It’s Tuesday afternoon and you’re sitting at your computer coming up with your latest piece of content to engage your followers with. And that’s when you see it. Post after, post after, post screaming about the new algorithm change. But what is an algorithm? Better yet, Why is an algorithm (at the time of this post, Avengers: Endgame is one day away and it’s all the office is talking about)?
At the most basic level, search engines and social media are designed to connect a person to what they are searching for, be it information, businesses, other people. As sophisticated as these platforms are, they are however still limited in how they understand how we browse. An algorithm is a rule or process that describe how to perform a task.
In the case of social media and search engines, algorithms help to pair a browser with the content they want.
Digital platforms have thrived because they add convenience to our lives. You want to know how your ex-best friend from college is doing. A quick search on Facebook will update you with all their recent life events in a few seconds. Can’t remember all the names of the remaining characters in Game of Thrones. Google will deliver thousands of websites just like that list who is still alive, and even websites that predict who won’t survive the long winter. But how do these platforms filter out the information they bring you?
An algorithm’s job, especially for search engines, is to determine the relevance of content being served to a person. Factors search as keywords, user engagement, and more, all relay information on the relevancy of the content being delivered. Relevant content is one of the key factors in SEO rankings on Google. We’ll discuss that in a later post.
The main take away from this is that algorithms aid in determining how relevant a piece of content is to a person’s search.
So at this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why do algorithms change?”. The simple answer; to offer a better user experience. It’s no secret that Google and Facebook aren’t the only platforms in their respective fields, nor are they the first. But they are the biggest, and often called the best. That’s because these platforms have put delivering the best possible user experience as the main goal for how they operate. These companies combine machine learning with their algorithms to constantly improve how they rank content. Each platforms algorithms and ranking systems are different, but the end goal is the same. Each time you interact with one of these platforms, data is collected that teaches the software about its users. A change in the algorithm is a response to that data that is collected.
For example, if Google sees that their users spend more time on websites that have a blue background versus a red background, they will shift their algorithms to favor ranking blue websites. All with the goal of giving the searcher what they want, so we will continue to choose that platform as the number one choice.
Algorithms are rules that help digital platforms determine what information to deliver to a user, with the end goal of delivering the most relevant and user-friendly content. Algorithms change often to reflect new information or to test conclusions, based on collected user data.