How Does Google Search Work?

How Does Google Search Work?

It wasn’t too long ago that Londoners were dependent on dial-up modems, limited searchability and basic access to documents on the web. 

The Internet wasn’t always as prolific and user friendly. In fact, it had many barriers to entry and search traffic to many important sites was unreasonably low. Soon, a revolution in search would be able to quench our thirst for knowledge, online shopping and unhindered exploration.

1 K
Search Queries Per Second
1 B
Active Queries Per Day
1 T
Search Queries Per Year

What Was the Internet Like Before Google? How Did We Search?

Google Search is now a household name and even the term Search Engine Optimization is becoming more prevalent in business and technical crowds. This wasn’t always the case. Some years ago, Londoners were suffering through dial-up web connections waiting to surf the net for what they needed to find. How did they do it?

Dialup, Directories and One Dimensional Searching

Before Google, the primary method of search was people navigating to Directories like DMOZ, Yahoo Directory, Starting Point and Lycos then clicking anchors directing to the site they wanted. Because of this, even though people had lots of diverse reasons to be searching (searcher intent) they were limited to only a few options to answer their search query and forced to think navigationally (I’ll click this single listing on a Directory because it’s there) or transactionally (I’ll click this product because it’s listed on Yahoo’s Directory). All they had were a few choices of sites they always went to and that was the full scope of the Internet.

The Google as we know it went live in the morning of September 15, 1997 and it changed everything because it created an active indexing of the web instead of passive index of man-made websites containing lists of links. The passive era of search gave you a few navigation options, presented you with a handful of sometimes random links and didn’t empower you to explore. The active era of search gives you an infinite number of options to explore, refine your queries and tailors results according to user experience, past data and AI-powered future metrics.

seo, seo agency, search engine optimization, history of search, classic web directories
seo, seo agency, search engine optimization, history of search, classic web directories

What’s Going On During A Search Session?

Even before you hover your mouse, click and begin to type your query into the search bar there’s something you need to realize. You aren’t really combing the web in its entirety. You’re searching the index of the world wide web that Google has managed to discover and retain as a live document. Larry Page’s Stanford .edu homepage served as the starting of the first web crawl nicknamed “BackRub” and its purpose was to collect data from every site rendered. The research purpose was to explore the nature of backlinks as a measure of webpage authority.

Google’s Search index now contains many hundreds of billions of pages and it admits it knows of over 130 trillion pages exist on the Internet. They achieve this indexing using web crawler software called spiders which begin their journey after rendering a few web pages and then following links on those pages to a new page where they then repeat the process. These spiders work very quickly but still manage to retain pieces of data – a Coles Notes of ranking signals – on every page they visit. Every new crawl begins in the same way; from a list of past web addresses that the spider visited combined with a sampling of newly submitted sitemaps and attains new data every time. 

What Does The Google Spider See?

Human View
Google Spider

Google: How To Bake A Cake. What Happens Now?

Suppose that you want to learn how to bake a cake. If you type into the search bar ‘cake recipe‘ or ‘how to bake a cake’ Search software hunts through the index and pulls every relevant page including those terms. For a query combination like ‘cake recipe,’ the results return one million pages in less than one second. Google decides which documents to serve by asking and answering more than 200 questions or “signals” in less than a minute. It then calls up the pages that fit those signals and lists them according to best fit. Some of these ranking questions or signals the algorithm asks are:

Do these pages contain the requested keywords? How often are they included?
Are the words included in the URL and Page Title? Are Related Words for this search request on the page?
Is the webpage high quality or does it look like webspam? Is it designed well? Does it load fast?
What is the PageRank? Are the backlinks to the page relevant and realistic?

All of the above signals plus over 200 others get tallied up in a fraction of a second and listed in your search results below the bar. Each entry includes the URL, main title, and the text description that quickly and succinctly summarizes the page contents. Below or above these results are other recommended listings that could also answer your question – now it’s up to you to select one! Eating cake is easy but making one is another story. One that starts for some with a recipe they found using Google Search!

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