How Does Search Work?

The internet … could it be more wonderful? You may or may not be old enough to remember, but it wasn’t that long ago that, if you needed to perform research, you had to schlep to a library, look through something called a card catalogue, pick out a bunch of books that might contain some of the information you’re looking for, and subsequently hunt through the library to find those books’ reference numbers. Then, if you were lucky, the books you needed weren’t checked out, or sitting on the librarian’s desk waiting to be returned to their rightful places, and you could start reading … and reading … and reading. Thank goodness we don’t have to go through all that today! Billions of users worldwide search the internet for information every day. Most people go to a search engine such as Google or Yahoo, type in a topic or a few key words, and hit enter. Then, when the pages of data appear, they click on the ones that interest them. But how many users actually know how searching the internet works?

How it works

You’re sitting at your computer and you’ve got a boatload of research you need to do. You go to a search engine and type in some key words that best correlate with what you’re looking for, and you hit enter. About a half second later, pages and pages of data materialize like magic, right there in front of your eyes. So, did you just search the entire internet? Well, the fact is that you didn’t search anything. Your internet provider did. And, though the answer to the question is no, you didn’t search the whole internet, you did search a pretty sizable portion of it. For example, if you’re using Google when you perform your search, you’re actually using Google’s web index. Their many software programs, or ‘spiders,’ find as much information as they can by first retrieving a few web pages and following those pages’ links. From there, they retrieve the pages those links point to, and Google’s spiders follow those links to more pages and more links, and then they follow them to more pages and links, and so on, until Google has indexed literally billions of pages that are stored on thousands of computers.

How results are chosen

When you type key words into a search engine such as Google, Google’s spiders then search every page that contains your search’s key terms. But that’s not all spiders are doing. They’re actually asking more than 200 questions of all the websites they encounter in order to optimize your search and bring you the most relevant data. Some of these questions include:

1)  How many times does this page include said key words?

2)  Are the key words in the title or in the URL?

3)  Is the website you’re pointing to a quality website, i.e. is it spam?

4)  What is the page’s web ranking?

5)  How many outside links point to it, and how important are those links?

Google then combines the answers to these questions, gauge’s each page’s overall score, and sends back its search results. And all of these calculations take … are you ready for this … about a half second! By the way, if you’re wondering how much information is being disseminated, this will give you an idea. By 1998, Google’s index already had 26 million pages, and it reached one billion pages by the year 2000! Today, the web is estimated to have nearly one trillion pages.

A question you might be asking is:  How do key words figure in all of this?  The answer is simple … it’s SEO, or ‘search engine optimization.’ Digital marketing strategists have learned that the best way to get information to be grasped by a search engine’s spiders is by utilizing key words that people would use concerning whatever topic they are researching. SEO experts work to make sure that every bit of information you’re looking for will be retrieved by search engines in order to bring you the most comprehensive data you need. Without SEO, your research might not produce the thorough and far-reaching results you require in your searches.

And that’s how search works! So, the next time you type your key words into a search engine to research any topic on the web, think about the billions of data that go into that one half second it takes for you to get your results back. And think about all the SEO experts who are optimizing information in order to bring more clarity and comprehensive information to all of your searches. Imagine your search engine’s many spiders reaching out to all the thousands of computers out there, locating billions of pages and links, sifting through it all to maximize your time and bring all the data you need right to your fingertips … like magic!

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