My catchphrase is ‘they have an algorithm!’ How does Twitter work out its top tweets? – an algorithm. How does Google know what results to show? – an algorithm.
I thought we should take a look at the history of this elusive tech formulae.
Sometime circa 1990 early search engines began cataloging the web. To register, all web people had to do was submit their URL address to the engine which would release a ‘search spider’, like something out the Matrix, to extract links to other pages and return the information to be indexed.
A large part of the search formulae relied on meta tags, labelling your webpages with keywords, and your site would slowly work its way up the listings. But this lead to keyword dumping or to a ‘high key word density’ and pages that read like this:
“We have a variety of inflatable palm trees in stock and these inflatable palm trees are for sale at $14.99. Be sure to pick up your inflatable palm tree today before all the inflatable palm trees are gone. Our inflatable palm trees are flying out the door”
Annoying. And Google thought so to.
It also meant search rank listings were easily manipulated, causing search terms to throw up completely irrelevant pages. Key word dumpling is a technique belonging to ‘black hat’ SEO. (Tactics search engines disapprove of, as opposed to ‘white hat’ methods, like web design, which will cause higher rankings long term.)
So the search engine giant evolved its elusive algorithm to include a trust and credibility measure – that is how many third party sites linked back to content on your webpage. In the ever-waging battle between SEO manipulators and Google, ‘link farms’, which manufactured backlinks, littered the web to boost rankings.
Now this is where it gets clever, in April 2012, Google released Penguin (named after the black and white hat SEO techniques). The latest algorithm, which not only includes meta tags, backlinks but now social influence. Essentially how many social networking sites you’re linked to, how many people engage and organically spread your content.
Google’s algorithm is now so well-tuned it can provide you with personalised search results which means if we were to both Google ‘Inflatable palm trees’ I can guarantee our top 10 would be different. Google computes your location, what browser you use, age, other sites you visit to help you find the information you need. Knowledge is now more accessible than ever before.