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How Do Search Engines Work?

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Billions of searches take place on Google each day, but have you ever stopped to wonder how those useful algorithms work on search engines and how you can use them to your advantage?

On a basic level, search engines work by performing 3 basic functions:

  1. Crawling the internet to find new web pages and documents
  2. Putting that content in a giant index/database 
  3. Ranking that content on various factors

In this chapter, we’re going to break down each of these processes so you can understand how search engines operate, what that means for SEO, and what utilizing search engine mechanics can do for your business!

Crawling: How Does A Search Engine Crawl The Web?

Crawlers are computer programs that create bots that find new content like web pages, PDF files, videos, and images by visiting links on web pages.

Crawlers are basically tiny explorers that venture out across the internet to find the very best search engine results for each search request. Search engines discover relevant content by sending out these spiders, or web crawlers, to find it. They’re always looking for the best links to show users. 

Google has its own main crawler called Googlebot. There are other search engine crawlers out there such as DuckDuckBot, YandexBot, and Slurp for Yahoo. Bing also has a web crawler called BingBot. These robots are what make it possible for your website to rank in SERPs or get on the top page of search engines. In fact, around 93% of all web traffic is thanks to a search engine.

Figuring out how Google search works and how to make the most out of a user experience is one of the first steps to understanding how to rank and bring in traffic for your business. Ranking is vital for business, studies suggest that the top search result in Google gets a 37.1% clickthrough rate

These crawlers can visit web pages very quickly which allows Google’s algorithm to discover new websites, pages, and other content.

When creating new content, linking to it from existing pages on your site or from another site is a good way to make sure it gets discovered by the search engines. This process is called backlink building and it’s a vital step towards SEO strategy and optimization

Crawlers also tend to visit popular websites that create new content more frequently than smaller unknown websites. Getting a link from a popular website could result in your content getting discovered more rapidly. 

A great way to do this without a sales pitch is to use the broken link method. This method involves searching for broken links on a blog post or content page and suggesting to the webmaster to replace it with your own link. This can often result in a backlink which crawlers love!

Creating a sitemap also helps search engines crawl your site. A good sitemap will link to every page on your site.

Signing up for a Google Search Console account is a good step to take if you want to see more data on pages that Google has crawled. You can also see any crawling errors that may have occurred.

A few issues that might cause pages to not get crawled include poor navigation structure, redirect loops, and server errors.

In the past, it was popular to “submit” your site to search engines, but this is no longer needed as they have become much more advanced at detecting relevant results from new content that is published on the web. Your website needs to evolve and improve technical SEO with technology to compete with your competitors!

What is a Crawl Budget?

Now that you understand what crawlers are let’s go deeper and explain what a crawl budget is. Crawl budgets are also sometimes referred to as crawl space or crawl time. These terms are referred to as the number of pages search engines crawl onto a website within a timeframe. 

Search engines assign crawl budgets to websites because search engines don’t have unlimited resources. They only have so many crawlers that can reach a website at any given moment. So, search engines have to prioritize their crawlers

So, these crawl budgets are assigned in a couple of different ways. These factors are based on host load and crawl demand. 

Host loads are a factor because it’s basically just the website’s preference for how often a crawler accessed their page. This can also depend on often the host can handle crawling efforts. 

Crawl demand is an important factor because it weighs whether or not a website is even worth crawling. These factors are based on popularity and how often the website or URLs are updated. 

Crawl budgets aren’t just about pages, they have been used for any document that search engines crawl for. Such as JavaScript, CSS files, PDF files, and much more. 

Let’s explain why crawl budgets are important and why you need to understand how they work, so you can incorporate that into a  successful SEO strategy. 

You need search engines to find as many of your indexable pages as possible. You also want them to do it as quickly as possible. When you create a new page and update already posted content, you want these search engines to find your information as fast as they can. The faster the crawlers can index the faster you can benefit from it.

How to Make Sure Your Website is Being Properly Crawled

If you aren’t sure if your website is being properly crawled by search engines, let’s take a look at what you can do to find out and make sure those little robot spiders are doing their job. 

Here are the best ways to make sure your website is being crawled:

  • Create a sitemap
  • Create a robots.txt
  • Create internal links
  • Earn backlinks
  • Social media sharing

Creating a proper sitemap is vital for SEO purposes. A sitemap or XML (extensible markup language) is basically just a way to display information on a website. 

They are a technical part of SEO which can make them a little intimidating but not overly complicated for a business owner who wants to learn. 

