Ultimate Guide to Understand How Google Works and Boost Your SEO in 2020

As a consumer, you likely already have a pretty good understanding of how important search engines are in the buying process.

After all, where do you go when you want to research a new product or find out where to get the best deals?

Search engines are useful because they help make sense of the otherwise crazy world of the internet.

However, while all search engines do the same thing, they are not equal.

Google blows the competition – Bing, Yahoo!, Ask, etc. – out of the water, which means developing a good SEO strategy requires you to not only learn how to write great SEO content but also understand the inner workings of Google.

This will allow you to post content that’s both engaging and able to draw in a large audience, boosting your traffic numbers, and, most importantly, the revenue you can generate from that traffic.

Explaining everything that makes Google work requires a full-length university course and some pretty intense technical know-how.

But understanding the basics is not that difficult, and it can have a tremendous impact on your business.

Here’s everything you need to know about Google so that you can boost your SEO performance:

Google: A Gateway to the Internet

Despite its ubiquity, Google is not the internet.

It’s easy to think this is the case, especially since so many of us go straight to the search engine when we access the internet. But the internet itself and Google are not the same thing.

Instead, think of Google as a giant catalog, or phone book (for those old enough to remember what these are).

Pages are listed on the index and associated with certain terms and topics, and they are ranked within that list based on a variety of factors that help determine how effective a piece of content will be in answering the query posed by the user.

Google Index
Source: Neil Patel

As a result, the first thing you need to do when posting content to your website is to make sure it’s available to be indexed by Google. Otherwise, your beautifully-crafted blog post will just linger in the background and serve no real purpose for your website.

Luckily, most blog platforms do this automatically, so you don’t need to worry too much.

However, beyond this, you also need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to signal to Google that your content is relevant to the search terms for which you are hoping to rank.

To do this, make sure you are doing the following:

Use Proper Keywords

Include your keyword and relevant synonyms in the text often enough to stand out. But not so often that you’re obviously trying to stuff your content with keywords.

You want things to first and foremost sound natural, and overdoing it with keywords can really hurt the quality of your content and, subsequently, your performance with Google.

But you need to include them often enough to convince Google your content is related to the query you’re targeting.

Optimize For Secondary Keywords

During your keyword research, take a look at what the content currently ranking for your primary keyword is also ranking for.

When possible, include mentions of these subtopics because Google clearly already sees them as related to your main topic.

This will help indicate relevance to Google and will improve your chances of ranking for desired keywords.

Use Proper Heading

Use headings and subheadings that include both primary and secondary keywords. This will make it clear what your content is about and what it will do for readers.

Optimize Post's URL

Make sure the unique URL of your blog post reflects the keyword you’re trying to rank for. This also helps indicate to Google the main topic of your content.

Internal Linking

Link internally to relevant content wherever possible. Internal links are still links, and if you have content already performing well for a relevant search term, linking your new content to this old content will help signal to Google that this new post is related and should be classified into a similar category.

Categorization

Always use categories for your posts. This is a really simple way for Google to sort out what your content is about, and it will help make sure it falls into the right part of the search engine’s database.

Follow Guidelines

Google is very strict when it comes to their policies and guidelines. Being the most used search engine around the world, they have all the legit reasons to be skeptical if you violate any of Google webmaster guidelines. So make sure you follow them.

Doing all of this will help ensure that your content doesn’t get buried on the internet and instead appears in Google’s index, and, hopefully, search results.

Focus on User Intent

It’s important to always remember that Google is a service. Its self-declared mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.”

If this is your purpose, let’s consider the many different ways you could go about achieving it.

The obvious approach would be to organize information based on topics and subtopics, which we know Google already does. But the search engine takes things further and organizes information based on user intent.

In other words, to please its customers (the searchers), Google works to make it as easy as possible for people to get the information they seek when they’re searching.

User Intent Example

This means that for your content to do well on Google, you need to have a very clear idea of what your readers are looking for when they search for the term you’re targeting.

Sometimes this is easy.

For example, if someone searches "how to start a blog," they are obviously looking for something that will help them start a blog.

But if someone searches "smartphone comparisons," things get a bit murkier. Are they simply looking for reviews and comparisons? Or are they further along and looking for something to buy?

Google determines user intent by monitoring user behavior. More specifically, when someone searches for a term, clicks on a result, and then stays on the page for a long time, this is probably an indication they are looking for information.

As a result, Google is going to reward content that provides people with the most amount of relevant information pertaining to that topic.

However, if someone searches, clicks, and then clicks onto an affiliate link shortly after landing on the page, they are probably further along in the buying process and are therefore looking to be pointed to a specific product they can purchase.

Writing content more aligned with user intent will not only help you rank better, but it will also help you better engage readers.

