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A Complete Breakdown of How Search Engines Work

Search engines are an essential part of everyday life. Whether you’re looking up a new restaurant or scouring the internet for the perfect party dress, search engines make our lives richer, simpler, and filled with information. You may wonder how these complex systems function, so here’s a breakdown of how search engines work.

What is a Search Engine?

Before you can jump into the mechanics of a search engine, you first must know exactly what a search engine is. While it’s typically associated with Google, a search engine is, at its core, a program. This program is designed to search for items in a database based on a specific query. These searches pull up relevant keywords, which allows the user to find helpful and relevant information.


To pull up new and interesting information, search engines must first crawl the Internet. Crawling involves robots, known as spiders, which are sent out to find new content. This content is discovered through links, which allow spiders to crawl from one website to another. It starts with several webpages, then follows the links on those pages to find new pages, and so on. These pages are then indexed, which is the next step in how a search engine works.


The search engine index is where all crawled information is stored. This is a massive database filled with content; however, not just anything is allowed in the index. They must be deemed good enough to make it in. There are a couple factors that go into this, including backlinks, unique content, and fresh keywords. The more content adheres to these guidelines, the more likely it is to come up in searches.


Ranking determines what will come up when you perform a search. There’s an incredibly large number of webpages on the Internet, but with the help of ranking, you can find the most relevant and authoritative sources. The more relevant a webpage is to your search, the higher up it should be in the search engine. That way, users can find satisfactory information with ease. 

Other Factors

While crawling, indexing, and ranking are all important components, there are other factors that go into the results that come up in your search. Some searches, for example, are very dependent on location. If you’re searching for cafes, the search engine will take your current location into account. It will also detect your language and previous search history to provide relevant results.