How Do Search Engines Work?

Search engines are used on a daily basis by people all over the world. Individuals living in both first world, as well as third world countries, frequently rely on search engines to answer all of their questions. Whether you’re looking for the nearest restaurant or a new product to buy, you’re likely to use Google, Bing, or another search engine for this purpose. Have you ever wondered how do search engines skim through tons of data to offer you the best possible results? Well, here’s a quick look at how search engines work.


When a user types a search query, the search engine picks up the most relevant web page and sends it back to the user as a response. This web page has to be stored somewhere. To do this, search engines maintain a large index. The index assesses and arranges each website and its web pages so they can be linked with the phrases and words which are searched by users.

Additionally, the index has to put a specific rating for pages that are associated with a specific topic. To do this, they have to maintain a standard for quality so users can get the most relevant and useful content from search engines. For example, suppose a user searches “How to learn Java?” Such a topic is already discussed by different websites so how does the search engine know which pages to show to a user? To do this, search engines have designed their own criteria.


Website crawlers are programs that serve as the primary tool for search engines. They are responsible for recognizing the pages in the “Web.” Whenever a page is identified by a crawler, it is “crawled.” Crawl refers to the analysis of the page during which the crawler gathers and accumulates different types of data from the web page. It then adds the page in the index after which the hyperlinks of the page are utilized to go to other websites and the process is repeated. This process is similar to the life of a spider which weaves a web and crawls from one place to another easily. Hence, crawlers are also called as spiders. Web administrators can make their web pages more readily available to crawlers through two techniques.

  • Sitemap – A sitemap contains a hierarchical view of the complete website with topics and links which makes it easy for crawlers to navigate all the pages of a website.
  • Internal Links – Website administrators place hyperlinks in the web content which direct to the internal web pages across the entire website. When crawlers come across such links, they are able to crawl through them, thereby improving their efficiency.


One of the most important considerations for an index is to assign a relative rating to all the stored web pages. When a crawler finds 20,000 relevant web pages for a user query, then how is the search engine suppose to choose the ranking results?

In order to address these concerns, search engines like Google use an extensive list of algorithms. Examples are RankBrain and Hummingbird. Each search engine has a think-tank which initially decided on how to rank a web page. This understanding takes some months before a large algorithm is designed to rank websites.

How to Rank?

Search engines rank a website after considering multiple factors. Some of the common factors are the following.


If there are two websites A and B with the same attributes other than the fact that A was designed earlier than B, then A holds greater importance for the search engines. Search engines favor older websites and see them as reliable and authentic.


Perhaps the most important metric for search engines is to assess a keyword. When search engines look for the best results in terms of relevancy, they go through a list of words and phrases. These words are popularly known as keywords. The importance of keywords has to lead to the creation of a separate study known as keyword analysis.

Mobile Optimization

Search engines like Google have made it clear that if a website loads and works well on desktop PC then it is not enough. Nowadays mobiles and smart devices have swarmed the world. Wherever you go, everyone has a mobile in hand. Therefore, mobile optimization is necessary for search engines.


External links remain as one of the most crucial metrics for search engines to rank a page. If your web page is linked by a credible and established website, then the worth of your page increases in the eyes of the search engines. It conveys them a message that your web page has informative and high-quality content that made others reference your website. The more external links a web page receives, the more quickly the website gains a boost in its online ranking.


How often have you opened a website, only to be annoyed by the slow loading speed? Factors like these also weigh on ranking. When crawlers visit a link and find slow loading, they record it and inform the search engine. Consequently, the search engines cut off your mark in ranking and your page will lose its online ranking. Likewise, search engines monitor the number of instances where a user enters your web page and immediately leaves it, thereby signaling the possibility of slow loading.

The Birth of a New Field

Brick-and-mortar businesses are a thing of the past. Today, every brand has gone digital to market and advertise their services. This has given rise to the creation of an in-demand field known as SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Since every website competes to rank well on search engines, mainly Google, website owners have to understand how search engines work. To do this, there are several SEO strategies which are formed on the basis of search engine metrics and allow businesses to rank high on search engines.


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