How Search Engines Work
The Simple Guide to Understanding Search Engines

What is the true purpose of search engines?

When you type a search query into a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, the search engine gets to work finding the most relevant websites to show you based on the keywords you entered into the search box. Let’s say you’re looking for a local carpet cleaning service to get some work done. You’ll probably type “carpet cleaning near me” into Google.

Google will then fetch the web pages it deems most relevant based on your keyword, “cleaning services”, as well as your location. You’ll be shown SERPs with pages that are ranked based on relevance, how reputable the company is, and how close they are to you.

On a basic level, search engines crawl and index web pages and then take note of what their content contains and how popular they are. When you perform a search, the results are shown based on their relevance to your keywords, their quality, and their location. You can learn SEO tasks to help your website rank higher in the SERPs.


How do pages get indexed?

You might be surprised to find out that when you “surf the web” using Google, that’s not what you’re actually doing. You’re surfing Google’s index of the web. All search engines index web pages by crawling them. Have you heard of a search engine spider? They’re almost exactly what they sound like. Spiders crawl web pages by following links from page to page across the web, reading the content, indexing it, and categorizing it based on a number of factors. Once the pages are indexed, they will start showing up in SERPs.

Google will automatically index your website’s pages, but it doesn’t happen immediately. There will probably be times that you’ll want a page on your site to be indexed immediately: After updating a popular post or publishing a new blog article, for example. To get your page added to Google’s index instantly, you can use the Google Search Console Fetch and Render tool. To index a webpage, log in to Search Console and verify your website. Next, enter the URL of the page you’re indexing and hit “Fetch” and then “Request Indexing”.

Google Search Console Fetch & Render Tool


What’s a sitemap and what do I do with it?

An XML sitemap provides critical ranking and indexing information to a search engine.
It’s a list of all of the pages on a website along with other information, such as when each page was last updated. By adding an XML sitemap to your website, you’re allowing search engine spiders to crawl your website more effectively, which is good for SEO.

Adding a sitemap to your website isn’t difficult. You can use a tool like the WordPress plugin, Yoast, to accomplish this without much work. After you’ve created your sitemap, you can use Google Search Console to submit the sitemap to Google. You’ll have to verify your website if you haven’t already, but it’s just a simple line of HTML that needs to be added to your Yoast plugin settings back in WordPress.

Google Search Console Sitemap Submission


So my page is indexed but how does Google rank it?

If you’re going to learn SEO, you need to understand that it’s not all about keywords anymore. Google uses a number of important ranking factors when indexing websites. Here are the top ranking factors and what you need to know about them.

Relevance – Keywords are still an important ranking factor, they just aren’t the only one. Today, it’s important to compose high-quality, valuable content that’s written for your website’s visitors in mind first. A search engine will be able to tell if your content is stuffed with keywords for the purpose of getting a higher ranking. Not only does keyword stuffing not work anymore, it will actually penalize your website. Still, the keywords you use within your content should be thoroughly researched and placed intentionally. They help Google determine whether your page is relevant to a search.

Popularity – Would you direct your website visitors to a spammy or low-quality website? Probably not. When other high-quality websites link to yours, it will improve your SEO because that website is essentially vouching for yours by linking to it. if you receive a variety of authentic, high-quality backlinks to your website, Google will notice and view your website as a valuable and authoritative resource, boosting it in the search results.

Location – If your company intends to employ a local SEO campaign, you’ll need to take your location into consideration. By including the city or area your business is based it, it will show up in the SERPs for that area. Your future customers are probably already searching for you, but if you aren’t specifying your location within your content and in areas like meta descriptions and URLs, you’re missing out on a lot of local SEO power.

Edward Lahm

Author Edward Lahm

2018 graduate of Temple University, experienced SEO guy at Infinity Digital, 9-time rewatcher of The Office, groove-keeper for Presidential Top Knot, and lover of great beers! Something I take great pride in is helping small businesses stay competitive online amidst their fierce competition using the many elements of digital marketing.

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