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What is an Algorithm, and What Does it Mean to Your Businesses Success?

Jason Roy

If you have spent any time on SEO, you have heard the term “algorithm”. While many website owners spend countless hours trying to rank high in the search engines, most have no idea what an algorithm actually is, or what it does, or the affect it has on their rankings.  

An algorithm is a step-by-step procedure used for calculations. It is used for calculating, processing data and for automated reasoning. The set of rules are created to precisely define a sequence of operations.

Basically, anything you want a computer to do, a computer program must be written. When writing the computer program, you are telling the computer step-by-step what you want it to do. An algorithm is the unique process of how you reach your end goal, and each algorithm may offer a different method, but each reach the same end conclusion.

Let’s take a look at an example using “real world” algorithms instead of computer ones:

You are having a dinner party, and you need your spouse to have dinner prepared, here are three different algorithms (instructions) to give your spouse that offer different techniques, but the same end result.

Home-cooked Meal Algorithm:

  1. Go to the store and purchase groceries
  2. Go home and prepare the meal
  3. Have dinner on the table by 6:00 p.m.

Take-out Algorithm:

  1. Call favorite restaurant and order food
  2. Pick up food and bring it home
  3. Have dinner on the table by 6:00 p.m.

Delivery Algorithm:

  1. Call favorite restaurant
  2. Accept delivery
  3. Have dinner on the table by 6:00 p.m.

Each of these steps offers the same outcome, having dinner on the table by 6:00 p.m., but each offer very different steps on how to accomplish that goal. A search engine algorithm works in the same way, while each search engine may offer different techniques; they all are working towards achieving the same goal.

Each algorithm has its own advantages and disadvantages, and search engines are on a constant search for the perfect combination for the best results. This is where you come in, your business and your success on the Internet.

Online business owners need to understand the search engines algorithms in order to properly optimize their website for the highest rankings. This can all seem a bit overwhelming, but in actuality, it is all pretty simple.

What Does This Mean to Your Businesses Success?

An algorithm and how the search engines incorporate them mean everything to your business's success. In order to rank high in the search engine results, your page needs to be optimized based on the search engine sorting techniques.

In the past, users would enter a keyword or keyword phrase into the search engine and Google would sort information in their vast database to bring forth sites that matched those words. Today, you can enter the same keywords in the search engine, but you may end up with an entirely different types of results.

People are not just entering keywords into the search engine anymore, they are asking questions. Google has used the Hummingbird algorithm as a way to answer these questions. So, the algorithm is no longer sorting the sites by keyword to match the user's search, but by the intent of the content to answer the user's question. The more Google understands what the user wants from their query, the more effective they become at delivering the right results. So, you may have noticed some real changes in Google when you type in a search query, and you can expect many more changes in how the search results are displayed as Google learns more and more about how users really search for information.

Hummingbird wants to understand the context of your search in order to find you the best results. So, if you ask Google “what is the best hotel in Tampa?” Google may come back with questions as well, such as “do you mean best price, rating or closest to your location now?” This is done in order to fully understand the context of your question and bring you the best possible results.
 
Webmasters need to make sure their content offers an answer to the question asked by the searcher. This means stepping away from keywords and start writing for the user’s intent. Google is working hard to ensure they know exactly what their users want, and delivering only that to them, so webmasters need to work just as hard to keep up.

Big Change

Google has offered a variety of updates over the last few years, and in the fall of 2013, the Hummingbird algorithm was introduced as one of the largest changes of the decade. Other updates, such as the Panda and the Penguin updates only modified existing search algorithms and affected an estimated 2-5% of all search inquiries. Hummingbird dramatically affected how the search engine processed requests and was estimated to have affected nearly 90% of all search inquiries.

The Hummingbird algorithm was designed to work with a more conversational tone, therefore offering a better result for the user.
In the past, users would enter a keyword or keyword phrase into the search engine and Google would sort information in their vast database to bring forth sites that matched those words. Today, you can enter the same keywords in the search engine, but you may end up with an entirely different types of results.

People are not just entering keywords into the search engine anymore, they are asking questions. Google has used the Hummingbird algorithm as a way to answer these questions.

Hummingbird wants to understand the context of your search in order to find you the best results. So, if you ask Google “what is the best hotel in Tampa?” Google may come back with questions as well, such as “do you mean best price, rating or closest to your location now?” This is done in order to fully understand the context of your question and bring you the best possible results.

SEO Strategy Changes

Since people have changed how they search, and Google has changed how it delivers results, you need to change your SEO strategy in order to be seen. There are several things that an SEO specialist should be concerned with, but at the top of the list is content.

Incorporate questions into your content: Instead of spending your time on keyword research, focus more on market research. What types of questions is your targeted audience asking? And more importantly, how are you answering them?

Unless the content on your page is poorly written, there is no need to go back and re-write every word to incorporate questions into the work. Instead, add more content to the page to answer the questions your audience is asking. If the content on your page is performing, there is no need to change it, just add to it.

You can answer as many questions as you want on each page, there is no need for a one page per question rule to be implemented. As long as Google can make sense of your content and find a full answer to each question on the page you should be fine.

Create substance on your site to make it worthy of a click-through. Since many questions are being answered directly by the search engines in a side-bar fashion, if your site does not offer a more in-depth and informative response, you may never see the traffic.

Post content frequently. Keep your website on a routine with new fresh content. The Hummingbird update has made it extremely important for your content to answer a question. So, start thinking about what your targeted audience wants to know, and give it to them!

Conclusion

An algorithm is simply a process in which a solution is delivered. Your job as an Internet business owner is to understand the process in which Google looks for the solution your audience seeks and follow it in order to be delivered to them. So, in other words, know what your audience is looking for, create it, and then make sure you have it properly optimized for Google to find and deliver to your audience. 

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