Google Search Algorithm is Like a Soccer TeamThere are few things in life I know less about than algorithms, apart from soccer.

But when you equate the Google search algorithm to a soccer team, suddenly the magic of analogies bring algorithms and their role in SEO into focus (soccer remains murky).

I wish I had created this analogy, but it came from The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms.

What I Knew About Algorithms

All I knew about algorithms prior to The Secret Rules was you can answer all technology questions asked of you with one word: “Algorithms.”

Try it sometime.

When my wife asked me recently “How can I shop at Barnes & Noble and you get pop up email ads promoting the author of the book I purchased an hour ago?”

I replied, “Algorithms.”

What I Know About Soccer

All I know about soccer is players frequently fall to the ground when competing for the ball.

Once they fall, they look to the ref in anticipation of a yellow card or a red card.

The card color determines the level of infraction.

But instant replay frequently shows players’ histrionic falls to the ground are the result of little to no aggressive contact.

Oh, I know something else about soccer.

Enthusiasts are incredibly passionate.

I lived in Mexico during a World Cup match.

You could hear the entire neighborhood reacting to the action.

The Purpose of Algorithms

One of the simplest definitions of algorithm is “An algorithm is a procedure or formula for solving a problem, based on conducting a sequence of specified actions. A computer program can be viewed as an elaborate algorithm.”

So, one creates algorithms to solve problems.

And an algorithm does so by using a step-by-step process.

I am certain that the definition is much simpler than the development of the process.

Google’s Search Algorithm

I remember a time in the late 1990s, when co-workers would ask one another which search engine they used. Lycos? AltaVista? Yahoo? Dogpile? Ask Jeeves?

The reason there was such a time, and the reason there is no longer such a time, is that Google had not yet introduced its search algorithm.

Google’s search algorithm helped Google gain market share on its way to search engine preeminence.

Imagine you were searching the internet in the mid 1990s, and your search engine of choice was Ask Jeeves.

Well, the results of your search would have been somewhat haphazard.

You would have had to look through pages of query results to find what suited your needs.

Then in 1998, along came two Stanford PhD candidates, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Their goal was to help users find things efficiently on the world wide web.

They created the first Google search algorithm.

Time to Compare the Google Search Algorithm to a Soccer Team 

The Google search algorithm takes the millions of results from your Google query and places the result you most likely are searching for on page one of Google results, which improves your web search quality.

How does it do this?


The search algorithm looks at a website’s incoming links and how important those pages are.

The higher the number of quality page links coming in, the higher the website ranks.

Think of a soccer team playing a match.

Each player on one team represents a web page.

And every pass made to a player on the team represents links from another website.

A player’s ranking depends upon the amount of passes (links) they receive.

If the player receives many passes from other important players, then the player’s score rises more than if they received passes from less talented players, i.e. those who receive fewer passes by lesser quality players.

Every single time there is a pass, the rankings are updated.

Google’s search algorithm uses links instead of passes.

Each time Google revises the importance of a web page, it must simultaneously revise the importance of all linked web pages.

Both soccer players and web sites can be ranked according to this algorithm.

And Thus, SEO was Born

The advent of the Google search algorithm, and the now retired Google Page Rank, gave rise to search engine optimization, or SEO.

This, in turn, fueled investment in the vibrant, fluid, and exciting field of content marketing, which creates quality content that is highly visible online.

So the next time someone is trolling you on the Internet, and starts debating with you about the existence of content marketing, now you have a comeback.

“But isn’t all marketing content marketing? Aren’t you just being precious and redundant with the phrase?”




Pete Salmon

Pete Salmon is an owned media manager at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He also is a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks.

View all posts by Pete Salmon