What’s a search engine?
The Internet is a very big place, filled with billions of pages and websites. Keeping track of them all is an impossible task for any human brain, as it involves locating pages, analyzing their content for key information, and storing those details for future reference. Fortunately, search engines (like Google, Yahoo, Baidu or Bing) are on hand to do the job for us. They provide access to searchable databases of information about websites and their contents, and make it a lot easier for people to find what they’re looking for in the vast expanse of the web.
How do search engines provide relevant information?
Search engines are designed to help people locate information quickly and easily. Whenever a search engine finds a new website, it analyzes the site’s content to select relevant search terms (or key words). In order to decide what search terms to match to a site, search engines use specialized semantic algorithms to analyze the content of every web page they find, extract the most relevant information on the page and match it with potential key words.
Once pages are matched with key words, search engines use different algorithms to rank the new pages with existing ones in their databases, in order to provide the most relevant results to someone performing a search.
Every search engine has its own page analyzing and ranking algorithms. Exactly how each algorithm works is a closely guarded secret; if everyone knew exactly how search algorithms worked, search engine companies would lose business to competitors, and their ranking system would be open to abuse by unscrupulous webmasters, keen to see their website appear at the top of search results pages with minimal effort.
Although we don’t have access to search engine ranking algorithms, we know enough about them to put that knowledge to good use on our own websites. In the second part of this series, we’ll start looking at what you can do as a beginner webmaster to help people find your site on the web, and to climb the ladder to the top of search engine rankings.