How Search Engines Work

how search engines work

93% of online experiences start on a search engine.

Search engines are tools that find and rank online content with a primary goal of providing useful and relevant matches to a user’s search. Search engines are made up of two primary components: The Search Index, essentially a digital library of web pages, and Algorithms, which are programs that rank results from the index. Search engines also have two types of results: organic and paid. Understanding how search engines work will help you rank your website higher in organic search results, generating more leads and more revenue.

Indexing begins with a public list of URLs from back links, sitemaps, and url submissions. From there crawling begins, where a computer bot visits and downloads the discovered sites, identifying keywords or phrases to determine a page’s context. Google then works to extract key and crucial information from these pages for indexing. Crawlers consistently read and reread pages in order to have the most up to date information about your site and others. Each search engine creates its own index of online pages. Using the vast indexes, search engines can quickly and easily locate the pages containing relevant and helpful information. If a page is not in a search engine’s index, a user will be unable to find the page.

Search engines must use this index to correctly pull pages with pertinent information to display for results and rank them, according to relevance. Algorithms determine the relevance and importance of a page by reviewing keywords and back linking, along with the quality and quantity of both. Ranking also involves other factors such as: user experience, authority, mobile-usability, load speed, site security, and usability. Google’s algorithms take all of these into account when determining ranking, as well as how a user interacts with the provided results. However, algorithms use more than just the index of sites to provide results, they also rely on information from users such as: location, language, or current device in order to deliver highly relevant and personalized results.

Both indexing and algorithm ranking are prime examples as to why it is crucial to optimize your website, as SEO communicates the relevance of your site and gives search engines more information for indexing. When you exclude your business from search, or fail to optimize your site, you exclude your business from valuable leads, sales, and revenue. With strong SEO, search engines can serve as one of your best team members as 93% of online experiences start with a search engine and 40% of revenue comes from organic traffic.

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