Those who aren’t intimately familiar with SEO tend to ask one very common question: how do search engines work? Search engines are designed to give people who perform searches a list of websites. These sites are listed according to their relevance to specific terms or phrases. Search engines return this list by crawling and building an index.
How Do Search Engines Work to Crawl and Index?
Try to picture the internet as a massive series of stops on a very long train line. Every stop is essentially a unique document, whether it’s a web page, a PDF, video, or graphic file. Search engines are designed to crawl along the entire train line and locate every single stop along the way. The best way to do that is with links. It’s an enormous job because there are billions of pages, blogs and videos out there.
Search engines provide answers to queries by sifting through these billions of pages of content to find some relevance to your search. Without search engines, it would be virtually impossible to search for anything quickly. Search engines comb through lists of relevant pages that have been retrieved and ranked for their relevance. That’s why search results will correspond so closely to your search perimeters. The entire process is continually being refined to ensure the greatest relevance possible for your search.
Links: The Element That Holds Everything Together on the Internet
Links enable search engine automated robots, known as “crawlers” and “spiders,” to seek out and find relevant search data, while at the same time disregarding billions of pages that don’t relate closely to the search parameters.
After search engines locate these pages, they analyze the code in them and store selected pieces of it in databases. Search results appear quickly for consumers because these databases are gigantic. The stored information can be recalled at a later time if a search query corresponds to the information in the database.
Search Engines Determine Relevance and Popularity
Search engines only display pages based on whether they’re relevant to someone’s search. They also rank those results based on a website’s popularity. These two factors—relevance and popularity—rule the entire process of SEO.
But what determines relevance and popularity? In fact, there are literally hundreds of contributing factors. Over the years, search engines have run on the assumption that a web page’s popularity is a reflection of the value of its content. To increase satisfaction with search results, engines utilize mathematical equations, also known as algorithms, to keep relevant results and disregard pages that are irrelevant. Then, search engines rank these pages in order of popularity.
The algorithms consist of hundreds of possible variables called “ranking factors,” such as quality original content, proper use of keywords, outbound links, SEO descriptions, etc. Unlike in the early days of the internet, it isn’t just about dropping in the right words. As a result, companies are having a more difficult time than ever staying ahead of the latest stringent requirements that Google imposes on websites in order for them to rank well. With how complicated search can be, and how many links exist, it’s no wonder people ask, “how do search engines work?”, so often.