How The Search Engines Work Crawling, Indexing And Ranking

how the search engines work

Let’s look at how the search engines work crawling indexing and ranking in the background as we go about our daily work. Search Engines work in the background for us and are extremely important to both internet users and internet marketers.

Yes, you can purchase banner ads and pay-per-click ads, but you’ll still get the majority of clicks from good old-fashioned search engine results. That’s right, despite the best efforts of web advertising firms, most users continue to find the sites they want to by searching for them. The aim of website owners is to be listed as close to the top of these organic searches as possible.

That is why it is important for webmasters to have an understanding of how the search engines work to find your site and rank it.

What Is A Search Engine?

As you probably can imagine, the internet is not an orderly place. The sites on the web are kind of like a bunch of filing cabinets in a huge office. You can walk from cabinet to cabinet and still not find what you are after.

It is the same on the web. Humans create web pages and assemble multiple pages into websites. It has been estimated that the web contains somewhere in excess of 150 million websites and close to 1 trillion individual pages, and those pages aren’t assembled in any organized fashion. So basically the web is nothing more than barely organized chaos and a lot of it.

These are the challenges faced by Google, Yahoo, and other major search engines.

how the search engines work

When people look for things of interest to them on the internet, they go to search engines to find them. You basically type in a set of keywords relating to what you are looking for in the browser and the search engine will throw out a list of websites that you can visit or drill down deeper into until you find what you are looking for.

The job of a search engine is to seek out and index websites on the internet according to keywords. When a user types a search phrase, a search engine scans its database and returns a list of successful matches to the request.

As an internet marketer, you are constantly working to get your website on the front page of the search engine and in this way, you will get more visitors to your site, and hopefully, in the end, more sales.

How The Search Engines Work A Typical Search

First of all, a user enters a query (keyword phrase) into the search site’s search box. When he clicks the search button, his query is transmitted over the internet to the site’s web server.

The search site’s web server sends the query to the company’s array of index servers. These computers hold a searchable index to the site’s database of web pages.

The query is then matched to listing in the site’s search index and the index servers determine which actual web pages contain words that match the query.

The search site now passes the query to its document servers which store all the web listings in the database.

The document servers assemble the results page of the query by pasting together snippets of the appropriate stored documents.

The documents servers send the assembled results page back to the main web server.

The search site’s web server sends the results page across the internet to the user’s web browser where the user can view the results.

Of course, the user is absolutely unaware that all this behind-the-scenes activity is happening as all this shuffling of data is invisible, but it happens in a matter of seconds.

Isn’t that amazing?

Which Search Engines Are Important At The Moment?

At the time of writing this article, these are the most used search engines on the internet in order of importance.

  1. Google
  2. Bing
  3. Yahoo
  4. Baidu
  5. Yandex
  6. Duckduckgo
  7. Contextual Web Search
  8. Yippy Search

So although there are thousands of search engines, you can narrow your focus down to just those mentioned above, as they receive the overwhelming majority of all search engine traffic.

The ‘reach’ of a search engine is usually defined as the percentage of all internet users who visit the site at least once a month. Another factor by which to judge a search engine’s reach is the percentage of website pages that it has indexed.

Even the most comprehensive search engine has no more than 16 percent of the billions of web pages online. The amount of information being indexed by commonly used search engines is increasing, but not as fast as the amount of information that is being put onto the web. So if you haven’t got the patience to wait for the search engines to find your site, you need to submit it to them to speed things up a bit.

Start To Think Like A Search Engine Would When Planning Your Marketing

Let’s imagine that you are starting your own search engine. If you want your search engine to be the best, you would certainly want your search engine to include all of the important and valuable websites on the internet that delivers valuable content and answer questions for their readers.

You would want your visitors to be able to efficiently find just what they need to among those sites when they use targeted keywords. You would also want the most useful information to show up first followed by the less relevant sites in the search results.

If your visitor does not find the results that he is looking for in your search engine, he will become frustrated and quit using your search engine.

Since we are never going to know with certainty how the search engines actually go about detecting keyword relevance and ranking sites, we can try to imagine what we would look for as a search engine operator and how we would eliminate those sites that cheat to get onto the first page but don’t offer any real value for the visitor.

Search engines no longer look at sites that have stuffed too many keywords into their content, but they also need to be careful that they do not exclude any relevant sites.

Since you, the search engine owner, cannot afford to pay somebody to sit and look at all the millions of pages submitted to your engine in person, you will have to use some form of an algorithm that will do this task as best as possible. It won’t always be 100 percent accurate, but they are getting smarter and smarter with every update.

In the past, many webmasters would stuff irrelevant keywords into the metatags to get more traffic, but the search engines are now also looking at the content on the site before they decide where to rank it.

Now when search engines detect cheating, they can choose to deindex the offending sites, so this is not as effective for webmasters as it used to be. The HTML of a website is also now checked and if the coding contains errors then the webmaster is considered unprofessional with his content.

A search engine that is good will also consider the quality of the sites that the website is linking to or vice versa. The age of a site will also make an impact, as many sites come and go and a site that is regularly updated and has been around for a long time is a far more reliable bet to rank, especially if it has its own domain name.

Keywords And Keyword Phrases

how the search engines work

As a webmaster, you need to become very familiar with the concept of keywords and key phrases.

Key phrases are keywords that consist of more than one keyword. For example, you could have the keywords ‘profits’ and ‘earn’ but you could also combine them into the key phrase ‘earn more profits.’ Keywords used on their own are normally going to be difficult to rank for, which is why webmasters have to look for keyword phrases that are more relevant and get the user closer to the information that they are looking for.

Remember never to use keywords repetitively within an article, unless it makes sense to the reader. There is no exact number of times you can repeat a single keyword before it is considered keyword spamming by the major search engines, but the number seven is touted as the maximum number of times you can use a single keyword. This is not set in stone and changes all the time, but remember that less is better for long-term ranking.

I would use keywords and key phrases in the description, but make it meaningful to let people know what the content is about, and this is the only chance you have to motivate people to click onto your site. Using a plugin like Yoast and SEO can help you to see if you are doing enough, (or too much) to rank your article on the search engines.

If you are looking for a good keyword research tool, this is the one I have been using for the last five years.


So as a webmaster or an affiliate doing internet marketing, search engines are very important to you. Set aside some time to spend thinking like a search engine operator. Think of all the things that would be important to you in judging the value of web pages. Try using common sense and imagination when designing your web pages, and make sure you are always providing relevant content that helps your readers.

Look at your introduction or heading and make sure that what you have written answers or matches up to the headline of your article.

Search engines are getting more and more advanced by the day, but you can never underestimate the value of good content that caters to human visitors and not robots.

If someone comes to your site and you are not offering them information pertaining to what they want to know, they will quickly leave never to return.

So if I were you, I would try an learn whatever I can about how search engines work, as this can only help your online business.

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