Google Algorithm: What you need to know

How does Google Search work? How do I get more personalised search results? What are the benefits of having a Google account? How have their algorithms changed over time? This article will answer these questions and more. Keep reading!

The world would be so much easier if it were this simple. No, not even Google’s algorithm can work miracles but there are certain things that you should know before you launch your search query.

How does Google Search work?

Google searches the web with automated programs known as crawlers, going through pages that are new or updated. It then uses the latest version of its algorithm, the formula that determines what results are displayed on its first page, to decide which of those pages are the most relevant.

The algorithm is a set of instructions that Google follows to determine what pages it thinks are relevant to your search query and then ranks them in order of importance, with the most useful at the top.

What makes Google’s search engine so unique is its ability to interpret language, meaning it can deliver different results for similar queries—your search for “digital marketing agency in Sri Lanka” will bring up something different from someone searching for “digital advertising company in Sri Lanka”.

How do I get more personalised search results?

Personalized search results are the result of the user’s search history, location, what the user is looking for and other factors.

The algorithm has been evolving since it was first launched in 1998 by Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University. Since then, they have made over 800 changes to the rank order of search results.

The key to knowing how Google delivers its results is understanding that it aims to provide quality search results in a very short period. Users want fast and useful information, not just links that take them off on a wild goose chase.

What are the benefits of having a Google account?

A Google Account gives you Google-wide access to most Google products, such as Google Maps, Gmail, Search, and YouTube. Having an account also gives you special benefits for your Android phone and tablet, like the ability to get phone calls and SMS messages that are tied to your Google Account. Having a Google account will also make it easier to keep track of saved passwords in case you ever forget them.

Google Algorithm History

How have their algorithms changed over time?

One thing that makes Google’s search engine so unique is that it can change at any time based on user behaviour. The latest changes to its algorithm are in response to increased requests from users: Sometimes they want more results; at other times they want less. The results may even be completely different when comparing the same query on two different computers.

Below are the prominent Search Engine Updates 


Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed PageRank at Stanford University in 1996 as part of a novel search engine research project. Google PageRank (Google PR) is one of the methods Google uses to determine the relevance or importance of a page. Right now, PageRank isn’t the only algorithm Google uses to rank search results, but it’s the first algorithm the company used, and it’s best known. On September 24, 2019, PageRank and all related patents expired.

Google Panda

The update was released back in 2011, the high-quality sites surged in the rankings, especially news websites and social media channels. The existing top websites with heavy advertisements are slashed off the top of the search results. Google Panda algorithm had several updates that rolled out by April 2011.

The patent states that Google Panda builds a relationship with a website’s incoming links and referral queries, searching for a website’s brand. This ratio is then used to create a site-wide modification factor. Site-wide modifiers are then used to create modifiers for pages based on the search query. If a page does not meet a certain threshold, a modification factor will be applied, so the page ranks lower in search engine results pages.

Google Penguin

The codename for the algorithm update was announced on April 24, 2012. it was a hard blow to the websites that violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines through Grey Hat Search Engine Marketing techniques as link schemes.

The Google Penguin update called Penguin 1.1 which was released on May 25, 2012, doubled down on the guiding principle to penalize websites that were using manipulative techniques to achieve high rankings. Pre-Penguin websites used negative link building techniques to rank highly and get traffic, with the arrival of the Penguin Google Algorithm update meant that content was key and those with great content would be recognised just like this article.

Google Pigeon

The algorithm update was originally published on August 20, 2013, to improve distance and location-based ranking parameters by more closely connecting local algorithms with traditional web algorithms to take full advantage of the hundreds of ranking signals generated in web algorithms. The search has been narrowed in favour of the companies closest to the searcher’s actual location.

Google Hummingbird

First announced on September 26, 2013, but it had already been in place about a month prior. The name is derived from the speed and accuracy of the hummingbird.

“Hummingbird” puts more emphasis on natural language queries and respects context and meaning rather than individual keywords.

It also more closely examines the content of individual pages of the site and provides an improved ability to direct users to the most appropriate page, not just the site’s home page.

Unlike the previous updates, Hummingbird has been cited as a complete overhaul of the core algorithm.

Throughout the Hummingbird algorithm update, web developers and writers are encouraged to use natural language in web design rather than using forced keywords. 

They were also advised to make effective use of technical website features, such as page linking, on-page elements including title tags, URL addresses and HTML tags, as well as writing high-quality, relevant content without duplication.


On April 21, 2015, Google began rolling out the mobile-friendly update globally. The main effect of this update is to prioritize websites that display well on smartphones and other mobile devices. This change does not affect searches performed from desktop or laptop computers. Google claims the move to mobile-friendly sites in an effort to improve the user experience, stating, “The desktop version of the site can be difficult to view and use on mobile devices.


Confirmed by Google on 26 October 2015, this is a machine learning-based search engine algorithm. Which was the third most important factor in the ranking algorithm along with links and rich content.

What truly makes people go “Wow” is how RankBrain handles unusual search terms. When it sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries or keywords.

RankBrain has allowed Google to speed up the algorithmic testing rendering the old ways of gaslighting your way to the top of the Search ranks useless.

RankBrain has helped Hummingbird provide more accurate results. For example, if you search for the term “boot” in the United States, you will get information on footwear. However, if the query comes from the Great Briton, then the information could also be related to storage spaces in cars.

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