Underthe hood

How Does Google’s Search Engine Really Work?

February 20th, 2014 by

Underthe hood

What’s really going on under the bonnet of Google’s search engine?

Thousands of SEO experts will say they know the workings of Google’s mind. But the truth is, Google’s famous algorithm is constantly changing and evolving, especially as it faces dark horse threats from Facebook, often rumored to be building its own search engine.

But, still, there are a few knowable components to the way Google indexes the pages of the world’s 600 million websites.

Google generally finds a website by following links from one page to another on the web until it stumbles upon yours.  You of course have the option to either block or additionally aid Google in its search by adjusting features within your Google Webmaster Tools. The links that Google finds on the web are collated into a master index, measuring more than 100 million gigabytes.

Thousands of the world’s top engineers work for Google and they build, adjust and tweak programs and formulas which work together to find the closest match to the search term a user types in.  These algorithms are mathematically complex, and search through spelling, synonyms, and the master index to find a relevant result.

Of course, if you want your site to show on the first page you cannot only rely upon technical SEO adjustments in Google Webmaster Tools.  You also need to ensure you publish fresh, high-quality content that matches the context of the user’s search term.

Google reportedly uses more than 200 signals, including those mentioned above, to determine whether or not your website should appear on the first page.

“Our algorithms are constantly changing. These changes begin as ideas in the minds of our engineers. They take these ideas and run experiments, analyze the results, tweak them, and run them again and again,” said Google.

It may launch more than 500 search improvements during any calendar year making it extremely difficult these days to ‘game’ Google and generate a higher ranking using technical SEO methods.

These improvements are not only based on mathematical equations. Human beings called search evaluators also assess the quality of results in what is called precision evaluations. There may be up to 40,000 precision evaluations per year, demonstrating just how many resources Google is expending to create the perfect search.

“In a side-by-side experiment, evaluators review two different sets of search results. One from the old algorithm and one from the experimental one. They analyze the results and give us feedback on the differences,” said Google.

Finally, while there are several additional permutations to the way Google generates a search result it is probably worth mentioning it also runs live traffic experiments in which it changes search for a small percentage of real Google users to show it affects their experience.   These are analyzed, rinsed, repeated and measured to see if an improvement can be found.

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