How Does Google Work?

Understanding How Google and Other Search Engines Work

Ever wondered how search engines work? Considering that 500 web pages are created every minute, the speed at which search engines deliver the answers to our questions is nothing short of amazing. With that said, their first challenge is finding new data, analyzing what it’s about, and storing the information in their database.

From this database, search engines figure out what to present to their users when they type in a search query. Today, Google processes more than two trillion searches in a year. Two decades ago, they were only processing one billion annually.

While all search engines like Bing, and Yahoo work in virtually the same fashion, Google sets itself apart by providing answers at lightning speeds. But speed isn’t the reason behind their mega success. It’s all thanks to the accuracy of the results. There’s a reason why most online users prefer Google over any other search engine.

Crawling the Web

In order to find data and determine what pages go where, Google uses search engine spiders to crawl the web. You can think of Google as a librarian, organizing web pages (books) so users can find the information they need efficiently. Instead of looking at book titles, author names, and publication dates, the Google spiders take notes of on-page ranking signals such as your page titles, keywords, URL structure, and internal links.

Google does all this at unimaginable speeds. But how do they figure out what pages should rank higher than others?

The Power of Links

Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In 1998, they published a paper in Stanford entitled: “The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web.”

The term PageRank may sound fancy, but it’s based on a simple concept. The number of citations an academic paper receives determines how it should be ranked. The more citations, the more trustworthy and reliable the paper is.

The co-founders implemented this ranking system to sort information on the web. Instead of citations, they used backlinks. The more backlinks, the more authoritative the web page is.

For many years, webmasters have exploited the power of backlinks in terms of ranking web pages. Just a decade ago, you could rank a new web page by blasting it with thousands of backlinks. This practice goes against Google’s guidelines. They tweaked their search engine algorithm to weigh the quality of links more heavily than the number of links.

These days, you won’t do yourself any favors by building as many links as possible. This is because Google has developed a revolutionary technology called RankBrain.

What is RankBrain?

Scaling has always been a challenge for Google and other search engines. Google came up with a solution. RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to deliver the most relevant results to search queries.

As RankBrain processes more information, the better it gets as returning accurate information. What makes it so special is that it doesn’t only rely on words and backlinks to determine what results show up on the first page.

Let’s say you use the keyword “how to get an engineering degree.” How does Google know what type of engineering degree are you looking for when you don’t include it in the keyword? If your past search history includes “civil engineering” and you follow prominent civil engineers on various social media platforms, Google uses this information to present the best websites that tell you how to get a civil engineering degree.

RankBrain shows how far Google has come since its inception 20 years ago. It has solidified its position as the most accurate search engine, although other names have also vastly improved their algorithms.

You will probably hear many webmasters saying that Google uses 200 ranking factors, but don’t be surprised if Google reveals one day that they actually use tens of thousands of ranking signals.

What’s great is that you don’t have to know all of them. By understanding how Google and search engines work, you can focus on the basics and make the necessary optimizations on your site to boost its rankings.