About Us
Contact Us
Get ready to supercharge your business with our powerhouse marketing dream team! We're here to deliver cutting-edge digital marketing solutions, tailored just for you, as if we're your very own in-house squad! Say goodbye to mediocrity and hello to phenomenal results!
Hansa is a fast-growing, data-led global marketing company with a highly talented, creative, and
compassionate team. We are a one-stop agency for all marketing and sales needs, but we will never sell
to you. Instead, we will partner with you on your company’s growth journey.

How Search Engines Work

how search engines work

If you are completely new to the world of search engine optimization, you might be starting from zero. No matter if you’re a company that needs to use SEO for marketing purposes or a business that plans on offering search engine optimization services to clients in need, it’s important that you learn at least the basics and then some more. For starters, it’s good to know what search engines are and how they work. Here is a short but thorough guide.

Essentials Of Search Engines

First of all, anyone looking to work with search engines needs to learn more about them. What are they, how do they work, and why do they exist? Read on for more information.

What is a search engine?

A search engine is a database of web content that can be searched. It consists of two parts: a search index and a search algorithm.

  • Search indexes are digital libraries of information about websites and specific pages.
  • Search algorithms are computer programs that have to match results from the index.

How does a search engine work?

A search engine crawls billions of web pages by using web crawlers that are also known as bots and spiders. These navigate the internet and find new pages by following links. They then add these pages to an index that search engines will use for pulling results.

how search engines work

What is the use of a search engine?

In case you’re wondering what the aim of a search engine is, it’s rather simple. Search engines are used to provide relevant results for individuals that use them. By providing the best results, they gain market share.

How does a search engine make money?

When it comes to making money, search engines make it from ads. There are two types of search results: paid results and organic results.

  • Paid results are those that appear at the very top of the SERP and advertisers pay for these. This approach is known as PPC or pay-per-click advertising. Whenever someone clicks this search result, the advertiser has to pay the search engine. If the click leads to a sale or other desired action, the ads practically pay for themselves.
  • Organic results come from the search index. These appear below PPC ads, but they are not paid for. Companies develop their SEO in various ways to organically appear high on the results page.
paid vs organic traffic

What are the most popular search engines?

There are many search engines that users opt for when they need a piece of information. While Google is the most popular in most countries and companies tend to focus on it, others shouldn’t be ignored either. Here are some of the most used search engines:

  • Google: According to SemRush, Google takes up 75.71% of US traffic volume, while it accounts for over 90% in the UK, India, and South Korea. As an established player, it’s estimated that Google will keep the top spot for years to come.
  • Amazon: It aims to show customers the best product they should buy.
  • Yahoo
  • Bing
  • Yandex: The most popular search engine in Russia.
  • Baidu: The most commonly used search engine in China.
search engines

How Are Search Engine Indexes Built?

It’s important to note that each search engine uses its own process to build a search index. However, as Google is the most used search engine that actually owns 91.43% of the market, we will focus on how it builds an index. Here is a simplified version of Google’s process.

It all starts with the URLs

It all begins with a list of URLs. The search engine finds these in different ways, but backlinks, sitemaps, and URL submissions are the three most common.

  • Backlinks: There are billions of websites in Google’s index. If a known page links to a new one, Google can easily find and add it.
  • Sitemaps: These let Google know which files and pages the website owner considers to be important.
  • URL submissions: Site owners can request Google’s crawlers to index their web pages.

Crawling is the next step

Once Google knows which websites to index, the crawlers or spiders (aka computer bots) visit and download known URLs. Googlebot is the name of Google’s crawler.

Information is then processed and rendered

Google then starts processing and extracting information from the pages it’s crawled. For that to happen, the search engine has to render pages, meaning that it runs the code to see how it searches for users. It should be said that the process is not known in detail to people outside of Google. However, it’s not that crucial as long as SEO companies understand that it entails indexing by link extracting and content storing.


The processed information is indexed

The final step when building a search engine index is indexing the processed information. The data from the pages that were crawled are added to the index, which is what people search for when they type something into a search engine. This is why indexing is essential, as it lets Google, Bing, and other major search engines show webpages to users.

How Are Pages Ranked?

Finding, crawling, and indexing is just one part of what search engines do. They also rank results according to users’ needs when they perform a search. This is where search algorithms come into play. These are formulas that match relevant results from the index and rank them according to what the users are looking for. There are many factors that are used when ranking pages. Although not all of them have been disclosed, there are some key ones that are known to industry professionals, such as keyword optimization, backlinks, relevance, mobile friendliness, page speed, and freshness.

Keyword optimization

Keywords are necessary for individuals to be able to find what they are looking for. SEO companies and people that handle their own SEO need to understand how to do keyword research. This process will show them which search terms are popular and which need to be strategically included in the content in order for it to appear high on the search engine results pages. Keyword research is an essential part of SEO.


One of the strongest ranking factors that Google relies on is backlinks, which is why there is a strong correlation between organic traffic and linking domains. These are links that lead from one page of a website to another. However, it’s not important to use plenty of backlinks only. They also need to be of high quality, as a few quality links outrank many low-quality links.



Another big factor here is relevance. There are countless ways of determining how relevant and useful a result is for the searcher. In short, relevant results are those that contain the keywords that were used in the search query. Moreover, interaction data is also considered to see whether other searchers found the webpage to be relevant.


In 2019, Google made the switch to mobile-first indexing. That means that mobile-friendliness is now a big ranking factor both on mobile and desktop. Leading SEO companies are aware of how important this is and advise their clients on how it’s best to have a website that is responsive and mobile-friendly.

Page speed

One factor that cannot be ignored is page speed. No matter if it’s on mobile or desktop, a fast-loading website is a must. However, this is not a positive ranking factor as much as a negative one. The slowest pages are affected and appear lower while fast pages don’t experience that many advantages.

page speed


Freshness is a ranking factor that depends on the query, so it’s more relevant for searches that need fresh results. For example, a recently published article on the “new Disney+ series” might appear near the top. On the other hand, looking up “how to play chess” will not produce the most recent results.

How Are Results Personalized?

Search engines create tailored results for each individual. They use various information here, like location, language, device, and search history.

personalized search results


Location is used to personalize the search results for users with local intent. For example, when googling “Indian restaurant”, people will not get results from Mumbai or Delhi but from their area. They are not going to suggest a Sydney business as a result to people that live in Florida.


Google understands that there is no point in offering results in French to Korean users. Therefore, they rank local and localized versions of webpages higher for people that don’t live in an English-speaking country. Different versions of pages in different languages are ranked separately.


The results might also differ depending on the type of device the user is using to perform the search. That means the results on mobile might differ from those on a desktop computer.

Search history

While people have the opportunity to opt out of sharing their location, most people ignore the option or don’t care about it. That allows Google to save various things they do and places they visit, which in turn results in more personalized searches.

Search engines often seem like a mystery. However, it’s mostly known how they operate. While Google likes to keep some things secret, there is enough information for SEO companies to properly optimize websites in order for them to rank high.

Sharing is caring!

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Sign up for our newsletter and join our community!
Receive special offers and find out about secrets to boosting your business.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram