Understanding Search Engines: What Makes Google Go
Written by: Ryan Flannagan

Move over dogs, because search engines are mans’ new best friend. Over 90% of people use search engines to find information on the web according to a survey taken by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in April 2011.

In mere seconds, we can bring up thousands of results from car buying to cotton candy. The Internet would be a murky sea of URL and HTML without search engines to light the way.

But how do search engines work? Who finds and categorizes the millions of websites that exist? Is it the result of magic? Tech savvy gnomes?

Unfortunately, there are no spell-casting or fantasy creatures involved. Instead, “crawlers” or “spiders” power search engines.  These arachnids are automated robots programmed to seek out web pages and categorize them.  As spiders  “crawl” links they create giant databases that are chock full of useful and reliable links.

Complex mathematical equations and algorithms are the brains behind the operation. They take into consideration a multitude of “ranking factors” that determine the relevance and popularity of a website.
Once you’ve typed in a search, for example, “really cute puppies” in Google, over four million results are generated in less than a second.  Links are listed based on 2 factors: relevance and value.

A website’s relevance is based largely on an effective use of “keywords.” These words best describe what the website has to offer and the spiders group together sites that have keywords in common that match your query. Thus, it works out that the most trusted, pertinent, and, in this case, adorable websites come up the highest on the list.

Fame still reigns, in the cyber world at least.  The most “popular” pages are those that are linked to frequently, especially by other reputable sites. Connections made with trustworthy sites boost notability more than links with spam-related sites. This way your path to canine cuteness isn’t interrupted by offers to “Win a free laptop!” or annoying claims that “You are our 1 millionth visitor, claim your prize now!”

Now the mystery has been solved, the curtain lifted and the secret life of search engines has been revealed.  Charlotte and her eight-legged friends are on your side, bringing you the most popular and relevant websites.  The top results will answer your questions, be relevant and spam free, happy surfing!

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