How Google Search Ranking Works – Darwinism in Search


Are featured snippets are driven by a specific ranking algorithm that is separate from the core algorithm?

That’s my theory. For me, the idea holds (a lot) of water.

And I’m not alone. Experts such as Eric Enge, Cindy Krum, and Hannah Thorpe have the same idea.

To try to get confirmation or a rebuttal of that theory, I asked Gary Illyes this question:

Does the Featured Snippet function on a different algorithm than the 10 blue links?

The answer absolutely floored me.

He gave me an overview of what a new search engineer learns when they start working at Google.

Please remember that the system described in this article is confirmed to be true, but that some conclusions I draw are not (in italics), and that all the numbers here are completely invented by me.

The aim of this article is to give an overview of how ranking functions. Not what the individual ranking factors are, nor their relative weighting / importance, nor the inner workings of the multi-candidate bidding system. Those remain a super-secret (I 100% see why that is the case).

How Ranking Works in Google Search

What Are the Ranking Factors?

There are hundreds/thousands of ranking factors. Google doesn’t tell us what they are in detail (which, by the by, seems to me to be reasonable).

They do tell us that they group them: Topicality, Quality, PageSpeed, RankBrain, Entities, Structured Data, Freshness… and others.

A couple of things to point here:

  • Those seven are real ranking factors we can count on (in no particular order).
  • Each ranking factor includes multiple signals, for example Quality is mostly PageRank but also includes other signals and Structured Data includes not only but also tables, lists, semantic HTML5 and certainly a few others.

Google calculates a score for a page for each of the ranking factors.

Example of Google Ranking FactorsSomething like this

Remember that throughout this article, all these numbers are completely hypothetical.

How Ranking Factors Contribute to the Bid

Google takes the individual ranking factor…


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