What is Google Algorithm? Key SEO Algorithms Explained

When embarking on SEO, the Google algorithm is one of the first things you must learn because it will directly affect your SEO results. In this article, we will explain in detail the Google algorithm, thereby helping you better understand how it works and affects a website’s ability to appear on search engines.

What is Google Algorithm?

The Google algorithm is how the search engine ranks web pages and evaluates the relevance of the content on the site based on its criteria.

Knowing and understanding this algorithm is essential to ensure that your website can appear in the search engine results table, helping to increase the amount of organic traffic to the web.

What are the ranking factors in the Google search algorithm?

To understand how Google ranks websites, it’s crucial to grasp the various factors and signals the algorithm considers. These factors constantly evolve, including keywords, relevance, freshness, expertise, location, and user settings. The weight applied to each factor depends on the nature of the search query.


Content freshness refers to the freshness of the content on the website. The freshness of content is indicated by the most recent time the post was updated.

Freshness is a key factor, particularly for queries related to news or current affairs. In these cases, Google usually shows results published within the last 24 hours. However, the freshness will only matter if you’re looking for a theme that requires frequent updates.

freshness seo algorithm

The query “interest rates” returns the most recently updated result.


The most basic indication of keyword relevance to your site’s content is when the site content contains the exact keywords as the search query. In addition, Google also relies on other factors such as images and videos, when assessing relevance.

Therefore, to optimize this factor, you should not only mention keywords naturally in the title, headings and intro of the article but also use images and videos related to the topic of that subject.

User Experience (UX)

In the context of saturated online content and more and more people interested in SEO for websites, the page’s user experience tends to be increasingly valued by Google as this is the deciding factor in the difference. When all pages are doing well in terms of content and authority, accessible content on an easy-to-use website will make users more satisfied.

Google has stated they care about “whether a page has a good user experience.” So what exactly constitutes a good user experience, or “UX”? Here are some good UX benchmarks:

  • Fast page load speed (based on Core web vital report)
  • No interrupting ads like pop-up ads
  • Intuitive navigation and tight internal linking
  • Mobile-friendly
  • Website designed with a clear structure and clean code
user experience in google algorithm

The example between good UX and bad UX (Source: BeVitual)

Expertise (Topical Authority)

Expertise, also known as topical authority, is another critical factor. A website with high expertise has relevant content and contextually relevant links, showing Google (and its users) that you’re an expert on the topic and can help you rank higher in the search results. 

In addition, the reputation of the website is also shown through backlinks. A reputable and quality website will have many other reputable websites in the same topic area linking and quoting the content. Link building is arguably one of the most important tasks you should do to establish your website’s reputation and authority and get Google to rank your website higher than your competitors.

The main Google algorithms that directly affect SEO

Although the Google algorithm is updated daily, there are vital algorithms that significantly affect search results that every SEOer and marketer must know.

Google Panda

The Google Panda algorithm, launched in 2011, has significantly impacted the ranking of websites on Google. It scrutinizes content and content-related criteria when evaluating a web page, such as keyword frequency, spelling and grammatical accuracy, and word count.

Certain errors that are likely to trigger a Google Panda penalty include:

  • Thin content: content is too short, fails to provide in-depth information
  • Duplicate content: content that appears across multiple pages or is copied from other sites
  • Low-quality content: Poor-quality content that is inaccurate or irrelevant

Panda-penalized websites typically exhibit a drop in keyword rankings, reduced traffic, and decreased credibility, making it essential for marketers to prioritize content quality to maintain a positive online presence.

To avoid Panda penalties, marketers should focus on producing high-quality, comprehensive content that is unique and relevant to the target audience. 

Google Penguin

Google Penguin is an algorithm designed to identify and penalize websites that engage in web spam and search engine manipulation. 

Common tactics that trigger Penguin penalties include:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Unnatural Links
  • Malicious redirects
  • Hidden text or links

To avoid triggering a Penguin penalty, SEO professionals and website owners must stay up-to-date with Google’s Search Essentials (formerly known as Webmaster Guidelines), which outline best practices for creating high-quality, user-focused content that adheres to search engine guidelines. Failure to comply with these guidelines can significantly decrease keyword rankings, traffic, and online credibility. 


