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How Google Works

By Hamish Litt • November 21, 2018
For a search engine that most people use on a daily basis, not many people know just how Google actually gets the information we want so quickly. As such, we’ve compiled info on three basic things you might want to know about: spiders, ranks, and fun features.

A spider is a software program which indexes text and follows the links of websites on the internet. Typically, when you enter a search term, the spider software will fetch a few pages, look at the links branching off those pages, and follow them until it has found billions of pages which answer your search query. Spiders ‘crawl’ the internet looking for all relevant information to your search, and also look through databases from public resources or transport agencies. They looking out for new sites, changes to existing sites and dead links. The data that it collects are put into a search index.

One way this process is enhanced is through the examination of sitemaps, provided by website makers themselves. Sitemaps include information on the page’s last update, how often it’s changed, its content, and any other relevant details (for instance, content which pertains specifically to images or videos). They’re not essential for your page to be found, but are useful for big, new and/or disjointed websites which don’t have many links leading back to them. Learn more about spiders here. If you want some (allegedly) cute pictures of real spiders, click here.

After a spider has come up with all the information on the search index (often up to billions of pages), it ranks the results on a search engine results page (SERP), which is what you see after you’ve made the query. The ranking is done using PageRank, Google’s trademark algorithm. PageRank sorts through websites based on a number of factors, including:




Frequency of Keyword

How many times the keywords in your search found were found in the website.

If the word ‘chicken’ was found often in the title, heading, URL and body text, the website will climb rankings.

Trending Keywords

Whether your input keywords are being looked up often at the time of search.

Searches for ‘oil’ after an oil spill will likely bring up news stories first, rather than stock prices.

Relevant Information

What most people have clicked on after entering the same words.

If people usually click on images after searching for ‘doggos’, images will appear first.


How much attention the webpage receives from other websites.

If a lot of websites link their descriptions back to Wikipedia, then Wikipedia will get higher PageRanks.

Personal Data

This includes location, language, search history and search settings.

Typing in ‘bank’ will respond with Melbournian banks in Melbourne, and Singaporean ones in Singapore.


How recently the content has been uploaded.

Newer content is usually prioritised, particularly if the website is user-friendly.

Google don’t accept payments to artificially place certain websites in a particular location, meaning that it’s more dependent on the quality of information you provide and how many times people figuratively ‘vote’ to access your website as opposed to other ones. They’ve also got algorithms to funnel out any websites which repeat keywords over and over artificially, or ones which attempt to bypass the PageRank algorithm. To learn more about ranking systems, click here.

Fun Features
Over the years, Google has added some additional features which answer specific questions more directly, without you having to trawl through websites to find what you’re looking for. This includes their knowledge graphs, featured snippets, rich lists, and shortcuts, information for which is usually retrieved from the top-ranked website on the PageRank algorithm.

Knowledge graph: a selection of key information relating to a search query. Let’s say you type in Angela Merkel: on the right-hand side of the screen, you will get her photo, job description, birthdate, height, political party, spouse, parents, a list of similar searches that people make after searching for her, and a brief outline of who she is.
Featured snippets: quick facts answering specific questions, such as the weather, directions, the opening hours of a business, or the height of the Burj Khalifa.
Rich Lists: appear at the top of your search bar in response to queries answered in list-form.

The Take-Home
Google is a pretty incredible tool. If you work in a business or startup, and want to promote your website to the best of your ability, check out our infographic on search engine optimisation (SEO). For more info on how Google works itself, check out their in-depth explanation. If you're interested in learning more about inbound marketing and what we can do for you, check out our services at Connect Labs.

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How google works