Over 93% of all web traffic originates on search engines like Google. For most business owners, finding ways to optimize their website to land at the top of search engine results pages is a top concern. Achieving your goal to dominate the world of online search is only possible if you educate yourself about how search engines work.

Failing to understand the nuts and bolts of how search engines find and rank websites can put you at a disadvantage when trying to compete with other businesses in your industry. In this article, we will provide in-depth information about how search engines work. With this information and the help of professionals, you can optimize your website for search engine success.

How Search Engine WorksThe Basic Mechanisms Used By Search Engines

At its most basic form, a search engine is a group of interlinked mechanisms. These mechanisms are designed to work as a cohesive unit to identify various pieces of content based on the words a person enters into a search bar. This content usually comes in the form of videos, images and website pages.

There are over 130 trillion individual pages of content on the Internet. A search engine has to inspect this vast amount of content and return results to the user in a matter of seconds. Accomplishing this goal is only possible with the use of three basic mechanisms.

  • Algorithms- These computer-based calculations are designed to grade the quality of various web pages. During this calculation, the algorithm will assess a web page’s relevancy (based on the search term), popularity and quality.
  • Web Crawlers- Search engine bots that are designed to search for new pages of web content. These Internet bots collect information with the help of hyperlinks.
  • The Search Index- A search index is basically an ever-changing record of the web pages currently online. The index is designed to organize these pages based on the content featured on them and the keyword terms entered in a search query.

The main goal of a search engine is to deliver useful results to a consumer’s query. The faster these search engines are able to perform, the easier it is for them to retain their users.

A Peek Behind The Curtain: Details About Crawling, Indexing and Ranking Content

People who use search engines on a regular basis fail to realize how much work goes into finding the information they need. Before a person even enters a query into a search box, the search engine is hard at work gathering information from websites around the world and organizing it. By doing this, search engines can find the information a person wants in relatively short order.

This work is broken down into a three-step process. The search engine must crawl, index and rank all of the websites online with the use of search algorithms.

The Process of Crawling For Online Information

Automated scripts known as crawlers are what search engines use to hunt down information on the Internet. The process of crawling starts with a long list of websites. These websites are narrowed down with a detailed set of computational rules known as algorithms. These algorithms solely dictate the number of pages crawled and how frequently this process occurs.

When sent to a website, crawlers use hypertext reference (HREF) links to inspect the internal pages of a website. Embedded external links in the content on a website are also crawled to create a map of interlinked pages.

If you want to make your site easier to crawl, then you need to implement things like:

  • An XML sitemap that provides a detailed list of all of the pages on your website
  • A comprehensive site hierarchy with well-defined categories and sub-categories
  • Internal links to make moving from page to page easier on crawlers

Implementing these elements can help you get your website crawled and ranked in no time.

How Does Indexing Work?

Once a bot finds a website, it will start to organize all of the content found on the domain into particular categories. These categories include keywords, images, text and CSS/HTML code. With this content organized in this fashion, crawlers are able to understand which pages are relevant to the search query in question.

This information is then stored in a giant database known as an index. The current index used by Google is around 100,000,000 gigabytes and is powered by thousands of computers that run on a continuous loop.

There are certain pages on your website, like author or pagination pages, that don’t need to be crawled. Controlling access to these parts of your website is easy when using a robots.txt file.

Details About How Websites Are Ranked

After a website is crawled and indexed, it will be ranked. The search algorithms provide a designated process for how websites are arranged based on what the searcher in question is looking for. These algorithms use various factors to define the overall quality of the websites in the index.

These ranking factors assess how popular a piece of content is and the overall user experience it provides. Some of the factors used to rank a piece of content are:

  • Page loading speed
  • The quality of backlinks
  • The date the content was published
  • The amount of engagement the content has

The more you know about how popular search engines rank online content, the easier it will be to optimize your website.

A Step By Step Breakdown Of How Search Engines Answer Queries

Now that you know about the process used by search engines to return relevant results, it is time to find out more about how these search engines actually answer a new query. The three-step process used by search engines to answer new queries is detailed below.

Parsing Intent

The first step in this process involves the search engine gaining an understanding of the intent of a particular search term. The use of detailed language models is used to break down a search query into certain keywords. With these keywords, the search engines start to develop an understanding of what the user is looking for.

Google uses a synonym system that helps them recognize when a group of words means the same thing. For instance, if a person searches for a “dark-colored shirt,” the search engine will return queries that feature black shirts. This is because the synonym system used by this search engine understands that black is synonymous with dark.

Other words in a search query also provide the search engine with more context on user intent. If a person includes the term buy in their query, then the search engine will return results that feature product pages from eCommerce websites.

The Match Game

The next step in this process involves the search engine finding pages that match user intent. When deciding which pages to put on the results page, a search engine will consider factors like:

  • The popularity of the page
  • Page title
  • Content relevance
  • Freshness and quality of the site
  • Content quality

The keywords included in a search will have to be featured prominently either in the page title or in the body of the content for it to be put on the results page. There are certain queries, typically if the user has the intent to purchase an item, that will feature image carousels.

The Local Factor

Popular search engines like Google have access to lots of information about their users. If you allow Google to access your location, then the search engine results you receive will be based on where you live. Searching for “book stores near me” will generally return results that are localized.

The results you receive from a search engine query can also be based on your search history. If you have searched for a particular term in the past, it will surface on auto-complete after you type in a few letters. Google uses this information to optimize the search experience for their users and to return results that are actually in line with what a person wants.

Putting This Information To Use

As you can see, search engines are very complex. If you are a business owner trying to figure out how to drive more organic traffic to your website, then using the information in this article is imperative. Developing new content that features relevant and popular industry-specific keywords is the first step in showing up on Google’s radar.

You also need to work on publishing new content weekly to retain your rank on popular search engines. Assessing factors like website speed is also crucial when trying to edge out your online competition.

Google also considers how mobile-friendly a website is when ranking it. This is why you need to view having a responsive website as a priority. Since over 50% of search engine queries come from people using mobile devices, you have to accommodate this large audience to achieve search engine dominance.

If you are unsure about how to optimize your website for success online, you need to let the team at Small Business SEO lend you a hand.