Content Marketing

SEO Terminology: What Is an Algorithm?

Algorithm. The word can conjure dark memories of elementary and high school mathematics. But before you seek out the nearest safe space, know that we won’t be asking you to complete any long-form division (for now). Algorithm, in the computer science sense, is simply a set of specific step-by-step instructions given to a computer to complete a task. That task could be finding the largest number in a list, sorting items alphabetically, or determining the order of websites on a search result page based on a series of criteria.

Algorithms are used every day for a multitude of purposes. In fact, you use algorithms without even thinking about it. When you get dressed, tie your shoes, or drive to work each day, you’re using a type of (mental) algorithm to carry out each one of those actions—you perform a series of steps to arrive at an end goal. It’s essential to execute the steps in a specific order or the outcome won’t be right. If you put your shoes on before your socks, you might want to retool your process. Not that we’re judging.

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Some people like to compare an algorithm, or “algo” in shorthand, to a recipe. But cooking recipes tend to have wiggle room for creativity and interpretation. Not so with an algorithm. The program instructions need to be very clear with a focused terminating point to be effective. Another difference between algos and recipes is that you cannot, in fact, eat an algorithm—even though some of them take the shape of cookies.

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Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media sites, as well as Google, all use a breathtaking variety of algorithms to give the people want they want (and to learn more about them). (Learning can be a two-way street. Read more about updates to the Google algorithm, like Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird, on our blog.) While these companies tend to keep the details of their more advanced algorithms secret, some information is doled out like bread crumbs and some information can be deduced by how these sites (and search results) change after updating their algorithms. Our crack team of not-quite-evil geniuses keeps a close watch on these “innovations,” using the data to help make sure your dental or medical website remains relevant and visible within your market.

Algorithms sound more complicated than they are, but the programs themselves can get pretty complex. Having a dedicated digital marketing team on your side to make sense of Google and Facebook’s many mood swings can reduce your stress and enhance your success. Talk to Rosemont Media today to learn more.

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