Search Engines: The Basics

The web is like a railway system…

Each unique example of content; whether it be a document, a page, or a media file; acts as a station. The tracks between the stations are the links that we click, to go from one piece of online content to another.

Search companies provide invisible little engines, that chuff their way around these interconnected lines. Along the way these trains gather information, which is, ultimately, transported back to a terminus – a datacentre. The purpose of a datacentre is to index the many billions of examples of content that can be found online, and to accurately profile the users that have accessed said content.

The main difference between search engines and railway engines, however, is that search engines tend to run on time. It’s absolutely imperative that search providers (like Google and Bing) provide a quick and efficient service. Even so much as a split-second delay could create an unsatisfied customer.

The number of calculations that a search provider has to instantly execute, in order to deliver such results, is huge. Whenever an internet user enters something into a search bar, the search engine must do two things:

1)      Return only relevant results.

2)      Rank them, in order of usefulness and credibility.

In the early days of the web, search engines would simply seek-out the correct word or phrase online. They would equate “matching terms” with “relevance”. Nowadays, through a process of evolution, search providers have devised superior methods and are utilising increasingly complex ranking algorithms.

Presently, hundreds of different ranking factors play into the idea of “relevance”. Value-based results have become key. All of the major search engines currently consider “relevance” to be synonymous with “popularity”. More specifically, it is vital for any example of content to be popular amongst people who have similar interests to the searcher.

With this in mind, when creating web content, one must always be conscious of reflecting the needs, wants and ethics of one’s target niche.