How Google’s algorithm rules everything

Steven Levy has a fascinating look at Google’s algorithm in Wired magazine. For those of us who are hopelessly wonkish about all-things-Google, there is little new in the facts presented — it’s not a “how-to” article about search engine optimization techniques, okay.

However, Levy does a fantastic job — a “magazine writing” kind of job — of telling the human “story” behind the algorithm.*

Favorite quote:

“But for the most part, the improvement process is a relentless slog, grinding through bad results to determine what isn’t working.”

The article underscores one thing I tell clients (and potential clients) all the time: If your SEO efforts are focused on out-thinking or tricking Google, make sure your SEO consultant has engineers who are smarter than Google’s engineers. (Which, of course, they don’t.)

My point: Quality content provided in a way that meets the reader/user’s need is what Google rewards. Mastering the tools of SEO is like “grammar.” You have to master “the rules” before you can write great prose. But great prose is what readers want. (Note: I’m using the word “prose” metaphorically there — as, unfortunately, great prose is typically not what they want.)

Great content with no understanding of Google’s algorithm is like a tree falling in the woods with only squirrels around to hear the crash.

(I have no idea what that last sentence means, but I have a feeling that Google will know it’s not about squirrels.)

*If algorithms are a topic that interests you, I recommend my friend Steven Baker’s book, The Numerati.