You need a sitemap for Google so Googlebot can crawl your website, put it into their index, and then send its users to your website. Sitemaps just make it easier for Google to do that. 

The next step is to review your sitemap, check it for optimization, as I stated above, there once was a time when you needed to submit your sitemap to Google. That is no longer needed as Google’s crawlers have evolved since then. Crawlers can now crawl your website without a submission. 

One interesting reason that Googlebot is so important to crawling is that you could rely on other search engines; however, Google brings in 92% of search engine traffic. So, ranking on Google is critical to boosting your business. 

Add your site to the root and robots.txt. This step may seem a little complicated so let me break it down a little. You can also hand this part over to a webmaster or one of our experts to help you out. 

You need to locate the root folder of your website and add your sitemap file to this folder. By doing this, you will add the page of your website as well. Most websites have this and it’s a major part of technical SEO

You should also code your sitemap into your URL, by adding “/sitemap.xml” to it. By adding the sitemap file to your root folder, you will want to also add it to the robots.txt file as well. You can find this in the same area your root folders are in. 

What this does is give crawlers the right directions to your website so it can index it, and share it with its users. Crawlers are vital to ranking, so it’s really important to make sure that your website doesn’t just have keywords, links, and up-to-date content. Your website needs to have an optimized website, and that includes the best methods to make sure search engine crawlers can’t reach your business content. 

Earning backlinks and sharing your content on social media is also a great way to earn rankings in SEO and it also shows crawlers that your content is important to other websites giving you a boost in traffic and leads. 

Indexing: How Does A Search Engine Read and Store Website Information?

When crawlers reach pages, they collect data and store the information in an index. You may have heard of metatags and metadata, these web crawlers are what collects that information from a webpage where it’s stored in its search engine’s index and then used when a user’s search request for that information is received. It is then displayed on a search engine results page for any given user. 

That’s why having search engine optimization, proper headings, alt text, and correct metadata on your website is so important. These crawlers take the best, most popular information and send it back to the search engine which then ranks pages based on relevant and accurate information. 

You can think of an index as a very large database containing all the web pages on the Internet that a search engine has found. Search engines will analyze and fetch content from their index when searchers enter a search query.

By default, search engines will crawl and try to index every page on your site that they can find.

However, if you have pages you don’t want web searchers to be able to find through search engines, like private member-only pages, then using Robots Meta Tags will help. 

A great tip for keeping a page private from crawlers is to exclude pages that aren’t useful like tag and category pages in WordPress. 

These private pages are sometimes referred to as, the “dark web.” The name sounds scary, but a lot of the time what crawlers can’t find is often just private pages that aren’t needed or important to search results, ranking, and digital marketing

If you’re wasting crawl budget, then you’re allowing important parts of your website to be left undiscovered. Which isn’t an effective method for your SEO rankings. If crawlers don’t know about pages, then they can’t crawl and index them for users.

Ranking: How Does A Search Engine Rank Websites?

Search engines use algorithms to analyze websites and decide how to Pagerank them for various search queries. The search engine ranking algorithms base value off of high-quality backlinks, relevant content, popularity, and information. 

There are two main factors that influence Search Engines rankings:

On-page factors function on web pages so that the site is search engine optimized and uses basic keywords for rankings. On-page factors are super important for each site so that it can rank in search engines. On-page factors also include metadata such as alt tags and meta descriptions that are written within the HTML

Off-page factors are factors that help improve a website’s rank outside of the business itself. This type of content is displayed on social media or guest blogs. It can also be considered as backlinks and other off-page related content such as articles linking back to a landing page. 

These algorithms assign scores to various ranking factors and then rank relevant pages with the best scores from highest to lowest. RankBrain is also considered a major ranking factor when considering search engines and how they actually work. 

RankBrain is a part of Google’s algorithm that uses machine learning to determine the best search results. Rankbrain is the main reason why SEO has become such a complex concept. Rankbrain incorporates so many different factors such as location, search history, personalization, and keywords to find the best results. 

Search engine algorithms also change over time in an effort to improve search results. Keep in mind that the goal of search engines is to provide quality content so that their users are satisfied with search results and keep using their search engine.

How Do Search Engines Work Wrap-Up

Search engines are a vital part of everyday life. Whether you’re a business trying to improve your SEO ranking or if you’re simply trying to find the best sushi restaurant near you. 

Search engines and modern technology make it easy to find the best and most accurate and relevant information available. 

If you’re feeling froggy, how about jumping into our next section and finding out what factors do search engines use to determine what content ranks at the top?

We discuss the top-ranking factors in the next chapter!

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