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How Google searches work

Google’s search algorithm is amazingly complex, but they do a nice job of providing materials to show a bit about how it all works.  The more you know about how it works, the more you can do to try to get your site to rank higher.

There are a few important points that many people aren’t aware of:

Google doesn’t search the internet

Many people assume that when you search Google they run out to the internet to find a match for your search.  In reality, Google keeps copies of virtually every website on their own servers, so they can quickly search their servers, find you a match, and hope that the real page online is still similar to their copy of it.

Google “crawls” and “indexes” the internet

To make that happen, Google sends out “bots” that go around the internet and grab copies of every page they can find.  Those pages are then stored (“indexed”) on Google’s servers so that they can potentially be shown in search results.  One of our favorite pages in Google Webmaster Tools is the “index status”, which shows us how many pages from a particular site Google has indexed.  The more of our pages they have in their index, the better chance that one of those pages will show up in the search results for a user.

PageRank is still important; just different

Google’s “PageRank” algorithm is what put them on the map.  In short, it says that pages which have more links pointed to them are more important.  Early on, this was a huge factor in sorting search results.  It’s much less important now, but still plays a large role.  If nothing else, PageRank is a major factor in determining the crawling speed and depth for your site.  The more links you have pointing to your site, the more often Google will come by to make copies of your pages and the more pages they’ll grab. As we said above, the more pages of yours that Google has, the better, so this can make a big difference in your incoming traffic from Google.

This short video from Google helps explain it a bit more:

So how does this help me?

There are a few things you can take away from this:

  • Getting reputable sites to link to yours is always a helpful thing to do.
  • Google works very hard to provide the most relevant results; if you think you’ve found a shortcut, they probably already know about it and will take action accordingly.
  • Providing quality content will go a long way.  Google wants to index and serve relevant pages, so creating high-quality unique content will ultimately benefit your site.

For more on how to get your site to rank better in Google, check out our full SEO blog archive.

About the Author

Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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