Search Engines

Our life is warped around technology. It forms the blueprint of our daily lives as a source of engagement or help. Information that requires much time, effort and money can now be accessed with ease in a matter of seconds. There is no need to make countless trips to the library to find newspaper articles of events that occurred in the past anymore. The information can be gotten quickly with the aid of a search engine in the comfort of your home. By definition, a search engine is simply a software that provides a list of results to a user based on keywords entered by the user. This list of results is called the Search Engine Results Page or SERP.

In reality, however, the work done in providing those results is much more complicated. There are a lot of search engines online. Google readily comes to mind but there are even more. Some web browsers also have a default search engine on their homepage. Generally, all search engines operate the same way. But there is more; digital marketers, SEO experts, and creatives have made tremendous use of Search engines to an amazing effect. Search engines link different aspects of the internet, making a business thrive, and bringing users closer to their intended goals. Whether you are a business person, tech enthusiast, creative or emerging digital marketer, knowing how search engines operate will position you in the best spot to make the most out of it. This article thus explains how search engines work and lists some popular search engines.

search engines

How do Search Engines Work?

Each search engine is different and their method of operation also differs. However, they all follow 3 basic steps. These are:

  1. Crawling

  2. Indexing

  3. Result Creation (Ranking)

1. Crawling

Crawling is a process where search engines send robots (also known as spiders or crawlers) to a website. The crawlers go through the website in search of content. The content found could be anything from webpages to audio files and they are found by links. These links, thus provide new material for the crawlers to search through.

The bots first download the robots.txt file of the website. This file contains what webpages are allowed to be crawled and those that are not. Popular webpages are usually crawled regularly. This is done to see if any change(s) has been made to the webpage so it can be updated. Search engine crawlers are given a set of rules to determine how often they crawl a webpage in search of updates.

2. Indexing

All the data gotten from crawling are compiled and arranged in a database. This database or structure is called an index. Indexing is the process of organizing the collected data in order to provide responses to the search engine result page.

A search engine will not index a page if any of the following reasons apply:

  • If the robots.txt file is not included.

  • If the search engine algorithm determines that the page is of low quality. This means the webpage does not have enough content or its content is duplicated.

  • If the webpage has a “noindex” tag or canonical tag. A “noindex” tag instructs the search engine not to index that page. A canonical tag tells it to index a similar page.

3. Result Creation (Ranking)

Once the user clicks the 'search' button, the search engine checks the index to find websites that match the search query. The best results are then selected and displayed on the search engine results page. The order of the results is usually determined by the search engine algorithm. Each search engine uses different rank algorithms. This means that a website that ranks highly on Google might have a different rank on Ask for the same search query.

What a Search Engine Algorithm really is

Algorithms are used by search engines to ascertain the quality, theme, and the kind of query a website would show up for in search results. The search engine algorithms deliver a set of high-quality results that will fulfill the question input by the user.