Search Engines Work
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If you are a developer, designer, small business owner, marketing expert, website owner, or are considering developing a personal blog or website for your company, you must grasp how search engines function.

Understanding how search works may help you create a website that search engines can comprehend, which has a variety of additional benefits.

It is the first step you must take before beginning any Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or SEM (Search Engine Marketing) duties.

This article will teach you the three basic procedures that search engines employ to collect, organize, and deliver content to users (crawling, indexing, and ranking).

What Does a Search Engine Do?

Have you ever considered how frequently you use Google or another search engine to do web searches?

Is it 5 times, 10 times, or even more? Did you realize that Google alone processes over 2 trillion queries each year?

The figures are staggering. Search engines have become an integral part of our daily lives. We use them for studying, shopping, entertainment, and leisure, but also work.

It is not an exaggeration to suggest that we have come to rely on search engines for practically everything we do.

And the explanation for this is rather simple. We all know that search engines, particularly Google, have the answers to all of our inquiries and searches.

But what happens when you input a query and hit the search button? How do search engines function inside, and how do they pick what to show and in what order?

How Do Search Engines Work?

Search engines are sophisticated computer programs.

They have to perform a lot of preliminary work before they even let you submit a query and search the web, so that when you click “Search“, you are provided with a set of exact and quality results that answer your question or query.

What exactly is ‘preparation work'? There are three major stages. The first step is the process of gathering information, the second stage is arranging it, and the third stage is rating it.

This is commonly referred to as crawling, indexing, and ranking in the Internet world.

search engines crawling indexing
How Search Engines Work (Overview)

Step 1: Crawling

Search engines use a group of computer programs known as web crawlers (hence the term Crawling) to discover information that is publicly available on the Internet.

To simplify a complex process, remember that the goal of these software crawlers (also known as search engine spiders) is to scan the Internet for servers (also known as web servers) that host websites.

They start by making a list of all that host website crawl and the number of websites served by each server.

They visit each website and use various approaches to determine how many pages they have, whether they are text material, photos, videos, or any other type (CSS, HTML, javascript, etc).

When people visit a website, they not only count the number of pages, but they also follow any links (leading to pages inside the site or external websites) and so find more and more pages.

They do this regularly, and they also maintain track of changes made to a website, so they know when new pages are added or removed, links are altered, and so on.

When you consider that there are over 130 trillion individual pages on the Internet today and that thousands of new pages are published daily, you can realize how much labor this is.

Why care about the crawling process?

When optimizing your website for search engines, your priority should be that they can access it correctly; otherwise, you shouldn't anticipate much in terms of high ranks or search engine traffic.

Crawlers, as previously said, have a lot of work to do, and you should strive to make their task simpler.

There are several things you can take to ensure that crawlers can find and access your website as quickly as possible.

  • Use Robots.txt to tell crawlers the pages on your website you don't want them to see. Pages like your admin or backend pages, as well as other pages that you do not wish to be publicly accessible on the Internet, are examples.
  • Big search engines, such as Google and Bing, provide tools (known as Webmaster tools) that you may use to provide them with more information about your website (number of pages, structure, etc.) so they don't have to locate it themselves.
  • Use an XML sitemap to identify all of your website's critical pages so that crawlers know which pages to watch for changes and which to ignore.

Step 2: Indexing

Crawling alone will not suffice to create a search engine.

Crawler-identified data must be categorized, sorted, and saved so that it may be processed by search engine algorithms before being made available to the end user.

This is known as indexing.

Search engines do not keep all of the information found on a page in their index, but they do keep when it was created/updated, the title and description of the page, the type of content, associated keywords, incoming and outgoing links, and a variety of other parameters that their algorithms require.

Google likes to compare its index to the back of a book (a really big book).

Why care about the indexing process?

It's as easy as that: if your website isn't in its index, it won't appear in any searches.

This also means that the more pages you have in search engine indexes, the more likely you are to appear in search results when someone enters a query.

Notice how I said ‘appear in the search results,' which means at any place, not only the top positions or pages.

To appear in the top five SERPs (search engine results pages), you must improve your website for search engines through a technique known as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short.

How to find how many pages of your website are included in the Google index?

There are two approaches to this.

Open Google and enter your domain name followed by the site operator. For instance, site:as-educate.con. You will learn how many pages relevant to a specific domain are included in the Google Index.

The second option is to sign up for a free Google Search Console account and add your website to it.

Then examine the Coverage report, paying special attention to the VALID AND INDEXED pages.

Valid and Indexed Pages Google Search Console Report

Step 3: Ranking

Search Engine Ranking Algorithms

When someone inputs a query, the third and last stage is for search engines to pick which sites to show in the SERPS and what order.

This is accomplished by employing search engine ranking algorithms.

In a nutshell, they are pieces of software with a set of rules that assess what the user is looking for and what information to deliver.

These rules and choices are based on the information included in their index.

How do search engine algorithms work?

