Digital Marketing

How Do Search Engines Work? Exploring the Inner Workings

September 15, 2023

Google Search is like a super-smart brain that helps you find stuff on the internet by using a software called web crawlers. These little crawlers are like tiny explorers that wander around the web, looking for new web pages to add to Google's index

Now, here's the thing: most of the pages you see in Google's search results aren't put there by people manually. Understanding how Google Search works can actually be pretty helpful in fixing issues with how your website is being crawled, make sure your pages are included in the search results, and even teach you how to make your site look better when it shows up in Google Search.

Alright, before we dive into the nitty-gritty of how Search works, you should know that Google doesn’t take money to crawl a site or boost its ranking. Google also doesn't promise to index, or dish out your page, even if you're following all the Google Search Essentials.

How Do Search Engines Work: What Happens When You Make a Google Search?

So, here's how Google Search does its thing, and not every page gets through all the steps:

  • First off, crawling: Google crawlers download all sorts of text, images, and videos from the web pages they come across.
  • Next up, indexing: Google stores all the info taken from those text, images, and videos in its massive database called the Google index.
  • And finally, serving search results: When you search for something on Google, it dishes out all the relevant info that matches your query from that database.

How Do Search Engine Algorithms Work? Let’s Break These 3 Steps Down


  1. URL Discovery: Checking out web pages is the first step for Google to find what's out there on the internet. Since there isn't a master list of all the web pages, Google has to constantly search for new and updated pages and add them to its own collection. This process is called "URL discovery."

Google already knows about some pages because it has visited them before through its search engine algorithms. Other pages are discovered when Google follows a link from a known page to a new one, as part of how search engine algorithms work. For instance, if a category page links to a recently published blog post, Google pays attention to it. Additionally, there are cases where you can directly submit a list of pages to Google for it to examine.

Google comes across these URLs in a bunch of different ways, but there are 3 main ones they use most of the time.

  • First off, they find them through backlinks: You know, when someone puts a link to a new page on a page that Google already knows about? Well, Google can follow that link and discover the new page.
  • Then, there are sitemaps: Basically, they're like maps that tell Google which pages and files on your website you think are super important. So, if you've got a sitemap, Google pays attention to it and finds the stuff you want it to find.
  • Last but not least, we've got URL submissions: If you're a website owner, you can actually ask Google to come check out specific URLs on your site. It's like saying, "Hey Google, come crawl this page!" You can do this through something called Google Search Console.
  1. Google Bot: Once Google gets hold of a page's URL, it might pay a visit (or "crawl") the page to see what's on it. They use a bunch of computers to crawl through billions of pages on the web with a program called Googlebot (also known as a crawler, bot, robot, or spider).

Googlebot, which operates under an algorithmic process, plays a crucial role in determining the selection of websites to crawl, the frequency of crawling, and the number of pages to retrieve from each site. This process incorporates mechanisms to prevent excessive crawling speed that could potentially overwhelm a website.

The algorithm takes into account various factors such as the site's responses, including instances where it encounters an HTTP 500 error (indicating the need to slow down), as well as configurations specified in Search Console. This is a fundamental aspect of how search engine algorithms work.

  1. Rendering: But here's the thing: Some pages are off-limits to crawling and some pages require you to log in to access them. While crawling, Google takes the time to actually render the page and run any JavaScript it finds. They do this using a recent version of Chrome, just like your browser does when you visit a page. Rendering is crucial because many websites rely on JavaScript to bring content to the page. Without rendering, Google might miss out on that content.

Now, when it comes to answering the question “how do search engines work”, it's important to address common issues that can hinder Googlebot's access to a site. These issues may include difficulties with the server responsible for handling the site, network-related problems, or specific rules within the site's robots.txt file that restrict Googlebot's ability to access certain pages.


Once a page has been crawled, Google tries to figure out what the page is all about by analyzing and processing the text content, as well as key content tags and attributes like the page's title and alt attributes, images, videos, and more. This process is called indexing.

Canonical Page: During indexing, Google determines if a page is a duplicate of another page on the internet. They also figure out which page is the canonical one, meaning the page that might show up in search results. To choose the canonical page, they group together similar pages found on the internet and select the most representative one from the group.

The other pages in the group serve as alternate versions and might be shown in different contexts, such as when a user searches from a mobile device or looks for a specific page within that cluster. Google also collects information about the canonical page and its contents, which they use in the next stage of serving search results. This information includes signals like the page's language, the country the content is relevant to, and the page's usability, among others.

All this information about the canonical page and its cluster is stored in the Google index, which is a massive database hosted on thousands of computers. This indexing process is an integral part of how search engines work, specifically Google. However, note that not every page Google processes will be indexed. Indexing also relies on the page's content and metadata. Some common issues that can affect indexing include.

  • Low-quality content on the page
  • Robots meta rules
  • Web design


Google search don't take money to boost page rankings. When you search for something, their computers scan through a bunch of pages in their index and pick out the ones they think are the best and most relevant to your query. They consider all sorts of stuff like where you're located, what language you're using, and whether you're on a computer or a phone.

Now, depending on what you're searching for, the search results page might show different features. Like, if you're looking for bike repair shops, it'll probably show you local results without any images. But if you're searching for modern bikes, you're more likely to see image results without the local stuff.

Sometimes, you might have a page that's indexed in Google's system, but you can't find it in the search results. That could be because the page's content doesn't match up with what people are searching for, or the quality of the content is just not up to par. It could also be because of some fancy rules set up by robots that prevent the page from showing up.

Now, they do give you this guide to understand how search engine works, but keep in mind that they're always trying to make it better. So if you're interested, you can stay updated on their changes by checking out the Google Search Central blog.

An Endnote

So, how do search engines work without making money, right? Well, they got these two types of search results going on.

  • First, you got the organic results, which come from their search index. It's all about being relevan, non-paid, and unique.
  • But then you got the paid results, where advertisers can actually pay to have their stuff shown. So, whenever someone clicks on one of those paid search results, the advertiser pays the search engine. It's called pay-per-click advertising, or PPC for short.

And here's the deal: the more users a search engine has, the more clicks those ads get, and that means more moolah for them. So, yeah, market share really matters in this game of how search engines rank.

FAQs: How Do Search Engines Work In Simple Terms

1. How do search engines work ranking?

Ranking is the process by which search engines examine their database to find the most fitting information when a user conducts a search. The search results are organized in a manner that aims to address the user's query, with the most relevant content displayed at the top.

2. What is the most important factor in search engine ranking?

Here are some of the most important factors to rank on Google:
  • Backlinks
  • High-quality Content
  • Search Intent and Content Relevancy
  • Mobile Friendliness
  • Website Loading Speed
  • Domain Authority
  • Website Structure
  • Keyword Optimization
  • 3. Which ranking algorithm is used by search engines?

    The PageRank (PR) algorithm, utilized by Google Search for determining the ranking of web pages in search results, derives its name from the combination of "web page" and Larry Page, one of its co-founders. PageRank serves as a method for evaluating the significance of website pages.

    REIN Digital is a leading global marketing and advertising firm focused on providing the best services and partnership. Our journey began in 2015 in Gurgaon, and since then we have been believing in putting in every ounce of effort in order to bridge the gap between our client's present and hopeful future. 

    Throughout these years, we have collaborated with businesses from India as well as other nationals including Australia & the USA.

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