How do search engines work, this is what a lot of newbies to the internet and SEO beginners often ask. At the end, the internet and living online is really all about two simple things, people who use the big search engines like Google and Bing to find answers to their questions or solutions to their problems. And websites that want to be found for exactly this.
Now that we know WHY people and websites are online, let’s find out how search engines work connecting the best results on the SERPs (search engine result pages) with a searcher’s query (the search term a search types in the Google search bar for example).
How Do Search Engines Work, Really?
Let us use an everyday example. You wake up with tooth pain and hope it will go away. After lunch you realize it is still bothering you. Because you moved to Orlando in Florida you don’t have a dentist yet. So you go on the internet and type in the search bar “dentist Orlando”.
#1 Search Starts With A Search Query
After you are done typing you click on the enter button on your keyboard or on “Google Search”. Seconds later Google shows you an assortment of websites. These are the websites Google picked as the most relevant for your search query. In our local search example, the Google carousel also shows local dentists in Orlando that filled out the Google local page and show up with their ratings and reviews.
#2 Being On The First Page Of Google
Every business owner and entrepreneur I have met wants to be on the first page of Google. But who is chosen to be on the first page and who isn’t? The first page, and really all further down pages, are really not “pages”. They are a list of websites with the most relevant content to the search query first. Then deeper down from the archives, the websites are seen as less relevant to the searchers’ needs.
[bctt tweet=”SERPs are not real pages, they are a list of search results.”]
#3 Googlebots Crawl The Web
Yes, you read correctly. What we see coming up on the first page of Google is not a result from Google going right in this second into all the billions of websites and finding the most relevant ones presented on the first page.
How do search engines work, especially Google?
Google as a search engine is an automated search machine that owns “monster archives” where it pulls the information from.
But how does the data get there in the first place?
Google’s Googlebots are sent to discover new and updated pages. They are also named “spiders”. Imagine a huge net of highways and the “spiders” in their cars driving over them.
At every intersection they stop and waiting for a red or green light. The websites that fulfill the search engines requirements kind of show a green light and the spiders visit the website and index all new and updated pages. If a website doesn’t fulfill the requirements then image a red light coming up. That’s the reason some websites are never indexed by the search engines. The process of the spiders crawling through a website is named indexing.
#4 Monster Archives
After the spiders found and indexed fresh and updated content they “bring it” to the huge archives of its search engine. There the search engine will use its algorithm language to label the content properly. The labels (keywords) are needed to connect the search query with the proper indexed pages. This result comes up as a search engine results page with the chosen and ranked websites.
#5 Google Algorithm Changes
A search engine’s algorithm is really the way how it measures what search results should come up on the first search engine results page. There were different algorithm changes in the last few years. I would say the most important ones where Google Panda (low quality sites got punished), Google Penguin (spam websites got banned), and Google Hummingbird hit the sites that had not context. Every algorithm change I saw so far benefited the end user who uses the search engine to find the most appropriate and relevant result. Which should be the most important goal of any search engine.
#6 Context Over Content
It isn’t enough anymore to just focus on creating optimized blog post or page content. For many years, single pages on a website could rank for a search term that had nothing to do with the site itself. Since the Google Hummingbird Google algorithm change, context has the same value as content. And it makes sense.
How beneficial is a website for the online visitor when you find a page that totally fulfills your needs but then there is nothing else on the website related to your original search?
How do search engines work? Hope with my answer above I could help you to understand better why Google, Bing and the other search engines play such an important role in our online life.