Every few months, there’s lots of talk about Google’s update to their search algorithm.

What does this really mean? Here’s a bit about Google:

  1. First of all, there is not “one Google”. Google is constantly testing new ideas and they do this by creating sub-versions of Google. I may see one version in California and you may see another version in New York. In the US, there can be dozens of versions of Google at the same time. They make a change, let it run for a few days to gather statistically-significant data, and turn it off to evaluate the data. So changes come and go.
  2. If Google finds a change that’s good, it’s rolled out across the various Googles. There can be 3-5 changes every day.
  3. It also depends on the Google server. When I search at Google, my computer connects to Google Server #23; yours connects to #42. Many of these servers are slightly different. But it’s not just a hundred servers: there are perhaps two million servers at Google. Each time you connect, you may get a different server.
  4. It also depends on the country. Google Germany is different from Google Japan because there are different language rules. Users also have different expectations in each country. Finally, there are different pages for each country: German users see pages in German; Japanese users see pages in Japanese. Multiply this by 120 countries.
  5. What about Adwords? The same thing. I’ve been managing hundreds of Adwords accounts for more than 15 years. Accounts behave differently, depending on location, country, language, the Adwords version and server number. But Google won’t tell you any of this.

So someone says there’s been an update to last week the search algorithm? Yes, of course. There’s been hundreds of updates. There’s no way for you to know what they’ve updated.

Want to make it even more complicated? Google has six copies of the web. 165m domain names and around five billion pages (2017). But there are many more possible pages: when you go to Amazon, that page isn’t on their server: it’s created at that moment just for you, based on your interests, past behavior, purchases, and so on. If 200 million people go to Amazon right now, they’ll see two hundred million different pages.

But all of these pages aren’t “in Google”. When you search Google, you’ll see only a few million pages. Nobody goes to the other 163 million pages, so Google doesn’t have those in the index. They’re stored in another server. What’s that called? Alexandria. Someone at Google has a great sense of humor.

What about SEO?

So how can you do SEO if Google is moving around like a flock of hummingbirds? The basics of SEO are valid, regardless of the thousands of micro-changes at Google.

Get my SEO eBook (free PDF at andreas.com/books-by-andreas/).