How does Google search work?
The Internet – probably the most important invention of the last decades – is so vast that without appropriate data search tools any orientation would be impossible. We all know that Google is (most often) used to search. But how does Google itself actually search?
How can you find anything in this vast amount of information?
The amount of data available on the Internet can be a real headache. We can only speculate about the exact values, but it is estimated that the so-called ‘big four’ (Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook) store a total of about 1,200 petabytes (in other words: 1.2 million terabytes) of data. And we are only talking about four large companies. Navigating through such a huge amount of information is only possible if we have some system for organizing it. This is how Google’s career began – cataloging the Internet.
Google has created ranking systems that analyze this monstrous number of pages contained in the search index and return search results as close as possible to the original query.
Quite by accident, it also happens that many related concepts and professions have arisen around the Google search engine – such as SEO, SEM, copywriter and content writer – so the mechanism of operation of such a search engine may be interesting not only in terms of curiosity, but also professionally. After all, we deal with it every day, both at work and at home – so let’s learn its secrets.
How does Google search work?
Ranking systems use a set of algorithms that analyze pages indexed in their catalogs for many different factors.
This multi-step verification process is designed to return a precise search result. Moreover, these factors have variable importance – in the case of a query about current events (such as a pandemic), the time of addition is important. In the case of general inquiries – substantiveness and cross-sectionality. The process is overall complex – we will look at it in stages.
To know what to look for, you first need to properly understand what you are asking about. Thanks to research on understanding natural languages, the search engine is able to understand, among others: typos (spelling errors or incorrect spelling resulted from ignorance or haste), synonyms for the words used in the phrase (for example: for the query “how to download data from a computer” the search engine will also show search results that would appear if the key phrase was worded differently, e.g. “how to download data from a computer”) and understand the type of question asked.
Moreover, the search engine will detect whether the time aspect is an important element of our question. A search conducted using keywords that have recently become popular may indicate a desire to obtain the latest information on a given topic.
So we know what was actually asked. What’s next?
Matching results to the question
The stage in which the search engine decides which content may be consistent with our query. It is therefore easy to guess that this is the stage that interests us, copywriters, content writers and SEO optimization specialists, the most.
The main determinant of compatibility is, no surprise here, the presence on the website of the same words and key phrases used in the query. Their frequency and place of occurrence (title, headings, content) are important. In addition, the search engine tries to assess whether a given search is consistent with the intention of the person asking the question, and also tries to broaden the search criteria to include what the searcher really wanted. If you type in the phrase “cars,” you’re unlikely to be happy if the response you get is pages and pages of the word “cars” repeated several thousand times. It’s more likely that you mean brands, types, prices, stock exchange, rankings.
Google tries to constantly improve its algorithms to present the most precise search results. That’s why you may sometimes be asked whether the search result matches what you entered into the search engine.
So we have a pool of potential results for our query. Is this the end of our work? Not yet.
Website usefulness ranking
We already know that there are millions of gigabytes of data on the Internet, so we would probably end up with millions of pages for each entry. However, we usually find a satisfactory answer on the first, second or third page of search results. How does it happend?
Google keeps a watchful eye on websites, creating the so-called usefulness ranking. It includes websites that are highly rated by users when searching for a given phrase, containing reliable information relating to the topic, but also being in good technical condition, having substantive content and a clear appearance. Therefore, it is not enough to stuff your website with a keyword phrase to gain the favor of the algorithms.
A classic confirmation of the quality of a website are links to it posted on other websites. If multiple sites list a single site as related to a given query, this is a sure sign that it can be trusted.
We have therefore limited our search pool to sites that are harmful or have low-quality content. What’s next?
Displaying top results
Ranking systems try to first present results that contain a reliable cross-section of the issue, not focusing solely on a one-sided, single interpretation or opinion. The key is differentiation.
Moreover, in addition to the substantive layer, the technical parameters of the website are also taken into account: loading time (also for slower Internet connections), correct display on popular browsers, adaptation to the mobile version.
We have precise results and we take care of their quality. The pages where the content is located have also been verified. Is there anything else that can be done? Yes.
The search engine pays attention to geolocation, browser settings, private preference settings and search history to present results relevant to a given query as accurately as possible.
We finally have everything. This is how the “processed” search results are then displayed on the screen.
Is it the way Google search works that is changing?
Naturally, the search engine is constantly being improved in every possible way. Suffice it to say that so far it has passed 595,429 individual quality tests. The exact content of the algorithms is, of course, secret, so SEO optimization is like a game of ships in which no one tells us whether we’ve got it right or not.
However, people for whom Google search is an important part of their work are quite good at this game too. They effectively manage, with occasional tips from Google itself, to adjust their content to match current search trends.
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