The Google search engine debuted on the market almost 20 years ago. In September 1998, two Stanford University PhD students – Larry Page and Sergey Brin – launched a project to create a working and user-friendly data search engine on a global network. At this point, perhaps not fully intentionally, both men wrote an important card in the online history book.
What began as a small student project quickly attracted influential investors, giving turnover to one of the largest companies in the modern world. At the core of the wide range of services that the Redmond company now offers, however, has always been the original design of an internet search engine, which is still used by a large proportion of Internet users. Have you ever wondered how the mechanisms responsible for its operation work? As representatives of the SEO industry, our job is to understand the principles of Google algorithms, and then to use this knowledge in the context of the positioning process of websites. Therefore, we decided to answer our readers the most basic question – how does Google search work? However, before we discuss technical issues – a bit of history.
Google History – Strength lies in simplicity
Larry Page and Sergey Brin came from completely separate environments. The first of the gentlemen, born in the United States, was a representative of the American social elite. His future colleague, from distant Moscow, was in a different situation and came to the USA with his family in the late seventies of the last century. They met while they were studying at Stanford University – initially without too much cooperation, but eventually they decided to work together on a student project. Their goal was simple: to create a tool for effective search of content on the Internet.
Google search engine BETA – Beginnings of Google search engine
The foundation of Google’s philosophy, already at the moment of the germination of the idea itself, was the creation of an algorithm aimed at analyzing the connections between websites. Thanks to the effective examination of the content of websites and links between them, this algorithm would be aimed at effectively selecting from its database a set of results that would best suit the user’s query. This tool saw the light of day in 1996 – initially referred to as the BackRub name , with time adopted the form (and name) still in force today: PageRank. On its basis, websites received a kind of quality assessment, which was reflected in the order in which the pages appeared in the search results. The combination of this technology with an easy-to-use, intuitive interface without invasive ads was supposed to be the factors that distinguish the project from competing internet search engines – and at that moment the project had someone to compete with. Search engines for large companies such as Yahoo and MSN were available on the market. However, this did not discourage Page and Brin, who decided to continue working on the project.
The further development of the search engine quickly exceeded the administrative capabilities of Stanford University. The executive headquarters were then moved to the now-known garage in Menlo Park, California, from where Page and Brin could continue to manage the project on their own. However, it was not without financial assistance. The aforementioned support was provided by, among others co-founder of Sun Microsystems Inc, Andy Bechtolsheim. It was at this moment that Google was founded, in the form in which it exists today. The company was moved to a professional office complex located in Mountain View, where further work was underway – both in terms of search engine development and attracting new investors.
The first years enabled the company to survive the crisis caused by the 2004 Internet bubble burst. Through its innovative approach in the field of offering users internet services, the company quickly took a key place in the IT market. The attractive business model gave space for experiments with the range of services offered. Gradually, the company began to enter new segments of internet use, introducing, among others free email account platform ( Gmail), blogs (Blogger) or even your own applications – such as Google Earth or Picasa. Gradually, the growing importance of mobile markets also resulted in the appearance of tools and applications for smart devices – in this way Google got involved, among others in the development of the Android operating system and creating a platform for the installation of Google Play mobile applications. Each of Redmond’s creations was guided by the same philosophy – offering great opportunities in a simple user edition. To this day, Google is exploring more and more new markets, broadly related to Internet activities.
Google search today – how to figure it out?
Returning to search engine related issues – the simplicity and speed of Google web search is the result of several complementary processes. The most important of these is the so-called site indexation – that is, adding site content and URLs to the Google search index. By index we mean a kind of extensive database, which contains all information about the selected page: its content (both text and multimedia) and included in the head section meta tags – page descriptions, their titles and additional attributes that may occur on some of your site’s resources (such as alt attributes and image titles).
By grouping this type of information, you can effectively identify your site and are key to it appearing in search results. Googlebot is responsible for indexing the website – an internet robot whose task is to go through subsequent links of sites and download their content, thereby passing it to the Google index.The robot’s work is somewhat reminiscent of arithmetic progress: by visiting one site, Googlebot goes through its subsequent links, thus wandering through more and more sites, indexing very large amounts of resources along the way. Of course, not all resources are suitable for indexing; there are effective methods by which we are able to manipulate the Google robot’s visit path so that it indexes only resources relevant to our website. We’ve presented detailed information on managing this process in the article: How to index pages on Google .
Principle of PageRank operation
Indexing your site correctly is just the first step towards displaying it to your end user. An important aspect is also compliance with the search engine algorithm guidelines. In the previous section I mentioned the important role of PageRank in shaping the position of search results for selected keywords. The main task of this algorithm is to give websites included in the search index a selected numerical value, based on internal guidelines. This value translates into the quality of the page – the higher the value will be assigned to a specific resource, the higher it will rank in organic results. To be able to achieve high positions in Google search engine for phrases of interest to us,we must meet a number of requirements that PageRank sets for us .
