Search Engine Basics

Shahid Maqbool

By Shahid Maqbool
On Jul 27, 2023

Search Engine Basics

What is a Search Engine?

A search engine is an online tool or software application that allows users to look for information on the internet.

Here is a complete guide on search engines, their types, and functions. Make sure to read it for a comprehensive understanding.

How Do They Work?

If you want to properly understand how SEO works you must know the basics of search engine operations.

FYI: As of June 2023, Google owns 92.66% of the search engine market. This means that more than 9 out of every 10 search queries are conducted on Google. The next two most popular search engines, Bing and Yahoo!, have market shares of 2.76% and 1.09%, respectively. Since Google is the most popular one, we will mainly discuss its operations and processes.


Google utilize crawlers or bots which are programs designed to discover new pages on the web. This process is known as crawling.

The crawlers continuously browse the internet to find and collect information from various websites.

"URL discovery" is the first stage where Google seeks to find out what web pages exist on the internet. 

It continuously looks for new and updated pages by various means.

Some pages are already known while other pages are discovered when crawlers follow links present on these pages.

After discovering a page's URL, Googlebot may visit the page to gather information. It employs a vast array of computers to crawl billions of web pages.

The crawling process is based on an algorithmic process that determines which sites to crawl, how often to do it and how many pages to fetch from each site.

These crawlers are also programmed to avoid overloading websites. They adjust the crawl speed based on the responses from the site and settings in the Search Console.

However, it's important to note that not all discovered pages are crawled. There are certain scenarios in which the bot may not crawl a page.

For instance, site owners can disallow the crawling of specific pages using rules in the "robots.txt" file. Additionally, some pages may require users to log in to access the content.

During the crawling process, bots render the page, meaning it loads the page and executes any JavaScript code present on it. This rendering process is crucial because many websites rely on JavaScript to display their content.

Without rendering, Google might not be able to see the full content and structure of the page accurately.

Several factors can affect a bot's ability to access and crawl a site which can lead to crawling issues.


After Google's crawlers have visited and fetched a web page, the next step is indexing where Google aims to understand its content.

This process involves analyzing the text, tags and attributes such as the title element and alt attributes for images and videos.

It's important to note that not every page gets indexed. Some may not meet the criteria for indexing or may have issues that prevent proper indexing.

Several common issues can affect indexing like pages with low-quality content.

Additionally, if robots meta tag is disallowing indexing - Google will respect those directives and exclude the page from the index.

Ranking & Serving Results

Finally, when users enter a query, Google employs complex algorithms to sift through the index and determine the most relevant information that matches the intent.

These algorithms consider various factors, such as keyword relevance, content quality, backlinks, user experience, and many others.

This process of selecting and presenting information is known as ranking.

Keep in mind that search engines have hundreds of factors that go into both indexing and ranking.

Sometimes, webmasters may notice that a page is indexed in the Google index but it doesn't appear in SERPs.

There can be multiple reasons for that:

Irrelevant or Low-Quality Content

Google's algorithms strive to provide users with content that matches their intentions and if a page's is not deemed relevant - it may not be shown in SERPs.

Similarly, if the page is of low quality, lacks credibility or is poorly written - it is less likely to be displayed in SERPs.

Robots Meta Rules

Website owners can add special meta tags to give instructions to search engine bots. These tags are called "robots meta tags."

They allow site owners to tell bots things like:

  • Whether a page can be indexed (added to the search engine's list of pages to show in results)

  • Whether a page can be shown in search results

  • How often a page can be scanned by bots

If a robots meta tag says that a certain page cannot be indexed or displayed in search results, Google and other search engines will follow those rules.

So meta tags are a way for site owners to control what parts of their website Google bots access and include in Google search.

What Else You Need To Know?

Google Search Essentials (formerly known as Google Webmaster Guidelines) is a set of guidelines and best practices that assist webmasters in creating and optimizing their websites for Google.

It includes tips and rules to help people properly design their websites to show up well in Google Search results.

Some key areas it covers are:

  • Technical standards for websites

  • Rules against spammy tricks

  • Creating high-quality and useful content

Following these best practices matters because it affect how easily and prominently Google displays a website to people searching. It helps ensure visitors have a good experience.

Google wants to show webmasters the best ways to make their sites stand out in searches. The guide explains how Google's system works so owners can optimize accordingly.

Bing also provides a similar set of guidelines to help websites rank better in their search engine. Checking both Google and Bing's recommendations helps website owners reach the widest audience.

How Do Search Engines Personalize Results?

Google employs personalization techniques to provide users with more relevant and localized information.

Here's how it works:


Google uses the user's location data to deliver search results with local intent.

For instance, when someone searches for a "Turkish restaurant," Google will display information from or about local Turkish restaurants in the user's vicinity.

This is because Google understands that users are more likely to be interested in nearby options rather than distant ones.


To cater to users speaking different languages - search engines prioritize displaying results in the user's preferred language.

For example, if a user's browser or device settings indicate German as their language preference - Google will prioritize localized versions of content available in German.


Google keeps track of what people search for and how they use the site. They do this so they can better understand what each user is interested in. Over time, Google uses this information to show each person more customized and relevant stuff.

For example, if someone searches for photography a lot on Google, it will try to show them more things about photography because it knows they like that topic.

While this personalization can be beneficial as it delivers more relevant information to users, it's essential to be mindful of data privacy and opt-out options provided by search engines for users who wish to limit data collection for personalization purposes.

Key Takeaways

  • Google bots find new web pages by following links and using sitemaps that website owners provide.

  • After bots crawl a site, Google adds the pages to its search index system. This organizes information to match search queries.

  • Google ranks indexed pages by relevance. Its software calculates what results are most useful for each search based on different factors.

  • Google's algorithms constantly update to improve and personalize results based on user behaviour, location, and language preferences.

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