How Google Search Works – Derive Google Ranking Factors

Before diving into keyword research, on-page optimization or building inbound links, you really ought to consider how Google search works because that’s the base of SEO.

Let’s say a search engine is like an ocean with more than billions of fish, then your web page is one of those fish that needs to be found.

That’s why it’s important to know everything about that ocean (search engine) first in order to make that fish (web page) stand out and be easily found.

So how does google search engine work and what proven SEO methods can be derived from knowing this?

Studying search engines is the first and most essential step to appearing in search results.

When you hear the term “search engine”, what comes to mind first? Google! Why is that?

Because Google dominates the market share for search engines.

Market share of leading search engines

As of 2018, Google holds nearly 90% of the search market.

This means that about 90/100 users lean towards Google for answers compared to other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and Baidu.

Now that you are familiar with the boss of search engines, you really should be optimizing for Google first.

Once you’ve taken down the boss, ranking on other search engines will be easy. In a sense, learning how Google search works is enough to start practicing SEO.

Ok, it’s about time we figure out how Google search works step by step.

How does Google search engine work?

Hundreds of new web pages are being published every second while trillions of searches are being performed every year.

How does google organize all that information and how does it know which pages to line up first in SERPs for distinct search queries?

1Spiders crawl and index web pages

Google uses web crawlers (spiders) to crawl web pages. These spiders are software programs developed to fetch information from pages of websites on the world wide web.

OK, how do spiders work?

They fetch a few web pages, then follow the links on those pages to find and index new pages. This process is repeated over and over until a huge chunk of information from the web has been collected and organized into the search index.

2Search algorithms formulate

Google’s search algorithms are like math formulas that determine what your search query means, what results it should look up, and which pages ought to be returned to you.

In terms of learning SEO, this is why it is essential to know how these algorithms operate when you type in a search query.

Algorithms analyze the meaning of your search query

Google decides what the word(s) in your search query mean mostly by:

  • Correcting spelling mistakes.
  • Identifying synonyms.
  • Looking for modifiers like “guide”, “review”, “pictures” etc.

These points are worth considering to identify the search intent of the keywords you want to rank.

Larry Page once described the perfect search engine as understanding exactly what you mean and giving you back exactly what you want.

So, from this we know that the main motive of a search engine is to understand and answer search intent, not just show you a web page that has spammed the words in your query.

Algorithms judge on-page markup

Search algorithms look up your query in its index of web pages. Then, they judge which pages to give back via “on-page markup” 

  • Keyword density – how often your searched keyword appears
  • Keyword placement – is your keyword in the title, headings or body
  • Context – does it include videos, images, diagrams etc

Algorithms rank useful and relevant pages

Matt Cutts has mentioned that Google ranks pages to distinct keywords by asking over 200 questions.

These questions refer to ranking factors that determine which pages to show users first when they type in a search term.

Don’t get excited just yet, if we knew all of these so called questions we could easily game the system to rank pages quickly on search engines. Exactly why Google has only mentioned a few of these ranking factors.

Here are some of the questions that Google has mentioned so far:

  • Does this page provide a good user experience?
  • Does this page have inbound links from relevant and high-quality sites?
  • What is the overall score of this page?

Google filters out cheaters

Google is a lot smarter than it was several years ago. Ranking a web page today takes hard work, ought to be done white and maintained in-order to remain on SERPs.

Websites or web pages that violate Google’s webmaster guidelines get filtered out of search results. These guidelines mainly refer to sites that are suspicious, spammy or misleading.

Search considers your location

Another Google ranking system is based on the location of the user who typed in a search term. Typically, a local search for a product or service will display local results.

Even without including your location when searching, some queries are automatically opted for local results.

Overall score determines it all

Along with pagerank, other factors are also taken into consideration to give a web page an overall score. The higher your score, the better your chances to be lined up in the first row of pages for some keywords.

Grasped the basics of SEO yet? OK, let’s move on!

How you rank web pages today may not be the same tomorrow.

The way in which search engines work are constantly changing and so you’ll have to adapt to these changes if you want your web pages to rank on the first page and remain so for particular keywords.

How will you know when changes occur? Well, you’ll have to keep checking for updates in algorithms. Another simple way would be to send us your email and we’ll notify you about any changes that occur when they occur.