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How Does Google Search Work?

Gary Green
Gary Green
November 25, 2021

Google’s search engine is the most popular across the globe with billions of users thanks to its effectiveness. But how does it actually work?

Google’s fully-automated search engine utilises software called web crawlers which explore the internet regularly to find websites that can be added to its index. Most sites that are listed in Google’s search engine rankings aren’t submitted manually for inclusion. Instead, they are automatically found then added when its web crawlers go out to crawl the internet.

The Google Search process works in three separate stages which we will look at further here:

Crawling

First, Google uses automated programs known as crawlers to search the web for pages that are brand-new or which have been updated. Those page URLs (addresses) are stored by Google in a long list which will be examined later. Pages are found using several methods, however the most common is by following links from pages that Google already knows about.

Indexing

Next, Google will visit all of the pages that it learned about during the crawling process to try to work out what each of the pages is about. The content, video files and images in this content are analysed and the information is then stored in Google’s Index – an enormous database stored on numerous computers.

Serving Of Search Results

When users search on Google, the search engine tries to work out the best quality results. These have several factors including user location, device, language and prior queries. As an example, a search for “computer repair shops” will show different results to users in Hong Kong to those in Paris. Google accepts no payment for ranking pages more highly since all ranking is carried out using algorithms.

What Does 'SERP' Mean?

The term 'SERP' is an acronym standing for “Search Engine Results Page”. The more highly your website can rank, the greater its credibility and exposure. Every website owner wants their pages to rank in the top spot for their selected search terms.

What Is PageRank?

The initial algorithm that Google uses to evaluate a web page is known as PageRank. This utilises a simple web surfing model to estimate the likelihood of browsing to every internet set by using a concept of Direct Acyclic Graph random walks.

This model assumes that 85% of the times a link will randomly be chosen on a page to visit, and 15% of times users randomly choose an internet site to visit. However, the Google search engine is very technically complex. Thousands of factors are weighed up when it comes to figuring out how to rank each site.

How Does Crawling Work?

As pointed out above, Google’s first job is to “crawl” the internet using automated bots called spiders. These automated programs scour the internet for new information. Notes are then taken about the website by the Spider, from the title to the content to find out as much as possible about what the site is all about and who might want to visit it. The challenge, though, is to find that new data before information about it can be recorded and stored in the database.

Crawling involves copying what is on a web page, then checking all the other pages repeatedly to check whether they have been changed and, if they have, copies then being made of those changes.

What Does Indexing Mean?

Once the bots have crawled the web page, it makes a copy which is returned to Google for storage in its data centre. Data centres are enormous purpose-built collections of servers that act as repositories for all the web page copies that the crawlers make. They can be found all around the globe and they are closely guarded, being some of the world’s most high-tech buildings.

Often, this web page repository is called the “Index”. This data store is organised then used in order to supply the search results which appear in the search engine rankings. The term “Indexing” is used to descript the process of organising the enormous number of web pages and the huge amount of data so it can easily and quickly be searched for the most relevant results to any given search query.

Using Algorithms

Once the information about websites has been collected in the Index, Google has an enormous array of copies of web pages that are constantly updated and organised to allow search results to be rapidly generated. However, there needs to be a method in place to rank those results in order of how relevant they are to the search term that has been entered. This is where algorithms come into play.

Algorithms are lengthy and complex equations that calculate values for any site with relation to the search term that has been entered into the search engine. Search engines usually keep their algorithms hidden as a well-guarded secret so that people cannot game search engines and reach the top spot. However, enough is known about algorithms that are in use to allow site owners and developers to improve their websites accordingly and thus move up the search engine rankings effectively.

The Importance Of Organic Results

Google search engine rankings come in two forms – paid ads and organic results. Everything that we have mentioned here is about organic search engine results. These aren’t influenced or paid for by businesses and therefore they are different and kept separately listed from the slots on the rankings that businesses can pay for. Users can see that those slots are marked with the term “ads” when they show up on the results.

Recapping The Basics

So, now you have a better understanding of how the Google Search engine process works:

The web is first crawled by spiders who search for updated and new content. Next, Google understands the content and indexes it, storing it in its database.

The algorithms are then applied so that the most relevant content is presented to the user when they enter any specific search term.

In order for a website to appear higher in the SERPs, it must be easy to understand and contain high-quality content.

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