When it comes to Google's search algorithm, there's still a lot of mystery and misconception about how exactly it works.
In a new webmaster help video, Google's Matt Cutts discusses whether an identical algorithm is applied to all search results, or if there are different algorithms that apply to different search results based on things such as freshness, backlinks, or social signals.
Cutts said here he is only talking about search rankings, so there is a possibility that results such as local listings or news results could have a different algorithm applied to them.
"In general the rankings are not different for positions 1 to 3, and 4 to 6 and 7 through 10," Cutts said. "It's the same algorithm that returns lots of different web results, you know a hundred or even a thousand and then with those we just sort them in the order of what we think the trade-off of relevancy versus reputation, so we want something is very relevant, but also as reputable we can find."
This is nothing really new. Google's algorithm balances relevancy along with quality and reputation, along with the many other parts that make up the Google search algorithm. Google definitely continues to push for the highest quality from the most reputable sources in their results
"So it's the same algorithm that generates all those sorted lists of results and that shows up on the first page," Cutts said. "So for the most part for web ranking is not the case where position number nine is saved for things based on backlinks or anything like that is the same algorithm that's generating the same list of search results.
Over the years, people have wondered whether pages that appear lower in the search results might be weighted differently, because people who are that deep into the search results obviously couldn't find what they were looking for on the first few search result pages (or they are webmasters doing research). However, based on Cutts comments, at least for straight search results, it seems the same algorithm is applied to the entirety of its search results, and specific positions on the page aren't isolated or reserved for different weightings of the algorithm to give different signals different priority.
It's important to remember, what appears on the first page of search results can vary greatly, as Google tests different features, and based on the type of search being conducted. In that regard, it's still important for webmasters to ensure their sites also rank well to appear on those different parts, whether it's the local listings, or ensuring their new site is appearing correctly in Google News.
But in terms of the search algorithm for the natural search results, continue focusing on high quality content, work on having a great reputation, work on backlinks, but you don't have to worry that just because you know you can't crack the top three search results that you then need to focus on something different SEO-wise in order to rank in positions 4 to 6.