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How Do Search Engines Work in 2024? A Beginner’s Guide

How Do Search Engines Work

Search engines are the final stage, where how our pages are doing will be decided. All the optimization and strategies show the outcome here. 

But – How Do Search Engines Work?  

This is a major question, and answers to these questions are the ultimate solutions to rank your pages as well. 

There are many search engines actively working-

  1. Google
  2. Bing
  3. Yahoo!
  5. DuckDuckGo
  6. Baidu

I am pretty sure you might have heard 2 or 3 out of these. Why? The piechart below will show you the reason:

piechart: Search engine market share

Now that you know various search engines and their market shares, let’s explore how they work!!

What Are Search Engines?

Search engines are tools on the internet that help you find information. When you type something into a search engine, like Google or Bing, it looks through a lot of websites to find what you’re looking for. 

It’s like a giant library that quickly finds the book or page you need. Search engines use special rules called algorithms to decide which websites to show you first. They help you find answers, pictures, videos, and more, making it easy to find what you need on the internet.

How Do Search Engines Work?

Search engines work by looking through many websites to find what you’re looking for. They use special programs called algorithms to sort and show the best results, making it quick and easy to find information on the Internet. 

I. Crawling

Crawling is the process by which search engines use automated software agents, known as bots or spiders, to browse the World Wide Web systematically. These bots navigate through a network of web pages to index their content and identify links to other pages, allowing search engines to build a comprehensive database of online information.

How Search Engine Crawls a Website:

  • The bots start with a list of web page URLs from past crawls and sitemaps provided by website owners.
  • The bots visit these pages, read the content, and follow links to other pages.
  • They keep doing this to find new pages and update what they know about old ones.

How a Website Can Allow Bots to Crawl:

  • Websites can use a file called “robots.txt” to tell bots which pages they can visit.
  • This file is like a guide that helps bots know where they’re allowed to go on the website.
  • Website owners can also use sitemaps to show bots all the pages on their site.

Crawling helps search engines stay updated with new and changed content so they can show the most relevant results when you search.

What is a Crawling budget?

The crawling budget refers to the number of pages on a website that a search engine’s bot will crawl and index within a certain period. 

The search engine determines this budget based on factors such as the site’s size, the importance of its content, and the frequency of updates. A higher crawling budget means crawling and indexing more pages.

Website owners can optimize their crawling budget by ensuring their site is well-structured, minimizing duplicate content, and using resources like sitemaps and robots.txt files to guide search engine bots to the most important pages.

II. Indexing

Indexing is the process that follows crawling, where search engines organize and store the information gathered by their bots. This allows the search engine to retrieve relevant content when a user performs a search quickly.

How Indexing Works:

  • After a bot crawls a webpage, the search engine analyzes the content to understand what the page is about.
  • It then categorizes the page based on keywords, topics, and other factors.
  • The page is added to the search engine’s index, which is like a giant library of all the web pages the search engine knows about.

What Happens During Indexing:

  • The search engine determines the page’s subject by looking at elements like titles, headings, and the main text.
  • It also examines links and images to get more context.
  • The indexing process helps the search engine decide how relevant a page is to different search queries.

How Websites Can Optimize for Indexing:

  • Website owners can use clear and descriptive titles, headings, and meta tags to help search engines understand their content.
  • They can also make sure their site’s structure is easy for bots to navigate.
  • Providing a sitemap can also help search engines find and index all the pages on a site.

Indexing is crucial for search engines to provide accurate and relevant search results, as it determines how content is organized and retrieved in response to user queries.

Why Wouldn’t a Page Get Indexed?

There are several reasons why a page might not get indexed by a search engine:

  1. Robots.txt Restrictions: If a website’s robots.txt file disallows search engine bots from crawling a specific page, that page won’t be indexed.
  2. Noindex Meta Tag: A page with a “noindex” meta tag tells search engines not to index it. This is often used for pages that are not meant to appear in search results.
  3. Canonical Issues: If a page is marked as a duplicate of another page through a canonical tag, search engines might choose to index the original page instead.
  4. Low-Quality Content: Pages with thin or low-quality content may not be indexed as they provide little value to users.
  5. Crawl Errors: If a search engine bot encounters errors while trying to crawl a page, such as a 404 error (page not found), the page won’t be indexed.
  6. Blocked by Firewall or Security Settings: Some websites have security settings or firewalls that block search engine bots, preventing pages from being indexed.
  7. Temporary Downtime: If a website or page is temporarily down when search engines attempt to crawl it, the page might not be indexed.
  8. Slow Loading Speed: Pages that take too long to load might be skipped by search engine bots, preventing them from being indexed.

