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How Search Engines Work: What is Google Crawling and Indexing?

Apr 14, 2022 |  

Answer engines have evolved from search engines. And very advanced ones. Their job is to find, analyze, and arrange online content in order to show browsers meaningful results to them and fulfill their requirements. To ensure that your content is accessible to as many readers as possible, you should first focus on making it visible.

The most important component of SEO is visibility; it is the “zero moments” when everything begins. If the search engine doesn’t quite index your website, it will not appear in its search results. This guide will help you in understanding how search engines like Google work.

What Does a Search Engine Do?

Have you ever considered how frequently you use Google or another search engine to search online? Is it 5 times, 10 times, or perhaps more? Did you know that Google alone processes over 2 trillion searches each year?

The figures are shocking. Search engines have become an integral part of our daily lives. We use them for learning, buying stuff, fun, and entertainment, but also for business. It is not an overstatement to say that we have come to rely on search engines for almost everything we do. And the reason for this is quite simple. We all know that search engines, particularly Google, have the answers to all of our questions and queries.

But what happens when you type a search term and hit the search button? How do search engines function internally, and how do they determine what to display in search results and under what order?

How do Search Engines work?

Search engines are sophisticated computer programs. They need to do a lot of preparation and planning before they even let you type a query and search online, so that when you click “Search,” you are provided with a set of accurate and quality results that respond to your query or question.

What exactly does ‘preparation work’ involve? There are three major stages. The first stage is the process of gathering information, the second phase is organizing it, and the third stage is ranking it.

In the online world, this is commonly referred to as crawling, indexing, and ranking.


Search engines use a group of computer programs known as web crawlers (hence the term Google crawling) to look for information that is openly available online. To ease a complex procedure, know that the task of these application crawlers (also referred to as search engine spiders) is to inspect the Internet and locate the servers (also referred to as webservers) of those host websites.

They generate a list of all the proxy servers to crawl, as well as the number of internet sites hosted by each server, and then get to work. They visit each website and use various techniques to determine how many web pages they have, whether they are text content, pictures, videos, or any other layout (CSS, HTML, javascript, etc).

When people visit a website, they not only take note of the number of pages, but they also follow any links (referring to pages within the site or to various websites), and as a result, they explore more and more webpage.

They do this on a regular basis, and they also keep track of the changes designed to a website, so they know when fresh pages are added or removed, links are updated, and so on.

When you consider that there are more than 100 trillion specific pages on the Web today and that millions of extra pages are published on a regular basis, you can imagine how much work this is.

Why should you be involved in the crawling process?

When optimizing your website for search engines, your first priority should be to make sure that they can discover it properly; otherwise, if they can’t read’ your website, you should just not expect much in terms of increasing rankings or search engine traffic. Search engine crawlers, as previously stated, have a lot of work to do, and you must try to make their work easier.

There are a few things you can do to ensure that search engine crawlers can find and view your website as quickly as possible.

  • Use Robots.txt to notify search engine crawlers which page on your website you don’t want them to see. Pages such as your admin or server-side pages, as well as other pages that you do not want to be publicly accessible on the Internet, are examples.
  • Huge search engines, such as Google and Bing, have tools (known as Webmaster tools) that you can use to provide them with more data about your website (number of pages, structure, etc.) so they don’t have to discover it themselves.
  • Use an XML sitemap to mention all of your website’s relevant pages so that search engine crawlers understand which pages to track for modifications and which to dismiss.


Google crawling alone will not be sufficient to create a search engine. Crawler-identified data must be organized, arranged, and saved so that it can be analyzed by search engine algorithms before being made accessible to the end-user.

This is known as indexing. 

Search engines do not keep all of the details found on a page in their index, but they do retain when it was created/updated, the heading and meta descriptions of the page, the type of content, related keywords, incoming and outgoing links, and a variety of other specifications that their algorithms require. Google likes to compare its index to the back of a book (a really big book).

Why should you be involved in the indexing process?

It’s as simple as that: if your website isn’t in their index, it won’t show up in any search results. This also indicates that the more webpage you have in search engine indexes, the more likely it is that you will show up in search results when somebody types a query.

We mentioned the phrase ‘show up in the search results,’ which means in any position, not just the highest positions or pages. To appear in the top five positions of the SERPs (search engine results pages), you must optimize your website for search engines through a process known as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short.

How do you find out how many pages of your website are indexed by Google?

There are two ways to go about it.

Open Google and enter your domain name preceded by the site operator. For instance, site:suitejar.com. You will learn how many web pages related to a specific domain are included in the Google Index.