Search engine ranking algorithms have changed and become quite complicated over time.

It used to be as simple as matching the user's query with the title of the page (think 2001), but this is no longer the case.

Before making a conclusion, Google's ranking system considers more than 255 rules, the details of which are unknown.

This includes the original algorithm's creators, Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google's founders).

Things have changed dramatically, and now machine learning and computer programs are in charge of making judgments based on a variety of characteristics that extend beyond the content of a web page.

To make it easier to understand, here is a simplified process of how search engine ranking factors work:

Step 1: Analyze User Query

The first stage is for search engines to determine what type of information the user is seeking.

To do so, they break down the user's query (search phrases) into several useful keywords.

A keyword is a term with a defined meaning and function.

For example, if you write “How to bake a chocolate cake”, search engines recognize the phrase how-to as indicating that you are seeking instructions on how to create a chocolate cake, and the returned results will include cookery websites with recipes.

When you search for “Purchase refurbished…”, they know from the phrases buy and refurbished that you want to buy something, and the results will contain eCommerce websites and online shops.

Machine learning has assisted them in grouping relevant terms together. For example, they understand that the meaning of the question “how to change a light bulb” is the same as the meaning of the query “how to replace a light bulb.”

related queries google

They are also capable of interpreting spelling errors, comprehending plurals, and extracting the meaning of an inquiry from natural language (either written or verbal in case of Voice search).

Step 2: Finding matching pages

The second step is to search their index for sites that can provide the best response to a particular query.

This is a critical stage in the process for both search engines and website owners.

Search engines must produce the finest possible results in the shortest amount of time to keep their users satisfied, while website owners want their websites to be picked up to receive traffic and views.

This is also the point at which excellent SEO strategies might impact the algorithms' decisions.

To give you a sense of how matching works, consider the following factors:

  • Title and content relevancy: How relevant is the page's title and content to the user query?
  • Type of content: If the user requests photos, the delivered results will contain images rather than text.
  • Quality of the content: The information must be comprehensive, relevant and instructive, unbiased, and cover both sides of a topic.
  • Quality of the website: The overall quality of a website is important. Pages from websites that do not fulfill Google's quality requirements will not be shown.
  • Date of publication: Google strives to offer the most recent results for news-related queries, thus the date of publication is also considered.
  • The popularity of a page: This has nothing to do with how much traffic a website receives, but rather how other websites evaluate the specific page.
  • Language of the page: Users are offered websites in their preferred language, which is not usually English.
  • Webpage Speed: Ones that load quickly (think 2-3 seconds) have a slight edge over websites that load slowly.
  • Device Type: Mobile users who search are offered mobile-friendly pages.
  • Location: Users that search for results in their region, such as “Italian restaurants in Ohio,” will be offered results that are relevant to their location.

A page with a high number of references (Backlinks) from other websites is thought to be more popular than pages with no links, and hence has a higher chance of being picked up by the algorithms. Off-Page SEO is another term for this approach.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. As previously said, Google employs over 255 factors in its algorithms to guarantee that its consumers are satisfied with the results they receive.

Why care how search engine ranking algorithms work?

To receive visitors from search engines, your website must be at the top of the first page of results.

The majority of users, according to statistics, click on one of the top five results (both desktop and mobile).

seo importance
CTR Per SEO Ranking Position

Appearing on the second or third page of search results will generate you no visitors.

Traffic is only one of the benefits of SEO; if you reach the top rankings for keywords that are relevant to your organization, the other benefits are numerous.

Understanding how search engines function can help you improve your website's ranks and traffic.


Search engines have evolved into quite complicated computer algorithms. Their user interface may be basic, but the way they function and make judgments is anything but.

Crawling and indexing are the first steps in the process. During this phase, search engine crawlers collect as much information as possible for all publicly accessible websites on the Internet.

They find, analyze, sort, and store this information in a way that search engine algorithms can utilize to make a judgment and offer the best results to the user.

The amount of data they must handle is massive, and the process is automated. Human interaction is only needed in the process of developing the rules that will be employed by the various algorithms, although even this stage is being increasingly replaced by computers using artificial intelligence.

Your role as a webmaster is to make crawling and indexing easy for them by designing websites with a clear and straightforward layout.

Once they can “read” your website without any problems, you must ensure that you send them the proper signals to assist their search ranking algorithms select your website when a user types a relevant query (this is SEO).

The amount of data they must handle is massive, and the process is automated. Human interaction is only needed in the process of developing the rules that will be employed by the various algorithms, although even this stage is being increasingly replaced by computers using artificial intelligence.

Your role as a webmaster is to make crawling and indexing easy for them by designing websites with a clear and straightforward layout.

Once they can “read” your website without any problems, you must ensure that you send them the proper signals to assist their search ranking algorithms select your website when a user types a relevant query (this is SEO).

Getting a tiny share of the overall search engine traffic is enough to build a successful online business.

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