The most important guidelines from the point of view of positioning include the number of high-quality links leading to the selected address. If links to domains with high PageRank indexes reach the selected website, its value will also be at a high level. Not all links are able to generate a high PageRank for a given site – therefore you should take care of controlling the structure of your links. Nowadays, controlling the value generated by the algorithm may be a bit more difficult than years ago. The role of the algorithm itself as a ranking factor has lost some importance. Google has repeatedly changed the way we share information about results with users. More information on this topic hereand here . However, this does not mean that the role of this indicator should be underestimated.
In addition to PageRank, there are a number of recommendations that can ultimately increase the chances of high positions in search results. According to the support page, about 200 separate factors participate in the overall assessment of the relevance of the result to the selected phrase . Among the most frequently mentioned conditions, necessary conditions include the need to care for the quality and uniqueness of content published on our website. A list of general guidelines that we should follow can be found, among others, on the Google support page .
Google AdWords – the role of paid search results
The process described in the above paragraphs relates to submitting a page to the index and meeting the standards for display in search results. Google supports another method of presenting results to the end user – Google AdWords .
The AdWords platform, present in Google’s offer since 2000, is an ideal solution for people interested in an alternative form of achieving high positions for their websites. In contrast to the guidelines that we need to meet with standard positioning, Google AdWords offers the possibility of rapid achievement of the intended effect – bypassing the long process of adapting to any requirements imposed by the algorithm and search engine robot. Paid search results, from the very beginning of their presence in the offer of the Mountain View giant, offered a number of facilities inaccessible to sites displayed in traditional organic results: among others, the preferential first position in search results.
This type of solution is a real alternative for those who want to quickly increase the visibility of a website, but not only – a well-conducted AdWords campaign can be a perfect complement to regular optimization activities. As time passed, Google undertook to expand the facilities offered by the paid advertising program, primarily introducing the possibility of additional personalization of displayed search results.
However, the AdWords offer is not without its flaws – after all, we are not the only advertisers in a given industry who run their own campaign! In order for our advertisement to reach a selected group of Internet users, it must participate in the “bidding” process with competing advertisers’ websites. The result of this process depends on the maximum monetary value for a given click on the ad ( CPC , cost per click) and the quality of the page we advertise. Here again, the important role of fulfilling Google’s guidelines comes into play – if the advertising paid for by us is reported by users as inappropriate or misleading, this may affect the frequency of its appearance in paid search results.
AdWords advertising systemit has been discussed in more detail many times in the past. We wrote about which of the methods of website promotion offered by Google ( positioning or paid campaigns) in one of the previous articles: SEO vs PPC .
Submitting search queries
So far, we have discussed the operation of one side of the coin, i.e. the operation of Google search engine based on displaying websites. However, the search engine is not only the results we receive – it is also all the queries we send to it. So how does Google’s flagship product on the other side of the barricade work? By entering the phrase we are interested in in the search field, we send our query to the index servers. It is somewhat reminiscent of a library index or an index directly in books – based on the information provided, the search engine is able to identify on which websites the query is located. After accurate identification, the query is forwarded to document servers.
At this stage, among other things, the appearance of the results to be presented to the end user is generated – page descriptions are created and a set order of selected elements is generated, according to the criterion of relevance. After finishing working with the document server, the user will see a page presenting the result of his query. The entire process of generating a list of results takes no more than a fraction of a second.
To save the user time to enter subsequent queries, Google has implemented keyword auto-complete functionso self-generated expressions. This operation uses its own algorithm, which selects search suggestions based on previously entered queries. However, the tool does not stop there. If our query is similar to another, more popular expression, the search engine will also suggest displaying the results for a more well-known equivalent – the “Did you mean:” section is used for this. Auto-complete is convenient for both the average internet user and webmasters. As the key factor in choosing supplemented queries is their popularity, based on the proposed expressions, we can select groups of phrases that are worth including when positioning our website. For ordinary Internet users, these are useful functionalities,
A similar mechanism of action was also used in the similar searches section attached in the bottom section of our search results. This section contains all popular phrases selected in a similar way to the autocomplete function. Clicking on these suggestions takes us to the search results under the selected phrase – this tool is therefore almost identical in nature to the keyword suggestions described above. The presentation of both solutions is presented in the graphic below:
Positioning and knowledge about Google
Understanding the secrets of how a search engine works is the first step to understanding how you can increase your site’s chances of reaching your intended audience. This is where the important role of positioning gains – especially if we count on achieving the best results. The combination of specialist experience in the industry, knowledge in the field of optimization activities and regular tracking of mechanisms present in the search engine is a basic mix that is able to ensure an effective positioning process. Naturally, tips on how Google search engine can be used by everyone – but if you expect certain effects, you should decide to cooperate with an SEO agency. We can then be sure that our site is in good hands.