How do search engines work?

How do search engines work

Whether searching for coffee shops in your area or conducting research for a thesis, we all use search engines to assist us with all sorts of tasks. With over 500 million searches completed daily, it would be hard to imagine our current world without all of the world’s information available at our fingertips. Despite using sites such as Google every day, you may be wondering (and maybe Googling), how do search engines work?

What is a search engine?

Search engines are usually comprised of three general parts; A crawler, a database, and a front-end search page. A functional search engine displays results when a user performs a search by typing keywords into a search bar. Essentially, a search engine is a web application that makes it easier for people to search through vast databases.

Different types of search engines:

  • Mainstream web-wide search engines, e.g. Google, Yahoo, Bing, Baidu, Ecosia, and DuckDuckGo. Tech companies, including Google, have made a fortune by simply creating easy-to-use digital ‘libraries’ connecting all of the publicly available web pages on the world wide web. These search engines allow users to find anything they want by typing keywords into their search bars and receiving search engine result pages (SERPs).
  • Specific subject search engines, e.g. Estate Searcher is a real estate search engine for properties in Cyprus. This system uses crawling and indexing similarly to general search engines but is specific to Cypriot real estate listings.
Estate searcher data aggregation platforms
  • Local/internal search engines (e.g within a private business software or network)

How do search engines work?

The mechanics of a search engine usually follow this standard journey:

  • Crawling


    Crawlers search through the web pages of the World Wide Web, examine their codes, and add them to their databases.

  • Data Structuring

    Ranking algorithm

    Every search engine has an algorithm that determines the order in which search engine results appear in when a search is performed. Search engine algorithms usually learn and change over time through AI and development updates.

  • Web Development UI/UX

    Search engine result pages (SERPs)

    The most crucial part of any search engine is the page that performs and displays the searches. This page typically has a search bar that uses keywords to find and display relevant results on search engine result pages (SERPs).

How do mainstream search engines rank results?

Search engines use algorithms to analyse and rank results based on relevance, quality, and popularity.

With methods including search engine optimisation (SEO) and paid search engine marketing SEM, businesses and individuals can make their web pages stand out from the crowded result pages. SEO is an organic process targeting popular keywords and optimising web pages to encourage higher rankings from search engine algorithms.

Alternatively, we have SEM, paid search engine marketing. Have you ever searched for a flight on Google and then received a bunch of ads about travel packages? This is the result of SEM. SEM systems, such as Google Ads, actively show your ads to people interested in your business’s services or products. Search engines collect the user search keyword data and use it to inform targeted marketing campaigns.
This type of marketing includes showing video and image ads on any internet page with ad placements ( e.g. blogs, apps, video players).  Using keyword and audience targeting and remarketing, companies can target the right people at the right moment in their search journey.

Have any more questions about search engines?

Want to create a custom search engine for your business?

Don’t hesitate to contact us! At Soft Surge, we specialise in crawling, data aggregation, and software development. (We even have a couple of our own search engines, including Estate Searcher.)

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