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How Do Search Engines Work? The Complete Process

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Most people head to their favourite search engines such as Google or Bing when they need to find something online. If you type “search engine” into Google, you’ll get 1.43 billion results in just 0.69 seconds.

Web users can use a search engine, a service provided by a third party, to locate specific information across the internet’s vast resources (known as World Wide Web). Users who type something into a search engine are presented with a list of results that may include websites, photos, videos, or other online data relevant to their query based on their semantic similarity.

In addition, a search engine is a piece of software that allows users to perform keyword searches to locate certain documents on the web. Even though there are millions of websites, search engines can give quick results because they constantly scan the Internet and index any pages they find.

Search engines use algorithms, a set of steps in a process to look at the titles, contents, and keywords of the pages they have indexed to determine which ones are most relevant to a user’s search.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a technique businesses use to have their websites ranked higher by search engines in response to certain keyword queries.

This article will provide an overview of search engines, give some examples of their use, and explain their work stages. You should read it all the way through.

What is a Search Engine?

A search engine is a type of computer programme that is (often web-based) used to collect and organise content from all over the internet. It is also a web search engine and an online search engine.

The user initiates a query composed of various keywords or phrases, and the search engine answers by delivering a list of results that are most relevant to the user’s inquiry. The results may be presented as links to web pages, images, videos, or other online data types.

People have access to a wide variety of search engines. Nonetheless, a small number of companies control the majority of the industry. Users can search for material on the internet using various keywords thanks to search engines. 

When the user enters a query into a search engine, a search engine results page (SERP) returns, ranking the pages found based on their relevance. The method that each search engine uses to determine rankings is unique.

Frequent updates are made to the algorithms used by search engines and the programmes that determine the order in which results are shown. They intend to learn how users search so that they can provide the most relevant results to the questions asked by users. This means giving the most weight to the best and most useful pages.

Many people believe that internet browsers and search engines are the same things. This misconception partly originated because the Google Chrome browser integrated search engine functions into the web address bar. However, search engines are web services that are developed with the sole purpose of retrieving information. Even though a browser makes it easy to get to both of them, they are different technologies.

Examples of Search Engines

Though no search engine is without flaws, some are certainly more widely used than others. We’ve compiled a list of five popular search engines that people use frequently.

Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is an online library where users can access digital resources for free. This is a San Francisco-based digital library with a focus on preserving knowledge for the public good. It is useful for tracking the development of specific fields over time. You can find not just websites but also software, games, movies, music, moving pictures, and a large library of public domain books. 

The Internet Archive not only works to make the web open and easy to use but also to protect and keep net neutrality.


If you want to have a reliable search engine, Yahoo! Search is another excellent option. Yet, for a good chunk of its existence, it has provided the user interface while relying on third parties to handle the searchable index and web crawling. 

Before Google took it over in 2004, Inktomi was responsible for it. Before Yahoo! Search made a deal with Microsoft in 2009 to work together, it ran on its own and used index and crawlers.


Google was established 25 years ago and is getting bigger and better. In today’s era, Google is one of the most popular search engines. It processes more than 5 billion searches each day and accounts for more than 90% of the market share (August 2019). 

It has become so popular that the phrase “I googled it/that” is often used to mean someone looked something up on the internet.


Bing is the successor to Microsoft’s previous search engines, which include MSN Search, Windows Live Search, and Live Search. Although Bing has gained many supporters since its 2009 debut, its original goal of surpassing Google has not been realised. 

Nonetheless, Bing trails only Google and Baidu in terms of market share among search engines worldwide. Forty different languages have editions of it.


Ask.com, formerly known as Ask Jeeves, is a bit different from Google and Bing in that it presents search results in the form of questions and answers. Although Ask.com spent a good deal of time trying to catch up to the major search engines, it now relies on its extensive archive and user contributions, in addition to the services of an undisclosed and outsourced third-party search provider, to supply its answers.

How do Search Engines work?

In order to complete its tasks, a search engine will go through a series of processes that will be explained thoroughly and separately. First, a web crawler will go through the process of searching the web for material that will then add to the search engine’s index. These tiny bots can search an entire website, including its parts, subpages, and material such as videos and photographs.

When a hyperlink points to an external website, it must evaluate to determine if it leads to an inside page or a new source to crawl. Larger websites typically provide the search engine with a unique XML sitemap that functions as a roadmap of the site itself. This is done to help the bots crawl more efficiently.

When the bots have retrieved all the data, the crawler will add it to a vast online library containing all the URLs discovered. Then, when a user types something into a search engine, the algorithm in the search engine figures out which results are relevant and sends those results back to the user. A website needs to undergo this ongoing and iterative process, known as indexing, to be featured in the SERP.

The higher on the search engine results page (SERP) a website appears, the more relevant it should be to the queries by the user. Because most people only look at the top results, a website needs to have a high ranking for specific searches to ensure that it will be successful in terms of the amount of traffic it receives.

A whole science has emerged in recent years to ensure that a website, or at least some of its pages, “scales” the ranking to obtain the top ranks. The term “search engine optimisation” applies to this.

The results returned by early search engines were based primarily on the content of the pages that were being searched. However, as websites learned how to “game the system” by employing advanced SEO practices, algorithms became significantly more complicated. The returned search results can now be based on hundreds of different variables.

Each search engine currently employs its unique algorithm to arrange the results of a search in a certain order. This algorithm considers many complicated factors, such as relevance, accessibility, usability, page speed, content quality, and the user’s goal.

Those SEOs frequently expend significant energy trying to decipher the algorithms because the companies are not transparent with how they operate. This is because their business is private, and they also don’t want search engine results to be manipulated.

The majority of search engines operate through the following three stages:


The process of locating material that is freely accessible to the public on the internet is referred to as “crawling,” and search engines accomplish it through the use of specialised software known as “web crawlers.” Web crawlers are sometimes called search engine spiders for their ability to index websites. 

The procedure is complex, but crawlers and spiders locate the web servers that host websites and then explore those servers. The process is sophisticated, but the result is the same.

After compiling a list of all the servers, the number of websites hosted on each server is determined and added to the list. The number of pages that make up each website and the format in which the content is presented (such as text, images, audio, or video) is things that are being considered. 

The crawlers will also follow any links on the website, whether internal links that connect to other pages while on the same site or external links that lead to other websites. They will use these links to find more pages on the website.


The information found by the crawlers is then arranged, categorised, and saved so that it may be processed by the algorithms later and presented to the search engine user. This process is referred to as indexing. The search engine doesn’t keep all of the page’s content. Instead, the algorithms only need the important information to determine if the page is relevant for ranking purposes.

The search engine will try to understand and organise the content seen on a web page by using ‘keywords.’ If you follow the best SEO practices, the search engine will have an easier time understanding your material, which will help you rank higher for the appropriate search queries.


An index is searched for appropriate information when a search query is entered into a search engine. The findings are then arranged hierarchically by an algorithm. On search engine results pages, ranking is the process of placing items in a specific order (SERPS).

The goal of search engine algorithms has always been to give more accurate and relevant answers to queries of search engine users. The algorithms that are utilised by various search engines produce results that are distinct from one another. This has caused these algorithms to get more complicated over time.


According to the user’s query, a search engine is a piece of software that can be accessed online and used to search through databases of data. The search engine will produce a list of relevant outcomes to the user’s search.

Nowadays, many different search engines can be utilised online, each of which has a distinct set of features and capabilities. There isn’t one search engine that leaps out as being better than the others.

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