How Search Engines Work is one of those questions you can ask almost any webmaster. It’s not that they really know the answer but that they’re probably curious enough to ask. The real answer isn’t that complicated either. In fact, it’s just a question of how search engines work.
Search engines are incredibly complex computer programs. They must do lots of planning work before they even allow you to actually type in a query and start searching the internet. All the search engines do in order to provide you with accurate search results is to take a collection of very precise and important details which will ultimately answer your query or question. For example, you might type in a city name such as ‘New York’, and the search engines work out how to provide you with the most relevant results for your search request. It’s a three-step process.
To explain the three-step process a bit more clearly, search engines work like the traditional telephone directory. Basically, each entry is provided by a website called an indexer. These websites work like little databases which store information about every web page on the internet – including internal and external links. The indexer takes this information and creates search engine results pages (SERPs). When users search for a specific item such as ‘New York’ using a search engine such as Google or Yahoo, the engines look through the indexers to find pages of which they can return results.
The above explanation of how search engines work may make it sound a little complicated but it’s actually quite straightforward. The algorithms that search engines use to produce search results are actually very simple. They simply take the information which is stored in their databases and determine how that information should be presented to users. In order to be ranked highly, sites need to follow the rules which are already pre-set by the indexers. Sites that don’t follow these rules, or which add irrelevant information to their listings can find their way onto the SERPs and be omitted from the ranking process.
However, there is another aspect to the ranking algorithm which has nothing to do with how the site looks or what it is called. This is the quality score, which is determined by observing certain behaviors which the user might perform on a particular site. These behaviors are then used by search engines to rank sites according to how user-friendly they are, how useful their information is, and how efficient their internal linking structure is. If these factors are observed by both the user and the search engines, then a site is said to be ‘ranking well’.
The other major aspect to consider when it comes to understanding how search engines work is the SERP or Search Engine Result Page. This is the page that appears in the results pages of every search engine, which summarizes all of the most relevant pages found for a given keyword. SERP’s are arranged in a vertical fashion, with the most recent results at the top, and older results at the bottom. They also alternate in terms of size, with the small search engines being referred to as ‘page rank’ SEO’s, and the larger ones being called site links’.
The three-step process which makes the three-step process work is also known as ‘crawling. Crawling is a long, continuous process, which starts off with the implementation of a spider, who either reads through indexing data or visits every indexing page, looking for relevant information. If no relevant information is found, the crawling spider then either decides to follow the links within the indexing data or continue to browse around the Internet, until it eventually runs across a relevant page.
Finally, the last step which makes the process of how search engines work is called indexing. Indexing is simply the process of storing up all the most relevant crawlable text that Google has on different web pages. These texts are then categorized into archives. In essence, all the crawling spiders are working off each other, seeking out the most relevant pages, and storing them all in an index. At a certain point, however, an archive becomes too full and needs to be deleted. Search engines look for newly updated versions of any URLs, and whenever new relevant material is added to the index, it will push the page up in ranking.