Beginners Guide to SEO: How Search Engines Work?

A search engine is a complex computer program that searches the entire web looking for fresh content and websites based on the keywords the user inputs into it.

There are two complex processes the search engine does regularly:

  • Crawling: A search engine bot crawls the web, discovers new information, and adds it to its index
  • Indexing: It organizes the information, and prepares to serve it to search users when a relevant query is typed into the search box.

Here’s an illustration that clarifies how search engines work:

How Search Engines WorkA search engine also has a database of indexed websites (i.e., web pages) that it constantly looks through in order to find a relevant information that the user is searching for.

Being a complex software program, it means that a lot goes on in and around search engines.

For example, when a user enters ‘scholarship programs,’ the search engine does a lot of processes, so that when the user clicks on “Search” they are presented with accurate, timely, and relevant search results that answer that query.

Search engines are classified into two:

  • Crawler-based search engines
  • Human-powered directories

Often times, search engines and directories are used interchangeably. Most people still think they are the same — but they are not.

Crawler-based search engines, such as Google and Bing to automatically create website listings through the help of spiders that “crawl” individual web pages for fresh content, index their information, and seamlessly follow the links on that page that points to other pages.

This explains why links are important to search engines and for your websites to rank higher in the organic results pages.

If you change the content of your web page or any other information on the page, over time, crawler-based search engines will find these new changes as well.

All things being equal, the rate at which the search engine spider discovers the changes you made on your website coupled with other ranking factors will determine where your listings appear in the search results — either on the front page, page #3, or all the way down to page #16.

On the other hand, a human-powered directory doesn’t create its website listings from scratch. It relies on users who submit short descriptions of their website directly. The database is not as robust and huge when compared to that of a crawler-based search engine.

In a nutshell, website listings on a directory are done manually by humans. Bear in mind that editors are responsible for approving listings — so it all boils down to how good your website is, how useful the content on the page is, and of course if you had a personal relationship with the editors.

Web Directory Submission ProcessIn all, getting listed in directories could be biased because of the human review — as compared to search engines where listings are handled by the spider and served in the results by the same spiders.

What is a spider?

Spiders are primarily associated with search engines. A spider {singular} also referred to as a robot, bot, or a crawler, is basically a program that crawls or follows links throughout the web, collecting fresh content from web pages and storing it to search engine indexes.

Spiders are sophisticated but they are not 100% perfect. So they can “only” follow links from one web page to another and from one domain to another.

As a matter of fact, the more trusted links you have pointing to your website, the more “food” you’re providing for the spiders.

Getting found in the search engines

To speed up the process, it makes sense to submit your website URL to the various search engines. However, search engine spiders can still discover them even if you did nothing. But it will take more time for spiders to find it.

Another important step you can take it to find out how many pages of your website has been discovered by the search engines. And it’s easy to do.

There are two simple ways to do it:

Head over to Google and use the site operator followed by your domain name. For example site:saasbrand.com. You will then find how many pages Google spider has crawled and index.

Getting Found in Search Results
When a new link (usually a page or fresh link within a content) appears on any authoritative websites like Reddit, Facebook, Mashable, and the like, search engine spiders can quickly (within an hour or less) discover and index them.

Because over the years, these websites have proven to be trustworthy, helpful, and timely.

Essentially, the spiders prefer to stop by and visit more often because of the trust they have for these websites.

Google, in turn, relies on its spiders to find fresh information on the web, create their vast index of listings, and do all the to and fro link grab when users enter keywords into the search box.

As I said earlier, search engines are complex software programs. So there are no fast rules to mastering it — because it’s continually being updated to suit users and help them find the most relevant and helpful information for their query.

For a better understanding of this concept, a search engine uses this simple 3-step process:

  • A searcher enters a query into the search box.
  • Search engine spiders go into action, sorts through millions of web pages in its index to find the relevant and most useful match for the query
  • The results are served to the searcher and ranked in order of relevance, usefulness, and authority.

 

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