In this article you will learn what Google’s Whole Page Algorithm is, why it is important, how it works, why intent is key and and how you can incorporate it into your SEO strategy.
What is the Whole Page Algorithm in SEO?
Google and Bing have many algorithms for their SERPs (Search engine Results Pages). Here are some examples:
- The Blue Link Algorithm (this is the ‘original’ algorithm that underlies the SERP)
- The Knowledge Panel Algorithm
- The Video Algorithm
- The Image Algorithm
- The News Algorithm
- The Products Algorithm
- Google Maps
- Featured Snippet Algorithm
- …. and many more
Each of these ranks and creates elements for the SERPs that compete against each other for a place on the SERP in a Darwinistic manner, as described by Gary Illyes of Google here. These individual, dedicated ranking systems are brought together by the Whole Page Algorithm to build the final SERP we see when searching on Google or Bing.
What is the Role of the Whole Page Algorithm in SEO?
Each of the algorithms (blue links, videos, map packs, images, news boxes etc.) provides candidate results for the SERP. The Whole Page Algorithm simply picks those that best satisfy the searcher’s intent: providing the searcher with the most efficient solution to their problem (or best answer to their question).
That means the Whole Page Algorithm is highly focussed on intent, and satisfying that intent.
How the Whole Page Algorithm Serves Intent
Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines distinguish four main types of intent that the Whole Page Algorithm serves:
- Website – go to website;
- Know, relatively complex – football scores, research topic;
- Know simple, – simple answer – one football score, age of person;
- Do – buy, go, download.
Generally there is one dominant intent, and the Whole Page Algorithm will focus on that, whilst also accounting for other possible intents. Some searches are multi-intent in which case the Whole Page Algorithm will attempt to cover as many as it can, as well as it can.
Some Examples of How Whole Page Algorithm Serves Intent
For a search on “Facebook”, where the algorithms know that the searcher intent is most probably navigational, the Whole Page Algorithm will show facebook.com at the top with Rich Sitelinks (so the user can navigate to Facebook and login). It will also show research options such as Entity Boxes, or a Knowledge Panel.
Data from SimilarWeb suggests that over 90% of people who google the term “Facebook” click on the the homepage or sitelinks. Nathan Chalmers specifically mentioned Facebook and gave a similar number, suggesting that the rest of the content in a website intent search is relatively inconsequential.
For a search on “beyoncé”, where the searcher intent is clearly to find information, consume content or research the singer, the Whole Page Algorithm will prioritise Videos, Images, a Knowledge Panel, Top Stories Box and News Boxes (if there is an active news cycle). The actual ranking of the videos, news stories are each defined by their dedicated algorithm. The contents of the Knowledge Panel are defined by the Knowledge Panel Algorithm.
For a search on “Kalicube”, where the searcher intent is more likely to be informational (research), the Whole Page Algorithm will “hedge its bets”. And cover informational or navigational more equally. For a less well-known company like Kalicube, the Whole Page Algorithm will show Kalicube’s site and social profiles (so the user can navigate to Kalicube’s web properties and engage with the company), but it will also show informational options such as videos, images and research options such as Related Searches or a Knowledge Panel.
Most people and companies are not world-famous. That means, in most cases, the second case (Kalicube’s case) is most appropriate: a balanced SERP that offers multiple opportunities to the user to research and engage with the company or person.
At Kalicube we aim to build a balanced SERP that offers multiple opportunities to the user to research and engage with the company or person.
We ensure that our client controls which results appear and can therefore optimise the user experience of their audience on Google’s SERP. In this scenario, the Brand SERP becomes a “mini-website on Google”.
“Know Simple” Intent
For a search on “Who is the Brand SERP Guy”, where the searcher intent is a simple answer to a simple question, the Whole Page Algorithm will prioritise a Featured Snippet. The choice of WHICH answer is provided in the Featured Snippet is made by the Featured Snippet Algorithm. People Also Ask, Related Searches and other SERP Features that aim to take the searcher further on their research journey, beyond the initial question are also prioritised.
For a search on “coffee shop near me”, where the intent is very clearly finding a coffee shop within a short distance, the Whole Page Algorithm will show blue links, perhaps some images and will prioritise the Map Pack. The actual ranking of the coffee shops in the Map pack is defined by the Map Pack Algorithm.
Whatever the Intent, Blue Links are Always Present
In all these cases, the Whole Page Algorithm will retain some Blue Links. This is because they are the foundation of the SERP, and the other elements simply replace, or extend the initial Blue Link result. However, the Whole Page Algorithm can demote or promote Blue Links in order to ensure that the SERP covers all intents.
Problems and Pitfalls with The Whole Page Algorithm
The huge problem we face with the Whole Page Algorithm is that we need to consider and manage several perspectives:
- which answer or solution will serve the intent of the search query (the content of the content);
- which SERP Features will be prioritised (the format of the content);
- rankings in the individual algorithms (news, images, videos, knowledge, blue link etc…).
This is tough balancing act for marketers. It takes research and thought. Getting any one of these even a little bit wrong means missing multiple opportunities.
At Kalicube we use data to ensure our clients create content that satisfies all three considerations – we see this as a HUGE opportunity.
Three Questions You Should Ask Yourself When Creating Content for Universal Search
The right questions to ask yourself when creating content as part of your SEO strategy:
- What content;
which intent should my content cover? Know simple, know, do or website.
- Which format;
what format should it be? Verbose text, short text, video, image etc.
- How to package that content for Google;
what techniques can I use to help Google make my content useful on its SERP: Schema, subtitles, metadata, semantic HTML5, mobile friendliness etc.
How The Whole Page Algorithm Fits into Brand SERP Optimisation and Knowledge Panel Management
When optimising your Brand SERP (the search result for your company or personal name), Google’s interpretation of the searcher’s intent is HUGE.
Further, the Whole Page Algorithm chooses the SERP Features and can also veto or override the rankings of the “feeder algorithms” according to its interpretation of the needs of the user. That means understanding the nature of the Whole Page Algorithm, what its priorities are and how it functions is essential to Brand SERP Optimisation.
Better still, working to optimise your Brand SERP will give you a better understanding of Google’s approach to intent; specifically for your entity type, industry and geo region (the concept of Entity Equivalent is helpful here).
Brand SERPs are Generally a Mixture of “Know” and “Website” Intent
With very few exceptions, a Brand SERP will focus on navigation and information (research). That means a typical Brand SERP (if such a thing exists) will contain:
Navigational, Website Elements
- the brand’s website(s);
- the most important social profiles.
Informational, Know Elements
- facts (Knowledge Panel, People Also Search For, Google Business Profile);
- news (Blue Links and / or News Boxes);
- first party presentations (videos,
- third party opinions (videos, opinion pieces, reviews…);
- additional research (People Also Ask, Related Searches, Entity Boxes etc).
Looking at which elements appear on your Brand SERP and analysing them in the context of the Whole Page Algorithm will provide you with unparalleled insights into your digital ecosystem, your digital strategy, and the needs and expectations of your audience.
Do you want to build your Knowledge Panel using The Kalicube Process?
Free DIY option: download our free Knowledge Panel checklist, where Knowledge Panel expert Jason Barnard reveals how we use the Kalicube Process to trigger and manage Knowledge Panels for our clients.