How Search Engines Provide Relevant Search Results

December 18, 2016

Ever wonder how major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing rank your website within their search results?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we are going to explain what search engines are, how they operate, and most importantly, how they determine which listings are most relevant to the search requests. Understanding these components is a critical part of WordPress SEO and can help you on your endeavors when optimizing your site for search engines.

Imagine for a moment that you’re a librarian. When people come into your library, it’s your job to help them find the book they’re looking for. Now imagine that your library is a giant one that consists of over 130 million books, with no formal organized filing system.

How do you do it?

First, you need a system and a great one for that matter. Your system needs to know what’s on over a hundred trillion pages. Additionally, it needs to answer up to 40,000 customer inquiries per second and spits out the most relevant answer to each question.

Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing are the librarians, and the giant library is the Internet. And yes, search engines like Google have a system to collect information about every page on the Internet to provide their customers with the most relevant search results.

So there it is. The system search engines deploy consists of three primary functions:

  • Crawling
  • Indexing
  • Ranking

Let’s discuss each of these in greater detail.


First, to locate relevant content on over a hundred trillion web pages, a search engine deploys a spider, also referred to as a bot or crawler, which is a program that finds relevant information and builds a list of words found on each site – a process known as web crawling.

Crawling is where it all begins, and for that matter, it never ends. Spiders quickly and frequently scan sites and compile a list of everything presented on the site, including content, page titles, headers, keywords, images, linked pages, and much more.


The second function of search engines is indexing. In this step, the bot processes all of the information it gathers and compiles a massive index of the words and their location. Indexing is on ongoing process. For example, Google’s bots frequently visit your site and upon detecting new content, pages, links, etc., it uses this information to update the Google index.

When Google visits your site, it detects new and updated pages and links. You can use this information to update the Google index, which is used for both Google Web Search and Custom Search.


The last function of search engines consists of providing users with a list of relevant results based on their search.

When a user submits a query, the search engine searches the index to locate the most relevant sites. It then returns the results it believes is most relevant to the user. We refer to this as ranking. Your websites ranking is determined by many factors, for example, Google uses over two hundred ranking factors to identifying the relevancy of their search listing.

Well, that about wraps it up for this video on how search engines work. It’s important to note that in order for your site to rank well in search engines, it’s important that you make sure the search engine can crawl and index your WordPress site correctly.

Interested in learning more about WordPress SEO, check out our Ultimate Guide to WordPress SEO video tutorial series.

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