It’s something a lot of us use every day, and yet many of us know so little about it. Without it, it would be a lot harder to find the information that we look for so frequently online.
I’m talking about the search engine giant that is Google. Its sheer size is hard to comprehend, but let’s look at it this way: it’s estimated that Google processes some 40,000 search queries every second. This translates to more than approximately 3.5 billion searches per day, and more than 1.2 trillion searches a year globally. Google has permeated our digitally-reliant lives to such an extent, that the very word ‘Google’ has become a verb.
So how does the search engine process all of these searches, and how does it provide us with the results we’re looking for?
Google finds information by crawling
First off, when you do a Google search, you aren’t searching the entire web, but rather, Google’s index of the web. Google creates this index with programs called spiders. Spiders work by fetching a few webpages, and then following the links on those pages, and then continuing to fetch the pages they point to, and so on and so forth, until they’ve indexed quite a substantial portion of the web. In fact, there are 60 trillion individual pages on the web, and it’s still growing each day.
When you type in a search query, such as “digital marketing Melbourne”, Google searches their index to find every page that includes those search terms. Often, there can be hundreds upon thousands of results.
Which leads me to your next question of how Google sifts through all of these results, and how they know which ones will be most relevant to you?
Google’s mysterious algorithms
Part of the answer is algorithms. Google has created a series of algorithms to help it better understand your search query. While they do tell us a little bit about how they work, much of their algorithms remain secret. That’s why SEO technicians need to be on the ball, constantly looking out for small search engine results page fluctuations, which could be a sign that Google has rolled out another algorithm update. Keeping the workings of their algorithms on the down low is how they remain competitive. If everyone knew how Google did it, then every other search engine would be doing it!
Google will look at how many times a page contains your keywords, and where the keywords appear, such as in the title or in the URL. They’ll also look if the page has synonyms for any of your keywords, and if the page is from a quality website or a poor-quality, spammy website.
Over 200 ranking factors
Search results are then ranked using more than 200 different factors, including site and page quality. Google wants to ensure that they display only the most trustworthy and reputable pages, so they use PageRank, one of Google’s first algorithms, which assigns each web page a relevancy score, based on how many outside links point to it, and how important those links are. These factors are then all combined to give each page an overall score, and then Google sends back your search results.
Google will also assess how ‘fresh’ the content is on their indexed web pages, so that they can provide you with the latest, most up-to-date content, which is particularly important if you’re searching specific dates. Results will also be tailored according to your unique context e.g. your web history and from where you are searching.
Incredibly, all of this takes about 1/8th of a second.
So there you have it. That’s a bit on how Google processes your search queries. If you’d like to see a cool infographic from Google explaining this process, then click here.