Updated: Sep 4, 2019
Initially, the search engines could not understand the intent of the user. The words on the query string were connected with the words in the result pages and results were displayed for the user. There was no understanding of the intent of the user behind those words.
Today, the aim of the search engines is to offer the best possible search experience for its users. And Search engine like Google has always been looking out for ways to understand the intent of the search in a better way. This includes differentiating the SERPs on the expected intent of the users. Over time, there has been a lot of focus on understanding the intent of the users and why different users with different intentions use the similar words in their queries.
Also, Google not only aims to provide the better search results but also give the results quickly. That means connecting the user with the content that satisfies their needs in the shortest time. This has an impact on the construction of the SERP layout and their ranking on the search engine result pages.
For example - A gentleman searching for sports shoe dealer will most likely be searching for the local dealers of sports shoes in the area. The address of a dealer in another town or state will not be of much use for him.
Rankings are crucial for brands. Higher ranking implies higher organic traffic and better leads. That ultimately means higher sales and higher revenue for the business. But that doesn't mean ranking on the first position of the search page. Instead, being on the 'top rack' of the search results or featuring in the snippet space can be more beneficial for the brand.
Earlier Google's algorithm was based on 'PageRank' which in simple terms meant that more the number of people agreed with a site's worth, more its credibility. But search algorithms had come a long way since the day when the top ten pages were listed as blue links.
In 2005, 'Personalised' search was introduced. It takes into consideration
User's search history
Social media activity
Universal Search and Important Algorithm Updates of Google
Google now has integrated its news, videos, images, and graphics, local and vertical searches in a format known as Universal search. In 2010, with Google 'Caffine' new updates were made to the algorithm. In 2011, Google introduced 'Panda' targeting the thin content. In 2012, with the release of Penguin update, unnatural links were discouraged. Google is continuously experimenting with the number of results, new results and ad formats. Introduction of snippets again changed the way search was displayed.
Google is not a fixed set of algorithms. The algorithms have been continually evolving to understand the complexity behind the string of words in a query. Google is continuously changing and experimenting and introducing frequent updates. Almost daily tweaks are made in the search technique, and often significant changes are also made.
Neither are all the SERPs equal nor are the search queries. With the continuous advancement and changes in Google's technology for search results, SEO professionals should also move along and understand that aiming for number one position is not possible every time and not even required.