Many people are unaware that there are large teams of people who are reviewing website content and providing feedback to Google in order to make the results that are returned when someone searches for something a little more relevant. Google has made a business out of positioning the most appropriate information from a website in the top positions on their results when someone searches for a phrase. It used to be that there were specific mechanical and code tricks that could be exploited in order to get into those positions. In the early days of Google, the algorithm was just counting the number of times a phrase was used on a page or in the code. It evolved into the position of the phrase, then the links to the page using that same phrase, and a whole host of other factors that could be exploited by seo companies if they were known. All of these tricks are no longer able to be utilized successfully, and as a matter of fact will probably push rankings down for the phrase you are targeting. Right now, Google is looking for the answer to a simple question, “is this content on this page the best answer to a searcher’s question?” Thats it, there is no more.
Google is using a lot of really technologically advanced ways to determine if your content is the best, and you are probably not going to be able to trick them. Go into your content creation strategy with a single mindset, “I want to be the best resource available in the world for answers to specific questions.” If you are the best resource, you will get the best positions.
Here is how far Google has gone to make sure that the best results are delivered. While the majority of rankings are derived from the analysis of your content by super computers and the comparison against everyone else’s content, there are wildcards that are not understood by machines. In essence, there are still tricks that work, so Google employs people (yes, actual people) to review content and answer if it is the best. If the information they provide fits within the list of sites that are being delivered by the machines, then it is a verification that the system is working. If the people provide different answers than the algorithm, then Google makes an update in order to closer align the two lists. This is going on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
If you are interested in the guidelines that the quality assessors utilize in order to determine quality for Google, you can see the document here: Google Quality Assessment Guide