What is an algorithm?

An algorithm is essentially a code which tells a computer what to do; before a computer will carry out any function, you must first write a program that it will then execute. Not only do you choose what the computer will do, but you choose how the computer will do it.

There can be numerous, completely different algorithms, all of which achieve the same goal. It’s like using public transport. You can either get a taxi or a bus; a taxi would be the quicker but more expensive option, while a bus would be cheaper but slower. Both options will get you to where you want to go, but they come with their own set of pros and cons.

The importance of a website

Search engines use algorithms to deliver results which show exactly what the user is looking for. Google relies on over 200 ‘clues’ which make this possible, including the keywords on your site and the freshness of your content. ‘PageRank’ is an example of a Google algorithm; it measures the ‘importance’ of websites, and then ranks them in search engines. It does this by counting the number and quality of links to a page. How important a website is, is determined by how popular it is and how often it is viewed. If Google doesn’t trust the links leading to your site, it will reduce the overall ranking of it.

Google Panda

Google is always updating its technology and systems, and it changes its algorithms around 500-600 times each year, occasionally bringing out ‘major’ updates. In 2011, Google released Panda, an algorithm which lowers the rank of ‘lower quality sites’ while returning higher quality sites to the top of search results. The release of Panda reportedly affected 12% of all search results, resulting in a surge in the rankings of news and social networking sites, and a drop in the rankings of sites containing a lot of advertising.

Working with algorithms

So, there you have it! An algorithm is a constantly-changing set of steps to follow. The most effective way of remaining on top of them is to keep online visitors at the centre of your SEO efforts. Google doesn’t develop algorithms to help businesses; they develop them to enhance search results for the user. If you constantly keep the user in mind, you’re unlikely to receive any backlash.

Want to know more?

Pop back next week to find out how algorithms affect Your Goodyguys. In the meantime, if you have any questions about what an algorithm is, then please get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.