URLs
  • dynamic URLs (like search parameters, session IDs)
  • blog post sections
  • www. and HTTP variations
  • content syndication

12) Removal-based demotion systems: to get rid of trolls

Google has policies that allow the removal of certain types of content. If we process a high volume of such removals involving a particular site, we use that as a signal to improve our results. In particular:

  • Legal removals: When we receive a high volume of valid copyright removal requests involving a given site, we are able to use that to demote other content from the site in our results. This way, if there is other infringing content, people are less likely to encounter it versus the original content. We apply similar demotion signals to complaints involving defamation, counterfeit goods, and court-ordered removals.
  • Personal information removals: If we process a high volume of personal information removals involving a site with exploitative removal practices, we demote other content from the site in our results. We also look to see if the same pattern of behavior is happening with other sites and, if so, apply demotions to content on those sites. We may apply similar demotion practices for sites that receive a high volume of doxxing content removals. Furthermore, we have automatic protections designed to prevent non-consensual explicit personal images from ranking highly in response to queries involving names.
Google Search

What it means for you:

When creating content, make sure to adhere to Google’s policies on the removal of certain types of content.

You should also avoid engaging in exploitative removal practices, such as requesting that potentially defamatory or infringing content be removed without legitimate cause. Doing so could lead to demotion signals being applied against other content from your website.

Finally, be aware of the potential consequences of posting personal images and ensure that such content does not appear on your website without the consent of those featured in it.

13) Page experience system: to avoid annoying websites

People prefer sites that offer a great page experience. This is why we have a page experience system that assesses a variety of criteria, such as how quickly pages load, mobile-friendliness, if pages lack intrusive interstitials, and if pages are served in a secure fashion.

In situations where there are many possible matches with relatively equal relevance, the system helps give preference to content with a better page experience.

Google Search

What it means for you:

When creating content, be sure to pay attention to your page experience.

Aim for fast-loading pages, a mobile-friendly design, minimally intrusive pop-ups and ads, and secure hosting. Doing so can help improve the visibility of your content in search results.

14) Passage ranking system: to figure out what’s in your blog post

Passage ranking is an AI system we use to identify individual sections or “passages” of a web page to better understand how relevant a page is to a search.

Google Search

What it means for you:

When writing content, make sure to use sub-headings, paragraphs, and clear organization to better structure your content.

Doing so can help improve the visibility of individual passages from your page in search results by providing our passage ranking system with more context regarding the relevance of a given document.

15) Product reviews system: finding helpful reviews

The product reviews system aims to better reward high quality product reviews, content that provides insightful analysis and original research, and is written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.

Google Search

What it means for you:

When creating product reviews, focus on providing helpful, well-researched information. Avoid writing content that is overly promotional or does not provide any insight into the product you are reviewing.

16) RankBrain: to find related keywords

RankBrain is an AI system that helps us understand how words are related to concepts. It means we can better return relevant content even if it doesn’t contain all the exact words used in a search, by understanding the content is related to other words and concepts.

Google Search

What it means for you:

When creating content, make sure to include language that is relevant to the topic or concept you are discussing. Include synonyms and related terms when it makes sense.

17) Reliable information systems: to avoid sketchy info

Multiple systems work in various ways to show the most reliable information possible, such as to help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content and to elevate quality journalism.

In cases where reliable information might be lacking, our systems automatically display content advisories about rapidly-changing topics or when our systems don’t have high confidence in the overall quality of the results available for the search.

Google Search

What it means for you:

When creating content, aim to provide accurate, reliable information that is well sourced from reputable organizations. If you are writing about rapidly-changing topics, update your content frequently to ensure that the information is up-to-date and accurate.

18) Site diversity system: you get 1 spot in the SERP, maybe 2

Our site diversity system works so that we generally won’t show more than two web page listings from the same site in our top results, so that no single site tends to dominate all the top results.

However, we may still show more than two listings in cases where our systems determine it’s especially relevant to do so for a particular search. Site diversity generally treats subdomains as part of a root domain.

Google Search

What it means for you:

When creating content, aim to provide unique and relevant information that will help your site stand out in search results (seeing a theme here?)

19) Spam detection systems: to get rid of junk

No one wants their email inbox filled with spam, which is why spam filters are so helpful. Search faces a similar challenge, because the internet includes huge amounts of spam that, if not dealt with, would prevent us from showing the most helpful and relevant results.

We employ a range of spam detection systems, including SpamBrain, to deal with content and behaviors that violate our spam policies.

Google Search

What it means for you:

When creating content, make sure to keyword stuffing, cloaking, or link schemes that could be seen as trying to manipulate search engine results.

Final Thoughts

Google is constantly evolving to provide the best search experience possible. Keep up with the latest updates and make sure your content is optimized for a variety of Google algorithms – from page ranking to spam detection – and you’ll be able to stay competitive.

When creating content, focus on quality, accuracy, and relevance, keep an eye out for rapid changes in topics or information that could affect your content’s relevance, and ensure any link schemes are compliant with Google’s policies.

That way, you can make sure your content will stand out (and show up) in Google search results.

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