What Google's Company Technology Overview Teaches About SEO

Gyi Tsakalakis
May 2, 2011

I'm one of those SEOs who believes that if you want to understand "how Google works" you should just ask Google. Ok, maybe it's not quite that simple (Google can be vague and even misleading), nonetheless, I think they are motivated to share some true SEO guidelines because it ultimately helps webmasters tell Google what their sites are about. So, what can be learned about SEO from Google's Company Technology Overview page? A lot, I think:

Because it would be tough to describe all of the technology we’ve built for our many products and services in just one page, here’s a glimpse of some key technologies and technical principles behind our products.

The Aim of Search

Co-founder Larry Page once described the “perfect search engine” as something that “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.We can’t claim that Google delivers on that vision 100 percent today, but we’re always working on new technologies aimed at bringing all of Google closer to that ideal.

I encourage all SEOs to make this their mantra. While the description may seem simple, there are actually many layers here. First, there's the "understanding exactly what you mean" component. This is also commonly called "search intent." Google is on a continuing mission to understand what you mean when you type a search query into Google. Technologies like suggestive search and using your search history are aimed at better understanding what you really mean by your search query. Naturally, from an SEO standpoint, focusing on strategies that keep this point in mind will allow your web content to perform better in Google.

Second, there's the "give you back exactly what you want", part. This is really where the rubber meets the road for Google. Even if Google is able to distill out what it is you are looking for, it's quite another feat to return results that are exactly what searchers are looking for. But again, understanding Google's goal provides important information for SEOs. If you're not publishing pages that people are looking for, Google is proactively trying not to return your pages. It's that simple.

Now you're probably thinking to yourself, great, thanks, another post about write great content. Or perhaps you're thinking, wait, my competition is creating a lot of pages that are relatively weak and people would not be looking for, but Google is giving these pages great visibility within their results. And that' where we come to the part where Google admits that they "can't claim that Google delivers on that vision 100 percent." But, they're trying. Which means that if you don't align your strategy with Google's main aim, you're rolling the dice that Google won't catch up to you.

The Key Ingredients of Google Search

What? Google actually provides the key ingredients of search right on their website? Yes:

Relevance. As Larry said long ago, we want to give you back “exactly what you want.” When Google was founded, one key innovation was PageRank, a technology that determined the “importance” of a webpage by looking at what other pages link to it, as well as other data. Today we use more than 200 signals, including PageRank, to order websites, and we update these algorithms on a weekly basis. For example, we offer personalized search results based on your web history and location.

Comprehensiveness. Google launched in 1998 with just 25 million pages, which even then was a small fraction of the web. Today we index billions and billions of webpages, and our index is roughly 100 million gigabytes. We continue investing to expand the comprehensiveness of our services. In 2007 we introduced Universal Search, which made search more comprehensive by integrating images, videos, news, books and more into our main search results.

Freshness. In the early days, Googlebots crawled the web every three or four months, which meant that the information you found on Google typically was out of date. Today we’re continually crawling the web ensuring that you can find the latest news, blogs and status updates minutes or even seconds after they’re posted. With Realtime Search, we’re able to serve up breaking topics from a comprehensive set of sources just moments after events occur.

Speed. Our average query response time is roughly one-fourth of a second. In comparison, the average blink of an eye is one-tenth of a second. Speed is a major search priority, which is why in general we don’t turn on new features if they will slow our services down. Instead, search engineers are always working not just on new features, but ways to make search even faster. In addition to smart coding, on the back end we’ve developed distributed computing systems around that globe that ensure you get fast response times. With technologies like autocomplete and Google Instant, we help you find the search terms and results you’re looking for before you’re even finished typing.

Relevance & SEO

Remember, Google wants to give its users exactly what they want. So, when it comes to optimizing for Google, creating relevant web pages really comes down to two important components: figuring out what your users want & giving your users what they want. Figuring out what your users want involves understanding who your users are, how and why they use the Internet, and what information, answers, and solutions that they are searching for.

In its most basic form, relevance is about writing content that is relevant to the subject-matter or your website and/or blog. In it's most advanced form, it's about providing the specific answers to questions that your users are researching.

Comprehensiveness & SEO

The key to comprehensiveness is diversity in your SEO strategy. Universal Search integrated images, videos, news, books, discussions and more into the main search results. Therefore, in order for your SEO to be comprehensive, you should be thinking about optimizing for video, news, books, discussions, etc.

These other areas of search are often much less competitive than the traditional organic results. But this probably won't be the case for very long. The point is that search results aren't one-dimensional, and neither should be your SEO efforts. In fact, your web strategy should work in concert. It makes perfect sense that sites that take a more comprehensive approach that is aligned with Google's ultimate aims will be much more greatly rewarded within the results pages.

Freshness & SEO

In my experience, the freshness factors is consistently increasing with importance. The world is moving faster than ever. Google is trying to keep pace. In this effort, they are rewarding newer and fresher content over older and dated content. That is why it is so important to be frequently updating and adding to your website.

But don't update for the sake of updating. Keep quality in mind. But find a pace at which you can publish quality content as frequently as possible. Get involved with social media and social networking. Use these communities to spread your content.

Speed & SEO

Google is very interested in speed. And so should you be. If Google users click through to your website and it takes a long time to load, they are likely to click back and perform another search. This is a strong signal to Google that their users aren't getting exactly what they are looking for. Therefore, Google's aim is to not serve up those pages. The fact that speed is on Google's short list of ingredients is very telling in terms of the importance of this signal in the algorithm.

It is undeniable that approaching SEO from the Google goal of understanding exactly what searchers mean and giving them back exactly what they want, is the most sound strategy. While there are a vast variety of ways to game, trick, and manipulate Google, that may provide short-term results, undertaking those approaches is not sustainable. You are doing battle with one of the smartest, resourceful, and sophisticated companies and pieces of software ever developed.

To those of you that are watching your competition get results with such tactics, my advice to you is to be patient. Need proof? Take a look at what Google's Panda Update did to some of the most trafficked article directories on the web.

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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