It’s almost like magic – You type in a search query and Google returns millions of pages in a fraction of a second. All the results are organised in a clean format starting with the most relevant at the top. The entire process works largely the same whether you’re searching from a desktop or mobile device.
If you’ve ever wondered how Google search works, the following breaks down its major components. We’ll also look at how you can use that information to improve your own site rankings.
How Google Crawls the Web
There isn’t exactly a central registry for the web so it’s up to Google to find new pages and add them to the search index. This first step is known as crawling.
The crawling process starts by Googlebots that follow links across the web starting from a list of known pages from past crawls. New pages that are discovered during this process are then added to its massive search index. Algorithms determine which sites to crawl and how often. As the Googlebots crawl new pages, they take note of key signals from the titles you use to how recently the site was updated.
If you have added new information, you can ask Google to recrawl your site using the URL Inspection tool but it can take a week or two to process. If you have a larger site, you’ll want to create a site map (a file containing a list of pages on your site) instead and submit it through Search Console.
Organising the Search Index
The search index is estimated to contain hundreds of billions of web pages. Sorting through that information on your own to find what you’re looking for would be an impossible task. To deliver relevant results, Google relies on complex algorithms that evaluate hundreds of different factors.
The search algorithm can be broken down into two major components:
The Search Query
The algorithm works by first trying to understand what you’re searching for. With major updates like Hummingbird, the algorithm is able to consider the overall context of a query over individual keywords. If you’re searching for “locksmith near me”, then Google knows that you’re looking for a locksmith in your area and not one across the country.
The algorithm then gets to work on finding the pages that best match your query. It does this by examining pages in its index and returning those it deems most relevant. Factors like whether the keyword appears in the title and how many links it has from other sites are all considered. Other aspects like loading times and if your site is mobile friendly also determine where sites rank.
By following the basics of SEO (search engine optimisation), you can greatly improve rankings for your own pages. These include:
Optimise individual aspects of your site to increase rankings for relevant keywords. As more people turn to Google to search for information from product reviews to the latest updates, you simply cannot afford to miss this opportunity. Higher visibility in the search results ultimately means more traffic to your landing pages. And that in turn means more revenue to your bottom line.