What are search engines? How they work

What are search engines? How they work

In this SEO tutorial, you will learn what search engines are, how they work, and what are the most important SEO ranking factors in Google.

What is a search engine?

A search engine is an online tool that helps people find information on the internet. For one real example? Google. 

And the truth is, Google is probably the only example you need to know about. Just look at the worldwide search engine share graph ( Statcounter data ):

What are search engines? How they work

What are search engines? How they work

So, when we talk about search engines in this guide, we’re mainly referring to Google. Other search engines work by similar principles, and as long as your site is optimized for Google, you should be set up for others as well.

How search engines work

The search engine process includes the following main steps:

  1. Collect information
  2. Indexing
  3. Select result

… And finally, display the search results to the user.

The process looks like this:

Collect information

Crawling is the process by which search engines continuously scan all web pages on the internet.

They use small pieces of bots (called crawlers or bots) to track all the hyperlinks and discover new pages (as well as updates to the ones they’ve discovered before). there).

Martin Splitt, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst,  describes the crawling process as  pretty straightforward:

“We start somewhere with some URL, and then basically follow links from there. So basically we are crawling our way across the internet (one) page, more or less. ”


Once the site is crawled, the information is indexed. Search engines try to analyze and understand pages, categorize them, and store them in the index.

A search engine index is essentially a huge library of all the web pages crawled with a single purpose – to understand them and make them available for use as search results.

Tip: If you want to find out if your page has been crawled and indexed, simply go to  Google Search Console and use the URL Inspection Tool:

You’ll see when the page was last crawled, as well as warnings about any potential crawling and indexing issues Google may have with your page.

Select result

When an internet user submits a search query,  the search engine digs into the index and comes up with the best results. The list of results is called a  SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

In the following paragraphs, we will take a closer look at the Google Search Algorithm.

Google’s Algorithm

Google Search Algorithm is used as a general term to refer to all the algorithms, machine learning systems, and individual technologies that Google uses to rank web pages.

To provide the best results, they consider  different factors, namely:

  • Meaning of the query  – search engines need to understand exactly what users are looking for
  • Relevancy of the pages  – the page must be relevant to the search query
  • Content quality  – search engines try to pick the best results in terms of content quality
  • Usability of the pages  – the pages must also be usable (in terms of accessibility, readability, safety, etc.)
  • Context and settings  – last but not least, the user’s location, settings, and search history are considered

As with any other complex system, Google’s algorithm needs to be updated and adjusted regularly.

In addition to the small daily algorithm updates,  Google typically rolls out a few core algorithm updates each year.

They are officially announced by Google and create a lot of buzz in the SEO community.

Search quality raters

Besides algorithms, Google also uses human data input.

There are thousands of employees outside of Google known as Search Quality Raters who follow strict guidelines  (available to the public), which evaluate the actual search results and rank the quality of the pages. ranked.

A good example of pages that go through this kind of rigorous review is the so-called  YMYL (Your Money, Your Life)  pages – pages that deal with important topics that can affect happiness. , someone’s health, safety or finances.

Quality raters do not directly affect rankings, but their data is used to improve search algorithms.

Rating factors

Of course, the search engines keep the exact calculations of their algorithms secret. However, many ranking factors are well known.

Ranking factors are a much-discussed topic in the SEO world.

Many of them have been officially confirmed by Google but many are still within conjecture and hypothesis. From a practical standpoint, it’s important to focus on factors that have a proven impact but also try to keep the “good score” across all areas.

Cyrus Sheppard from Zyppy has put together a great list of Google success factors (those that correlate with higher rankings). Here are 10 important things:

  • Well-targeted content  – you need to identify what people search for and create quality content that fits their needs
  • Websites are crawlable  – this is without question  – if you want to rank, your site must be easy to find by search engines.
  • Quality and quantity of links  – the more quality pages that link to your site, the more authority you have in the eyes of Google
  • User intent-driven content  – SEO is not only about the words you use but also the type of content and its comprehensiveness – makes your visitors happy, and Google will too
  • Unique content  – be very careful about using duplicate content on your web pages
  • EAT: Expertise, Authority, Trust  – EAT signals are assessed by Google Quality Raters – never forget to build and demonstrate expert knowledge and credibility yours and write only on topics you qualify for
  • Fresh content  – some themes require more   fresh content than others, but nevertheless, you should regularly update your content to stay up to date
  • Click-through rate  – optimize your title tags and meta descriptions to improve the CTR of your pages
  • Site speed  – make sure your visitors don’t have to wait too long for a page to load, otherwise, there’s a good chance they’ll leave before actually reaching it
  • Works on any device  – your website should work flawlessly on any device and screen size (remember that the majority of internet users come via mobile devices!)

Note:  Content quality is undeniably the most important SEO factor (note that 5 out of 10 important factors are related to content).

Other important factors that can have a positive impact on your rankings:

  • Content depth
  • Optimize images
  • Thematic agency
  • A well-structured page
  • Social sharing
  • Use HTTPS


There are many search engines, but by far only Google has made the most progress in Information Retrieval, Natural Language Understanding, and Natural Language Processing.

Over the past 25 years, search engines have moved from plain text-based reviews to the age of machine learning.

Today, Google repeats user intent on a monthly basis and can uncover small nuances in the true desires of a searcher:  content quality, product offering, design, user experience. There is really no limit.

As a result, SEO has changed from optimizing for fixed criteria to moving towards optimal user experience. Smart SEOs understand that they have to go beyond backlinks and content. They must understand the searcher’s needs in the context of a keyword.

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