At a recent event for our local Chamber of Commerce we presented a "lunch and learn" session. The purpose was to help the audience (thanks attendees!) understand the "secret" of being "found on Google." A great starting point was to understand how Google "thinks."
Instead of trying to second guess the latest algorithm that reportedly contains over 200 factors, its far easier to intuitively understand the business of Google. And that's not a secret and reading the Google founders story makes things clear and here are some quotes from the story- with some explanation:
Goal of Google:“to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Basically, Google is a "Mega" Library where each book is a page. This page is categorized against questions that searchers ask. The question might be a word, a few words or an entire sentence. Professors today have a hard time putting out online quizzes because entire questions and answers pop up if you Google the question! The fun part is that the super-librarian Google pulls up the answers to just what we are looking for almost immediately. Your web-page server may be down but Google has your back and produces the last page they indexed through their "bots" that crawl the web. You don't go to Google. They come to you.
How Google does it: " they built a search engine that used links to determine the importance of individual pages on the World Wide Web." We guess that this has a lot to do with the way scholarly research works - something Larry Page and Sergey Brin were doing at Stanford. Here is the academic paper : "The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web" that the founders wrote. "Citations" (see dictionary.com for other meanings of citation) in the scholarly world means what other scholars have cited your work. Scholarly works tend to be very narrow in focus- usually only a few people understand what you are talking about. And then they cite you in their own research. Scholarly citations are used generally to strengthen the citing author's argument. It's a big deal for the author being cited and an easy way for newer scholars to identify the high impact scholars (on anything!) just by the citations. This brilliant age old academic insight is the guiding force of how Google ranks your page. If other knowledgeable people (estimated by Google) cite your page then your page is ranked higher. Facebook,Twitter, LinkedIn signals are also picked up and we guess that Google is always trying to improve this measuring of importance of a particular page against a particular search query.
What is Google's "purpose" or mission : "The relentless search for better answers continues to be at the core of everything we do." So why is Google so focused on making billions on AdWords ads?- the skeptic might ask. Yes, Ads make money for Google but irrelevant ads are difficult to show. If you promise something in your ad and you don't deliver on the landing page and visitors leave ( bounce) your AdRank goes down and it becomes costlier to advertise. And if there are better competitor ads with better searcher experiences, you find that paying more money for clicks will not get you a spot on the top. Ultimately Google's "purpose" is making the searcher happy.
To summarize, Google is in the business of making searchers happy by getting them results on their "search intent". So your search results from home can be different from work or another location. And could be different for friends in the same location.
Understanding how Google thinks will go along way in improving your web presence and impact.