The Basics of Web Design: How a Search Engine Works

search engine optimization

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One of the most amazing things about the Internet is the sheer volume of content available to anyone nearly anywhere in the world.  Unfortunately, this means that users are inundated with information that isn’t necessarily pertinent to their needs.  This is where the search engine comes in.  Special sites on the Internet, these search engines are designed with one mission: to help people find the specific information they’re looking for on other sites.

How a Search Engine Works

There are slight differences in how each search engine works, but they all carry out three basic tasks:

  • They search the Internet based on the keywords words input;
  • They maintain an index of the words they find and where they found them; and
  • They allow for the search of words or combinations of words found in their specific index.

Having evolved with the exponential use and reliance on technology, search engines today are capable of indexing hundreds of millions of pages and responding to tens of millions of requests a day.

After a keyword or phrase has been queried, search engines come back with pages of possibilities within fractions of a second.  But how do the engines find the information?  In a word, spiders.  To pull the correct information from millions of web pages, a search engine uses special software robots, referred to as spiders, to build lists of the keywords and phrases within the websites.  These spiders usually start with lists of heavily used servers and popular webpages.  The spider starts on a page, indexing the words as it goes, and follows all the links posted to the site.  As it follows each link, it lands on new websites and continues the process, which is referred to as web crawling.  This process very quickly begins to spread to the more commonly used portions of the web.

This process is why keywords, meta descriptions, and other content considerations are vital when populating a website and designing a strong search engine optimization strategy, particularly for a small business.  If the search engine spiders cannot find or index your site, they cannot include it in any of their results and users won’t be able to visit your site—which ultimately affects your bottom line.  More visitors means more potential sales.  Understanding the basic principles of the various search engines and—even better—how to work within each of them differently should be one of your primary concerns when building a site.

If you’re looking for help in building a website from scratch or just need some help packaging your content in a way to maximize your visibility to the various search engines, the staff at Growth Squad is here to help.

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