The most widely used website on the internet is call Google. For those of you who don’t know what Google is, I’d just give up right about now…

Millions of people conduct searches on the Internet using search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing on a daily basis. While you and everyone else in the world use search engines every day, it begs the question… do you really know how search engines work?

Core Functionality of a Search Engine

How Search Engines Work

Basically all search engines both large and small function and operate in the same manner. Their purpose hasn’t changed much over the past couple decades. Search engines capture information from websites using what is commonly called a spider, crawler, or bot.

The Role of Hyperlinks

The search engine spider crawls webpages all throughout the internet, using links to find new pages. Hyperlinks determine the architecture of a website.

Understanding Search Engine Indexing

Search engine indexing is the process of a search engine collecting, parses and stores data for use by the search engine. Once the information is captured, the spider submits it to the search engine’s index. This information is utilized to store data in a logical format, making information retrieval much faster and more efficient.

How Algorithms Affect Search Result Rankings

Algorithm - a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially 
by a computer.

Every sophisticated computer program has some sort of algorithm that it uses to work through a sequence of events. This algorithm determines which decisions it will make. In Google’s scenario, the decision is going to be where to place each webpage in the index.

Just to give you an idea, Google incorporates more than 200 different ranking factors with its algorithm. Here is a nice infographic so you can more easily visualize it.

SEO Ranking Factors

How Search Engines Are Unique From One Another

It’s all in the secret sauce, baby! Well, an algorithm at least. While every search engine has an algorithm to provide search results, each calculation is somewhat different based on the particular search engine. Each search engine may have different criteria that is used in the algorithm or the criteria may be weighted differently. This results in different rankings for each search engine results.

Ranking Factors Other Than Keyword Relevancy

There are many moving parts with search engines, especially search engines like Google. While, the core functionality comes down to relevancy and keywords, how does Google determine which website hits first page for “Ford Trucks. ”

Think about it. There are only 10 spots on the first page and you get over a million search results when you Google “Ford Trucks.”

While every search engine seems to work the same in function, each search engine company keeps their algorithms a secret. The reason is because they do not want people outside the company to understand or know the specifics behind the search engine’s design or operations, especially the algorithm.

How & Why Google Favors Brands

Google favors big brands. This is partly due to the fact that bigger brands spend more time developing their content. They spend a lot of money and they abide by very strict brand guidelines. That said, bigger brands pose less of a threat to Google’s users in terms of displaying spammy or low quality content.

Hopefully you don’t feel discouraged by that because with SEO, you can still beat them. You just have to be more efficient, develop better quality content and have a solid SEO plan in place.

Google rankings are all a Popularity Contest

The other reason why it seems that Google favors brands is because Google’s ranking algorithm is pretty much a popularity contest. For instance, take the keyword “Ford Trucks” again with over 1 mm results.

While theoretically, all one million pages could have the same exact keywords and number of words on each page, but that still doesn’t help us determine the quality, validity and value of the content to Google’s users. Google’s smarter than that…

Instead, Google uses links or backlinks to help separate the most helpful, relevant content from the low quality content which provides Google users little to no value.

In fact, this idea, PageRank, developed by former Google CEO, Larry Page, was what truly separated Google from other search engines like AOL, ASK Jeeves, Yahoo, etc..