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Google’s Natural Search Algorithm | The Basics

If you’ve ever searched something on Google, you’ve probably asked, “How does the Google algorithm work?”. Did you know every time you do a search on Google, the search engine decides which websites to provide in the search results. The programmatic process that Google goes through to decide is called an algorithm.  Here are the most important parts of the process.  


Paid vs Natural

Google search results fall into two main categories: Sponsored results are paid ads (with a different algorithm than we’ll discuss here). Natural results are not for sale. 

Google’s Motivation

Google makes its money from sponsored search results. The more users that are on Google, the more profitable Google is.  As such, Google is financially motivated to provide the best possible search experience for users in both the natural and (to a lesser degree) paid results. They want visitors to easily find what they are looking for. Learn more about search engine optimization here.


Google regularly visits as much of the web as possible and keeps a copy of the pertinent parts of websites in a database that they can search very quickly.


Google has stated in the past that there are approximately 200 different types of information about a website that they use in their algorithm. For example, in addition to the words on a website, Google also tracks how fast it loads, how well it displays on mobile devices, and how often the website is updated.

Onsite vs Offsite

In addition to variables that Google stores from a website, it also keeps track of offsite information such as the reputation of the server, how long a domain name has been registered and how many other websites link to the website.

How the algorithm works

An example of how Google’s Algorithm could work would be for Google to assign a point value to each variable to each website for any given search. When a user conducts a search, Google would calculate the point values for the websites in their index and provide the site that has the most points first in the search results. This is of course a very simplistic example.

Why the Algorithm is secret

Google’s algorithm is secret because website owners are always trying to reverse-engineer their websites to improve their site search ranking. The best way for Google to provide its users with the best possible results is to prevent websites from “gaming” its algorithm. Secrecy makes it harder for website owners to subvert Google’s search algorithm.


Google is always working to improve its algorithm, so it regularly changes. It often will have multiple test versions of its algorithm in circulation at the same time.

Understanding the basics of Google’s natural search algorithm is important to best optimize your website. Adding industry-specific keywords, location, and frequently asked questions is a small way to help your potential customers find you.

Not sure where to start? Shoot us an email.