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How Do Search Engines Work?

April 7th, 2021
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Search engines have one objective: to organise the Internet. They help people search the billions of web pages out there for pages that are relevant to whatever the user is looking for.

But how do they do that?

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21st century search engines are complex. They use all sorts of signals and complex algorithms to decide which pages are relevant to any given search term – even to the point of offering up different results depending on the device you conduct your search from (mobile search results can be different to laptop search results). But it all started much more simply…

A simple search engine works by counting links. It counts the number of links from 3rd party websites, which link to a particular website in question. Of course, it does this for all websites, so what it actually does is build a map of all the hyperlinks between all the pages on the observable Internet.

It then looks at details like the anchor text of all the links linking to a particular page, the title tag of that page, the heading tags in the page and the amount of text and frequency of any reoccuring words or phrases within that page. And of course, once again, it does this for every single page.

Based on this information it decides according to it’s algorithm, how relevant every particular web page is for whatever search query the user types in. And then it generates search results giving you, in descending order, the top 1000 pages relevant to your search query.

And that’s a simple search engine!

Advanced search engines like Google use all sorts of signals above and beyond this basic bedrock to decide the order of relevance of pages on the Internet for any given search term.

Businesses, brands and organisations that would benefit from being one of the websites a search engine refers users to for a particular search term spend a considerable amount of money on hiring SEO specialists to audit their website and link profile in order to increase their chances of being ranked well and getting that traffic.

SEO is a perfectly legal and ethical practise – though there are plenty of people who try to cut corners. Cutting corners never works in the long term because Google is constantly improving itself and if the Google engineers find a loophole in their system, they’re sure to patch it up soon and if you spent resources on exploiting that loophole, even if you’re successful, your success will be short-lived.

If you think your business or brand could use more search engine visibility, get in touch and we’ll discuss how we can help.

About Smart & Slick

We are a digital agency specializing in web design & app development.

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