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How Does Search Engine Works?


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The worldwide web is a big place. If you know the web address, or URL, of a site you can find it by typing it into the address bar along the top of your browser. But what if you don’t know the URL?

In such cases, we use the services of search engines. Let’s find out what is a search engine and how does search engine optimization work?

What is a Search Engine?

A search engine is a software available online to users. It searches for webpages related to query (keyword) submitted by the internet user. The results are usually websites that semantically match with the search query.

how does search engine optimization work

Search engines find the results in their database, sort them and make an ordered list of these results based on the search algorithm. This list is generally called the search engine results page (SERP).

There are many search engines on the market. Some of the common search engines are Google, Microsoft Bing, Baidu, Yandex. Google is one of the most commonly used search engine.

Many website browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Edge usually come with a default search engine set as a home page or starting page.

How Does Search Engine Optimization Work?

Ever wonder how search engines like Google, Yahoo!, or Bing can find and deliver results so quickly?

The search engines search an index of the world wide web for keywords and display the results in order. A search engine makes this index using a program called a ‘web crawler’. This automatically browses the web and stores information about the pages it visits.

Every time a web crawler visits a webpage, it makes a copy of it and adds its URL to an index. After that, the web crawler follows all the links on the page, repeating the process of copying, indexing, and then following the links. It keeps doing this, building up a huge index of many webpages as it goes.

Search engines carry out their function in three stages:

  • Crawl: Search engine crawlers, also called spiders, robots or just bots, are programs or scripts that systematically and automatically browse pages on the web. The purpose of this automated browsing is typically to read the pages the crawler visits in order to add them to the search engine’s index. Some websites stop web crawlers from visiting them. Hence, the index will not include these web pages.
  • Index: Search engines process and store information they find in an index, a huge database of all the content they’ve discovered and deem good enough to serve up to searchers. Search engines use the information collected by the web crawler. This becomes the search engine’s index.
  • Rank: It refers to the process search engines use to determine where a particular piece of content should appear on a SERP (Search Engine Results Pages). Search visibility refers to how prominently a piece of content is displayed in search engine results. Highly visible content (usually the content that ranks highest) may appear right at the top of organic search results or even in a featured snippet, while less-visible content may not appear until searchers click to page two and beyond. And the search engine displays the URLs of the web pages in the index on the user’s screen.

What is SERP?

SERPs are the web pages that a search engine displays as a result of a searcher’s question or query. 

If you ask a search engine “what is a search engine”, the resulting page is an example of a SERP. There may be a whole host of information on this page — not just the information that answers your question, but further information such as images of computers, types of computers, other related questions, blog posts about the topic, videos of computers, and much more.

how does search engine optimization work

SERP results are determined by matched keywords. However, SERPs may also include advertisements, knowledge graphs, or other unique features. As search engines have evolved over the years, so has their ability to determine the “best” results for any given query.

Every search engine is different in how it will categorize and display results to a searcher, but the majority of search engines do have features that are intended to answer the searcher’s question right on the SERP, without necessarily requiring the searcher to click on a result. This can be in the form of a knowledge card, image results, related questions, or some other feature type. 

Image Credit: Technology photo created by onlyyouqj – www.freepik.com

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