The second option is to sign up for a free Google Search Console account and include your website in it. Then examine the Coverage report, paying special attention to the legitimate and indexed pages.


The third and final step is for search engine crawlers to decide which pages to display in the Search engine results pages and in what order when somebody types a search term. This is accomplished by utilizing search engine ranking algorithms.

Simply put, these are pieces of software with a set of rules that evaluate what the person is looking for and what data to return. These rules and choices are based on the information contained in their index. To help you understand how search engine ranking factors work, here is a simpler process:

Step 1: Explore the User Query

The first step is for search engines to determine what type of details the user is seeking. To do so, they break down the user’s query (search terms) into a number of relevant keywords. A keyword is a word with a specific meaning and function.

For example, if you type “How to make a cheesecake,” search engines recognize the words how-to as indicating that you are searching for instructions for making a cheesecake, and the returned results will include cooking websites with recipe ideas.

If you search for “Purchase refurbished…,” they know from the words purchase and refurbished that you want to purchase something, and the results would include eCommerce websites and online stores.

They were able to associate keyword phrases together thanks to machine learning. For example, they understand that the meaning of the search term “how to change a light bulb” is the same as the meaning of this search term “how to remove a light bulb.”

They are also capable of interpreting spelling errors, comprehending plurals, and extracting the meaning of a query from basic language (either written or verbal in case of Voice search).

Step 2: Look for pages that are similar to yours.

The second step is to search their index to determine which pages can deliver the best response to a search problem. This is an essential stage in the process for both search engines and website owners.

Search engines must return the best available results in the shortest amount of time in order to keep their people happy, and site owners want their websites to be taken up in order to receive traffic and visits. This is also the stage at which good SEO strategies can influence the algorithms’ decisions.

To gain a better understanding of how matching works, consider the following factors:

  • Title and content appropriateness – how meaningful is the page’s title and content to the search term?
  • Content type – if the user requests images, the returned results will contain pictures rather than text.
  • Content quality – content must be detailed, helpful and informative, factual, and cover both sides of a story.
  • Website quality – The overall quality of a website is important. Pages from websites that do not meet Google’s quality standards will not be displayed.
  • Date of publication – Because Google wants to show the most recent results for news-related questions, the date of publication is also considered.
  • The popularity of a page – This has nothing to do with how much traffic a website receives, but rather how other websites perceive the specific page. A page with a bunch of references (backlinks) from other websites is thought to be more famous than other web pages with no links, and thus has a better chance of being picked up by the algorithms. Off-Page SEO is another term for this process.
  • Page language – Users are served pages in their native language, which is not always English.
  • Webpage Speed – Websites that load quickly (think 2-3 seconds) have a slight advantage over slow-loading websites.
  • Device Type – Mobile users are provided mobile-friendly pages when they search.
  • Location – When users search for results in their area, such as “Italian restaurants in Oklahoma,” they will be shown results that are relevant to their location.

That is merely the tip of the iceberg. Google’s algorithms implement over 255 factors to make sure that its users are satisfied with the results they receive.

Why should you care about how search engine ranking algorithms work?

To receive search engine traffic, your website must appear near the top of the first page of results. A lot of users, according to statistics, click on one of the top five results (both desktop and mobile). Showing up on the second or even third page of search results will make you lose traffic. Traffic is only one of the benefits of SEO; once you reach the top positions for keywords that are relevant to your business, the additional benefits are numerous. Understanding how search engines work can help you improve your website’s rankings and traffic.

Final Thoughts

Search engines have evolved into highly complex computer programs. Their user interface could be simple, but the way they operate and make decisions is otherwise. Crawling and indexing are the initial steps in the process. Throughout this phase, search engine crawlers collect as many details as possible for all publicly accessible websites on the Internet. They find, process, sort, and store this data in a format that search engine algorithms can use to come to a decision and come back with the best available results to the user. The amount of data they must process is massive, and the process is fully automated.

Human intervention is limited to the process of developing the rules that will be used by the various algorithms, but even this step is being eventually replaced by computers with the help of artificial intelligence. Your work as a webmaster is to consider making crawling and indexing easier for them by creating websites with a simple and easy structure. Many smart SEO strategists prefer t use smart tools like SuiteJar to make their SEO efforts effective.

Until they can “read” your website without any problems, you must make sure that you send them clear signals to help their search ranking algorithms select your website when a user enters a relevant query (this is SEO). Getting a small percentage of total search engine traffic is sufficient to build a great online presence.