How Search Engines Work?

If you had to point to one thing that the digital market revolves around, it has to be search engines.

Every day, over 3.5 billion searches are being processed by Google. Then, there are also other popular search engines, such as Yahoo, Bing, and Baidu.

It goes without saying that search engines can help make or break your brand. This is why you need to learn how search engines work so that you can use them optimally.

Wondering how you can do just that?

By embracing our following comprehensive guide on search engines.

The Basics of Search Engines

At the most fundamental level, any search engine performs three functions:

  1. Crawling: where crawlers search the internet for content.
  2. Indexing: where the crawled information is organized and stored in the database.
  3. Ranking: whereby a search engine ranks the content that it has crawled and indexed.

At the same time, the search engine is made up of two main components:

  • Database: the database stores all the crawled and indexed information. This has trillions of web pages, URLs, websites and so much more.
  • Algorithm: the website algorithm is a set of instructions that tells the search engine how to rank the data in the database according to the query.

The Search Engines’ Process 

Revolving around the basics, the search engine uses an entire process to undertake the three primary functions. 

The search engine uses a list of URLs that go through the scheduler that decides when to crawl the entire list. At its designated time, the URL is crawled and sent to the parser.  

The parser extracts the essential information and indexes it. It also extracts vital links and sends them back to the scheduler that decides when to re-crawl them.

The entire process culminates when the user searches for something. For example, “how do search engines work.” The algorithm works on all the indexed data and uses set instructions to return the best results in their order of importance.

The Algorithm of Search Engines

If you understand the digital marketing realm, you know the tricky maze that is the search algorithm. 

Google’s algorithm sets the de facto standard for algorithms, given the over 90% market share it holds in the search engine industry. However, the algorithm is never entirely released for all to read.

It does allow some insight for users to optimize their content. But, given the likelihood of the algorithm being abused for maximum ranking, Google never keeps one algorithm for long.

What Does the Algorithm Look For?

The algorithm decides what pages come up on top when the user searches for something. Naturally, this interests all marketers that want to earn from the internet. 

The art of optimizing your page to come on top of the results is called “Search Engine Optimization”.

To give you a general idea of what the algorithm looks for when prioritizing search results, here is a list:

  • On-Page Factors:
    • The structure of the page.
    • The presence of keywords at various places in content and URL.
    • Meta tags and descriptions.
    • Unique content.
  • Off-page Factors:
    • Links coming into the page – quantity and quality.
    • Placement of links.
    • Link profile.
  • Technical Factors:
    • Sitemaps and structure of website.
    • Error codes and redirect management.


While Google is the biggest search engine and its policies and algorithms form the basis for many search engines, there are different forms of algorithms out there.

For instance, the Chinese search engine, Baidu, does not conform to the same standards.

Learning how your target search engine operates can be the difference between your site’s as well as business’s success and failure. Be sure to check out our other SEO articles like, SEO in a Nutshell, and What You Need To Know About Local SEO.

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