Ensuring that a page is accessible, high-quality, and free from technical issues can increase its chances of being indexed by search engines.

III. Processing Queries

Processing Queries is the step where search engines analyze and interpret the search queries entered by users. This process involves understanding the intent behind the query and identifying the most relevant information to display in the search results.

  • Query Parsing: The search engine breaks down the query into individual words or phrases, known as tokens. It removes common words (stop words) and applies stemming or lemmatization to reduce words to their base form.
  • Query Understanding: The search engine analyzes the query to understand its intent and context. It may use natural language processing (NLP) techniques to identify the meaning of the query.
  • Query Expansion: The search engine may expand the query to include synonyms, related terms, or alternative spellings to ensure a comprehensive search.

By carefully processing user queries, search engines can provide highly relevant and useful results that meet the user’s needs.

Factors Search Engines Consider to Rank a Page

Factors Search Engines Consider to Rank a Page

When search engines rank pages, they consider several key factors to ensure the best results for users.

  1. Relevance: Search engines check if the content on a page matches what you’re looking for. They look at the words used, the topics covered, and how well the content answers your question.
  2. Freshness: New or recently updated content can rank higher. Search engines like Google prefer to show the latest information, especially for topics that change often.
  3. Backlinks: These are links from other websites to your page. If many trustworthy sites link to your page, search engines see this as a sign that your content is valuable and credible.
  4. Page Speed: How quickly a page loads is important. Faster pages provide a better experience for users, so search engines favor them in the rankings.
  5. Mobile Friendliness: With more people using smartphones to browse the internet, search engines prioritize pages that look good and work well on mobile devices.

These factors help search engines provide the most relevant, useful, and user-friendly search results.

How Do Search Engines Make Money?

Search engines like Google make money primarily through advertising. Here’s how they do it with paid and organic results:

  1. Paid Results: These are ads that businesses pay for to appear at the top of search results. When someone searches for something related to their product or service, their ad might show up. Businesses pay the search engine each time someone clicks on their ad. This is called pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
  2. Organic Results: These are the regular, non-paid search results that appear below the ads. Search engines don’t make money directly from organic results. However, by providing accurate and relevant organic results, search engines keep users coming back. This increases the number of people who see and click on the paid ads, which is how search engines make money.

Search engines make money by selling ad space in their search results and by ensuring their organic results are helpful enough to keep users coming back.

Google is the King of all Search Engines

Google is the King of all Search Engines

Google is the king of all search engines, and it’s not hard to see why. Over the years, Google has become the go-to place for finding anything online. It’s like a magic genie that knows exactly what you’re looking for!

One reason for Google’s success is its super-smart algorithm. It’s like a brain that gets better and better at understanding what people want. Plus, Google is always updating its technology to stay ahead of the game.

Another big win for Google is its simplicity. The search page is clean and easy to use, which makes finding things a breeze. And let’s not forget about all the cool tools Google offers, like Maps, Translate, and Images.

So, it’s no surprise that Google has earned its crown as the king of search engines.


Search engines are like super-smart librarians of the Internet. They help us find the information we need by searching millions of web pages. They do this by crawling the web, indexing pages, and ranking them based on what we’re looking for.

Google stands out as the king of search engines because of its clever algorithms, user-friendly design, and handy tools. It’s like having a personal assistant who knows everything!

So, the next time you type a question into a search engine, remember the amazing technology working behind the scenes to bring you the answers. It’s like magic, but it’s all thanks to search engines’ clever workings!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do search engines find web pages?

Search engines use bots called crawlers to discover and visit web pages, following links to find new content.

What determines the ranking of pages in search results?

The ranking is based on factors like relevance, page quality, user experience, and the number of quality backlinks.

Can I influence how my website appears in search results?

Yes, through search engine optimization techniques like improving content quality, enhancing user experience, and building backlinks.

Do search engines update their algorithms regularly?

Yes, search engines frequently update their algorithms to improve search results and adapt to new technologies and user behaviors.

Are all search engine results paid advertisements?

No, search engine results include both organic listings and paid advertisements, with organic results based on relevance and quality.

Sahil Ahuja

Sahil Ahuja

Sahil Ahuja, the founder of Outreach Monks and a digital marketing expert, has over a decade of experience in SEO and quality link-building. He also successfully runs an e-commerce brand by name Nolabels and continually explores new ways to promote online growth. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn profile.


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