You will be giving them what they seek, and this will help win people over to you, influence you can use later to make sales, attract users, and, hopefully, earn some money.

Understand Authority

One of the ways in which Google determines where to rank content on its results pages is by measuring the "authority" of a page and its corresponding site.

Authoritative sites are those that have a demonstrated ability to answer the questions users seek.

Authority

There are many different factors Google uses to determine a site’s/page’s authority.

But perhaps the most important is the backlinks. That means the number of links originating from other websites and that point to yours.

So, for your content to do well on Google, you need to have a strategy for building links to it.

Whether this means promoting it on social media or running dedicated outreach campaigns that market your content and help boost its standing on the internet.

However, what’s important to remember when doing this is that not every link is a good link.

In fact, a lot of links from low-authority websites that don’t have anything to do with your site may look like spam to the search engine.

And the search engines will respond by burying your content at the bottom of search results. These are called toxic backlinks.

So, when you are marketing content, target sites that are both relevant to your site and that are also authorities in their own right.

This will give legitimacy to your page, helping boost your performance in the rankings.

Think of links as votes, but this is not a "one person, one vote" system.

Instead, some people can vote more than others, and the support of even just a few of these people, or in this case sites, can have more of an impact than lots of votes from smaller entities that have less clout on the web.

The Importance of Length

Remembering that the purpose of Google is to deliver the information users seek, we come to the question of length.

As a very general rule of thumb, longer content does better in the rankings.

However, this is only the case insofar as this longer content is actually useful to the reader. Dragging on about a topic might provide users with more overall information.

But if they get distracted from the main point, or get lost in the details, they may jump off the page, something that will really hurt your standing with Google.

Content Length
Source: Capsicum Mediaworks

When writing content based on a keyword, take a look at what others are doing. Find out how long the average piece is, and try to make yours as long if not longer without being overly-wordy or repetitive.

Look for gaps in the information provided by the current content, as well as areas that need more explanation or perhaps even some examples.

This will make it much easier for you to figure out where you need to be adding content to make your piece longer.

Of course, as always, keep user intent in mind when you do this.

For example, if someone searches for the answer to a specific question, make sure you don’t bury the answer in blocks of text.

Come out with it, and then provide context for it, as this will make your article richer and more in-depth.

In the end, it comes down to remember to write for people and not the AI algorithms working behind Google.

Longer articles don’t guarantee better rankings, but they help because longer articles explain topics in greater detail and provide more information to users all at once, something Google tends to value.

Optimize For Mobile

Not surprisingly, but mobile phones are becoming people’s go-to device for accessing the internet. And in case you hadn’t noticed, the internet looks slightly different on a phone than it does on a desktop computer.

The screen is smaller, and content loads differently, all of which change the experience.

Mobile Responsive

Google, which is always looking to please users, wants people to be able to have the best possible search experience from wherever they are searching.

Which is why the search engine rewards sites optimized for mobile and punish those that aren’t.

Again, most blog platforms like WordPress now do this automatically.

But be sure to look at how your content appears on a mobile device before considering it finished.

This will not only make it easier to rank on Google, but it will also improve a user’s experience, which will keep them coming back and improve whatever perceptions they have of you.

Keep An Eye on Security and Site Speed

In the spirit of user experience, Google also prioritizes both security and site speed.

To understand why, consider Google’s role in the mind of a searcher.

In short, Google is a place that we trust to point us to the right places on the web. If it started sending us to sites infected with malware or that leave you open to cybercrime, that trust would erode, and Google would fall out of favor.

As a result, make sure your site is set up for HTTPS and has all the required security features to allow users to browse as safely as possible.

SSL Padlock

Site speed is also essential. As we know, internet users have short attention spans, and if they must wait for pages to load to read your content, they’ll probably just jump ship and go somewhere else.

Recommended Site Speed Optimization Guides

Hiring a developer to take a look at how your site is constructed, and to optimize it for speed and security, is a worthwhile investment.

It will ensure your content is as quick and safe as it can be, improving your chances of ranking for your target keywords.

Test, Evaluate, Retest

Understanding how Google works will help you write content that is more likely to be viewed favorably by Google. Which as a result will boost your rankings and help you drive more traffic to your site.

However, this formula is not a silver bullet solution. There are many nuances that you need to account for.

But you will only be able to do this after you’ve tested some content out and seen how it’s received by users and search engines alike.

When doing this, though, remember that it takes time for Google to respond to the changes you make.

But if you’re patient and diligent, you will soon understand how your content is doing.

That will allow you to make the changes you need to please the search engine and bring your content to more people, helping you achieve all you hoped to achieve with your blog.

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Ritesh Saini
Ritesh Saini
I’m a Professional Blogger & Internet Marketer living in India. Started my blogging and online marketing journey in 2013 when I was just 18 years old. You can see my work here on this blog and at criticecho.com

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