The company says that the reason why it's been so secretive is competition. However, at the same time, it realizes questions remain over how it is providing search results.
In a post to the official Google blog, search quality chief Udi Manber said that the company has been purposely quiet on its ranking practices to protect its product. On one hand, knowledge of how Google works could allow webmasters to game the system -- while knowledge of search practices could help competitors.
Such an opening up by the Mountain View, Calif. company for what essentially could be considered its own trade secrets may be surprising to some. At the same time, the search company has come under increasing scrutiny over its practices and business moves. Becoming more open may be one way Google sees as helping to soften its corporate image.
"The details of the ranking algorithms are in many ways Google's crown jewels. We are very proud of them and very protective of them," he said. The process isn't an easy one, considering that Web pages are written differently, and people typically search for information using three words or less.
At the heart of any Google query is something called "PageRank." The system is the basis for the search engine, and uses links to determine pages' overall value. From here, Google adds in various models, including ones for language, queries, time of creation, and personalization.
Thus, the way a search query is phrased, how its phrased, the timeliness of a query (whether its better served by current information or an older more established page), and how a user has searched in the past all play a part in the final result.
Google is continuously improving its search algorithms as well. In 2007, the company implemented over 450 improvements, and it has also improved searches in foreign languages over the past two years.
One team is dedicated to this subject, along with another for the user experience. While many may think that the search giant's simplistic UI may not need that much attention, the company is constantly ensuring that any new feature follows those expectations. Spam has also become a focus for Google, and the company says that new projects are starting all the time as user's needs for search change.
"One of the key things about search is that users' expectations grow rapidly. Tomorrow's queries will be much harder than today's queries," Manber said. "We know we cannot rest on our laurels, we have to work hard to meet the challenge."