A lot of technical know-how goes into operating a successful search engine. At their core, search engines are software packages designed to perform a function. That function is producing organic search results that point users to pages offering the information they want and need. The more relevant the organic search results, the more satisfied the user. At least that is the theory.
Google is arguably the most complex and successful search engine in history. Over the years, it has literally defined online search. Google sets the bar by which all other search engines are measured. And to produce quality organic search results, Google follows a 3-step process:
Step #1: Crawling the Web
Google’s process starts with crawling. As we get into this, it’s important to note that Google says that it “doesn’t guarantee that it will crawl, index, or serve your page.” In other words, you could do everything right and still wind up with a page not being served up by Google during an organic search of your keywords. With that said, let us talk about crawling.
Crawling the web is the process of finding websites and downloading their content. Crawlers download text, images, videos, etc. But before a site can be crawled, it needs to be discovered. This is where things get tricky.
If Google has successfully crawled a site once, it should go back and do it again. Algorithms are designed to crawl sites the search engine already knows exist. But what if a site is brand-new?
Webtek Digital Marketing, a Salt Lake City company that specializes in SEO and digital marketing, says web developers can submit sites to Google in order to prompt crawling. Organically, Google crawlers can locate previously unknown sites from backlinks, social media content, and the like.
Step #2: Website Indexing
Crawling is the easy part for Google algorithms. The hard part is indexing. This is the process of algorithms analyzing website content in hopes of artificially understanding its meaning. Algorithms analyze text, images, videos, and all the underlying code users never see on their screens. That underlying code includes things like title and meta tags.
A big part of the indexing process is comparing downloaded data against other site data in Google’s database. Comparisons tell Google whether a particular page is a duplicate of an existing page.
Indexing is sophisticated enough these days that algorithms can also measure quality to some extent. And as natural language processing capabilities improve, measuring both quality and relevance becomes a more accurate exercise.
Step #3: Serving Search Results
All the data indexed by Google gets stored in its massive database. Furthermore, the data is scored based on hundreds of ranking factors – some of which are known and some of which are not. When it comes time for a user to run a search, Google’s main software is activated.
The search engine uses the search terms entered by a visitor to try to figure out what the user wants to know. It will then scan its database for relevant data, apply ranking factors, and produce organic search results.
Of course, this is an oversimplification of how it works. As stated at the beginning of this post, doing all of this requires a lot of technical know-how. The computer code and algorithms that serve up search results are very complex.
Now you know Google’s 3-step process for producing organic search results. If you are a web or SEO developer, getting Google to crawl is the first step. After that, you are looking at producing high quality and relevant content for indexing and ranking purposes.