How does a search engine work:Guided step-by-step explanation?

The Internet has grown 100 folds in these few years. The data available on the Internet has also grown widely. So has the search on the web has increased manifolds. In this blog, I will answer the most asked questions about how the search engine work. The Search engine uses Crawler, Indexing, and Ranking as the primary steps to carry out its extensive searches. I will explain these steps in detail in the latter part of the blog.

Firstly let us understand what a search engine is.

What is a search engine?

A search engine is a tool available on the Internet that searches for relevant content related to a text or phrases entered by a searcher or viewer. Say, for example, you want to get information about losing weight; the job of a search engine is to search the web for meaningful content that can give answers to your question. The most liked search engines are Google, Bing, yahoo,, and many others. These search engines provide search results for various categories of products.

Google is the most preferred search engine among the lot. Today, people even use Google as a verb meaning search which is widely accepted too.

These days, you will also find the niche-specific search engine. These search engines cater to a particular set of categories. For example, you have Zomato, a search engine for niche food. You may have heard of, extensively used to search for any details regarding travel options across the globe. There is another that helps you search for different jobs available anywhere in this world.


 3 Steps that will explain how search engines work?

Whenever you enter a phrase or a question in the browser window, search engines will look for relevant content using the knowledge it has gathered by crawling different pages and indexing them according to the categories they belong to.

1.  Crawling

Search engines are constantly crawling websites on the web using bots, an abbreviation used for robots. The search engines are always on the task of crawling the billions of websites every day with their spiders.

Now, whenever the spider or bot is crawling the website, it will go through the entire content with the help of titles, headlines, and hyperlinks present. It will also crawl the website or pages that are mentioned as hyperlinks on the page. It will read the content of those pages and understand the type of content catered by these websites.

The web developer describes certain links as No-follow links, which implies it tells the bot not to visit that particular page. Whenever the bot finds a do-follow link, it will see that page, and it will also gather information from that page.

2.  Indexing

Now all the information gathered by the bots or spider is stored in the data structure called index. This index will keep all the information that it will need when deciding which website should be shown to which visitor.

The index contains below data about the website,

  • It will store the keywords or topics referred to on the website, i.e., what the website talks about.
  • It will also store the type of content or what is included on the website. It is called microdata or schema.
  • It will also store the publishing date. It will help in deciding how fresh the content is.
  • It will also contain the engagement information of the visitors. It will store details like how many visitors visited a particular page on the website, how long they stayed back, and so on.

Which pages are not be indexed?

There are various conditions for which a page might not be indexed, namely,

  • If it is implicitly mentioned in the Robots.txt file to exclude the page for indexing.
  • If the web developer has used directives like the noindex tag on a particular page, it will not be indexed. Even if they mention that a look-alike page needs to be indexed using a canonical tag.
  • If someone has posted some plagiarized or duplicate content, the crawler will not index that page considering it as theft of ideas which is not allowed in any case.
  • The page is not indexed if the page is not reachable or shows Error 404.


3.  Ranking

The ranking is the most crucial part of search results. All website owners or SEO specialists work on figuring out the search algorithm’s logic based on which any search engine decides the rank on which the website will be shown when it is searched for a particular keyword or phrase.

No search engines divulge the details about the criteria they consider while deciding the rank given to any specific keyword website. It is a secret they keep with themselves so that the content creators don’t manipulate the search algorithm. It is not just keyword stuffing that can help get you at the top of the search results. There is a lot more to it. For example, Google alone has more than 200 conditions that they consider while ranking any webpage.

What are the steps taken when you search for something on the web?

When you type some text or phrase that you are searching for in the browser, it will decide the ranking according to the search algorithm that it uses. Most of the search engines constantly keep updating these algorithms to give better results to the users. Apart from this, they also consider the below factors,

  • It will consider the location from where the search initiates. It will show relevant results from the reader’s nearby area unless a specific location is mentioned in the search query.
  • It will try to show the results according to the reader’s language whenever possible. Also, it tries to check the reader’s history to understand the kind of content they prefer visiting to improve the click-through rates.
  • It will also check which device is used for searching. For example, if someone searches from a mobile browser, it will only consider only mobile-friendly sites so that it does not impact the user experience.


To summarize, to increase your visibility on the most popular search engine, you would need to optimize your website based on several parameters like relevant content, loading time, quality, and authoritative sites that link to you, internal linking of your webpages, and so on.

You can read about SEO and learn more about it in the blog by Alka Pandey.

If you have been able to get some bit of information on How search engines work, do comment and let me know how to improve my writing further.



This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Latha

    Very comprehensive article…thanks

  2. Sagar

    Very informative.. Thanks

  3. Sharad Kumar Beria

    Thanks for the information.

  4. Chinmay CM

    Okay, this is how the search engine works. It crawls, then Index, and then rank.

  5. Chinmay CM

    Crawl>>Index>>Rank, okay…This is how search engine works. 🙂

  6. Himaja

    Informative and very helpful article

    1. Ambuj Rajendra Gupta

      Thanks ..for info..

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