Google’s Gary Illyes Spills the Bean on Magic Signals

08 Jul, 2021 Google

In a recent Search Off the Record podcast, Google’s Gary Illyes shared invaluable insights into the use of “magic signals”. Specifically, he went into greater-than-normal detail on how Google ranks websites, revealing how the search engine first shortlists around 1,000 pages before making its final decision.

Once this, 1,000 (or so), page shortlist has been assembled, Google uses so-called “magic signals” to further narrow things down. According to Gary, this is where the real magic happens – a process that separates the top-ranking pages from those that disappear from the rankings entirely.

In order to truncate the list, Google’s initially examines topicality and analyses relevancy. Both in accordance with the content of the page and the query. After which, the list of pages is examined in reverse order, enabling Google to gradually wean out the pages that cannot be showcased in its rankings.

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Explaining how Google ranks the subsequent shortlist of pages, he offered the following insights:

“Now, ranking is number-based. Basically for each result, we will assign a number and we calculate that number using the signals that we collected during indexing plus the other signals. And then essentially, what you see in the results is a reverse order based on those numbers that we assigned,” he said.

“The magic signals or magic algorithms that we use like RankBrain, what they do is multiply those numbers that we assign to each result by a number. Like for example, if they want to promote a result because it was determined that there would be a better result for lemon coconut cookie, then let’s say that it would multiply the result score by 2. Basically doubling its score, which means that it would jump up in the result set,”

“If we wanted to remove a result from the set for whatever reason, we could multiply its score with 0. Because then, that will turn the score to 0 and then like a score with 0, why would you present that?”

The audio of the above starts at around the 28:50 mark in the clip below, though the rest is worth checking out for additional insights of importance.