In 2013, Google introduced the Hummingbird algorithm, which revolutionized how search results were displayed to users. Unlike previous algorithms that focused solely on matching keywords to web pages, Hummingbird aims to understand the user’s search intent, taking into account the context and meaning of their query.

For instance, if a user searches for “best Italian restaurant near me,” Hummingbird understands that the search intent is to find a restaurant and not simply information about Italian cuisine. By analyzing the intent behind the search, Hummingbird helps to provide more accurate and relevant search results.

google algorithm for seo

Examples of queries and corresponding search intents

As an SEO expert or website owner, it is important to optimize your website for Hummingbird by creating high-quality content that answers the user’s search intent. This involves understanding the user’s query and providing comprehensive, informative, and well-structured content that satisfies their needs.

By optimizing for the Hummingbird algorithm, you can improve your website’s rankings and attract more organic traffic over time. 


Google RankBrain is an advanced algorithm that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide highly relevant search results based on user experience (UX) signals. The algorithm is capable of understanding the intent behind a query and learning from new data, enabling it to personalize search results based on user preferences, including time-sensitive content and brand recognition.

Four key UX indicators directly influence a website’s ranking in the search results include:

  1. Organic Click-Through Rate (Organic CTR): The ratio of clicks to impressions a website receives in response to a user’s query.
  2. Time on Site: This metric measures a user’s time on a website before returning to the search page. The longer the time on site, the better the user experience.
  3. Bounce Rate: The percentage of users who leave a website immediately without engaging with its content is known as the bounce rate. A high bounce rate indicates poor user engagement.
  4. Pogo-Sticking occurs when users switch back and forth between pages in search results in search of the right content. Pogo-sticking can signal poor user experience, as users cannot find what they’re looking for.

In a 2015 interview, a Google representative stated that RankBrain, links, and content are among the three most critical factors in the ranking algorithm.

Mobile-First Indexing

The rise of smartphones has led to a significant shift in the way people consume online content. According to Statcounter, the percentage of internet users accessing the internet through mobile devices has grown from 6% in 2011 to over 58% in 2022. As a result, Google has introduced Mobile-First Indexing, which prioritizes websites designed for mobile devices.

During the crawling process, Google now indexes mobile versions of sites first, which can differ significantly from desktop versions. This is why adopting a ‘mobile-first’ mindset is important when designing your website. Your web structure and layout should be optimized to provide a seamless user experience for smartphone users.

It’s worth noting that in addition to the algorithms discussed above, Google is constantly rolling out new algorithm updates. The latest Google algorithm update, which rolled out in February-March 2023, focuses on product review content and has significantly impacted review sites and affiliates. As such, staying up-to-date with the latest algorithm updates is essential to ensure your website remains optimized for search.

How to Stay Informed about Google Algorithm Updates

It is essential to stay informed about Google algorithm updates to stay ahead of the game and keep your SEO strategy up to date. You can follow several reliable sources to keep yourself updated on the latest changes.

Firstly, it is recommended to follow Google’s official channels, such as the Google Search Central Blog and Google Search Central Twitter account, where Google representatives share updates and insights into the latest algorithm changes.

Secondly, several SEO-focused blogs and websites provide in-depth analysis and interpretation of algorithm updates. Some of the most popular include Moz, Search Engine Journal, and SEMrush. These sources can help you understand the potential impact of algorithm updates on your website and guide you in adjusting your SEO strategy accordingly.

Finally, attending SEO conferences and webinars can be an excellent way to stay informed about algorithm updates and connect with other professionals in the field. These events often feature expert speakers and panel discussions on the latest trends and developments in SEO.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, the Google algorithm is a complex system continually evolving to provide users with the most relevant search results. Understanding the algorithms and continuously monitoring for new updates will help your website become more quality and SEO standard, avoiding severe consequences when getting penalized by Google.

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Ann Nguyen is a SEO specialist with over 4 years of experience in the dynamic realm of search engine optimization and digital content. Her extensive expertise spans various essential SEO strategies and techniques, including meticulous keyword research, effective on-page optimization, technical SEO proficiency, and strategic content optimization. With a comprehensive understanding of the ever-evolving digital landscape, Ann is committed to delivering exceptional results for businesses. Her unwavering dedication and extensive knowledge empower her to help clients thrive in the highly competitive online sphere.