How Search Engines Work

A Search Engine is a glorified indexing tool used to index website content on the internet and uses automated robots, called “crawlers,” or “spiders” which can reach the many billions of interconnected documents that are stored on websites around the world.

When a person looks for something online, it requires the search engines to scour their indexes of billions of documents and do two things – first, return only those results that are relevant or useful to the searcher’s query, and second, rank those results in order of perceived usefulness. To a search engine, relevance means more than simply finding a page with the right words.

Currently, the major search engines typically interpret importance as popularity – the more popular a site, page or document, the more valuable the information contained therein must be. Popularity and relevance aren’t determined manually. Instead, the engines craft careful, mathematical equations – algorithms – to sort the wheat from the chaff and then rank the result in a specific order on the search results page.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know what determines the order?