What is a search engine?
A search engine is an online tool that is designed to search for websites on the internet based on the user’s search query.
It looks for the results in its own database, sorts them and makes an ordered list of these results using unique search algorithms. This list is called a search engine results page. If there are several results, they are hierarchical according to their importance.
How search engines work
Search engines can differ from one to another in their ways of providing the answers to the user but all of them are built on the 3 fundamental principles:
The actual discovery of new webpages on the internet starts with the process called crawling.Search engines use small programs called web crawlers (sometimes called bots or spiderbots) that follow links from already known pages to the new ones that need to be discovered.
Every time a web crawler finds a new webpage through a link, it scans and passes its content for further processing (called indexing) and continues in the discovery of new webpages.
Once the bots crawl the data, it’s time for indexing – the process of validating and storing the content from the webpages in the search engine’s database called “index”. It is basically a big library of all the websites.
Your website has to be indexed in order to be displayed on the search engine results page. Keep in mind that both crawling and indexing are continuous processes that take place over and over again to keep the database fresh.
Once the webpage is analyzed and saved in the index, it can be used as a search result for a potential search query.
The last step includes picking the best results and creating a list of pages that will appear on the result page. Every search engine uses dozens of ranking signals and most of them are kept as a secret, unavailable to the public.
What is a search engine algorithm?
The search engine algorithm is a term used to define a complex system of several algorithms that evaluates all the indexed pages and determines which of them should appear in the search results for a given query.
For example, the Google algorithm uses dozens of factors in several areas such as:
- Meaning of the query (understanding what the user means by using the exact words they used, what is the search intent, etc.)
- Page relevance (the search engine needs to find out whether the page answers the search query)
- Content quality (the algorithms determine whether the webpages are an excellent source of information based on internal and external factors; number and quality of backlinks are important factors here)
- Page usability (considers the quality of webpage from the technical standpoint – responsiveness, page speed, security, etc.
What are the most popular search engines?
Although there are hundreds of search engines in the world, only a few of them dominate the overall search engine market and remain popular thanks to their quality, usefulness, etc. The following are top three search engines available: –
- Google: – Google is the biggest and most popular search engine in the world. Owned by its parent company Alphabet, Google dominates the search engine market with over 90 percent market share worldwide.
- Microsoft Bing: – Bing is the second largest search engine. It was launched in 2009 and it’s owned by Microsoft. Microsoft Bing is in many ways similar to Google, providing search result types like images, videos, places, maps or news.
- Yahoo!: – Yahoo is a popular website, email provider and the third biggest search engine in the world with almost 2% of the overall search engine market share.