Google’s processes and methods for assessing the likely usefulness of websites – the things that underpin its inclination to love a website or not – can be separated into three groups:
- Those that help Google find and interpret the structure of information;
- Those that help Google understand the meaning of information; and
- Those that help Google assess the authority of the information it has found and understood.
Google has to find the world’s information before it can index it and present it within its results. This requires websites to be visible to Google’s software and the information available to be well organized and structured for machine processing. We refer to this principle as ‘Visibility’.
The next step is to decide what the world’s information is actually about and whether any part of it matches the things people search for. Google’s pursuit of the meaning of information and its efforts to match it with the searches people make is at the heart of its decisions about whether a site is relevant or not to the needs of users. We refer to this principle as ‘Relevance’.
Finally, faced with multiple sources of apparently meta information, Google has to decide which are the most authoritative, or trustworthy. Comparing the quality and quantity of the references these sources have from around the web enables Google to assess the Reputation of the information and rank it by likely usefulness in its results. Unsurprisingly, we refer to this principle as ‘Reputation’.
Google’s love for a site is therefore an amalgam of the site’s Visibility, Relevance and Reputation. A highly visible, well-organized website full of information that is deeply relevant to the demands of its customers, and valued by a community of relevant websites who happily link to it, is a recipe for profound and long-lasting love from Google.
To fix these principles in your mind we have created a simple conceptual model of them and what they support. The principles of Visibility, Relevance and Reputation support the performance of a website in the non-sponsored, non-paid and, therefore, free search results in the main body of the Google results page. We call these the natural search results, but they are also referred to as organic search results. The opposites of ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ results are the ‘manufactured’, ‘genetically modified’ results tor which Google has a whole bunch of other rules to determine their ranking.