Understanding the search engine mechanics basics

The key to understanding proper search engine optimization is based on how the search engines work, what kind of mechanics search engines used, and ultimately toward what goal. Understanding this will help you do an overall better job with search engine optimization for your site.

Understandably, for any of your website content to be displayed in the search results, that content first must be available and online 24/7 and accessible to both users and search engines.

If we can conclude that is the case then next we must discuss how exactly search engines work.

How does a search engine work?

A search engine is a software algorithm and hardware infrastructure, with the latter most commonly being data-center servers, much like any other online service servers.

However, we need to discuss what is the purpose for individual software components that make up the search engine and how they combine as a whole.

how a search engine works

Search engine is comprised of a three major software components:

  • Data collection
  • Data storage and indexing
  • Ranking and displaying (retrieval) to end-user

Data collection component of a search engine

The three components working together enable any search user to find relevant information on a global scale, or as we call it on the world-wide-web service we know as the Internet.

However, before a search engine can display any data, first it has to be collected and this job is given to the spider bots (crawler bots) which are specialized software algorithms that will go through your website home page, following links to internal pages and relate that data to the data-center for processing.

What you need to know about spider bot is that you are responsible for enabling the spider bot to do the best job by providing links between website pages. The whole process of data collection can be significantly faster if you provide it with a sitemap which is one of the cornerstones of website SEO.

It is important to note that sitemap can contain instructions for the spider bot to NOT index a certain part of the website, which can be desirable in some specific cases.

Data storage and indexing component of a search engine

Naturally, this part of the search engine is deep in the data-center where software algorithms will process the data collected by spider bots, index and store data within a huge database.

How can you help the data storage and indexing component of a search engine to better process your website content? What you need to provide it with are metadata, keywords, structured content such as heading and subheadings within content so the algorithms will properly digest and index site content.

Ranking and retrieval component of a search engine

All of the data from your website that was processed successfully will be now stored in the index database with a specific relevance rating which deems if the content is good enough to be displayed for a specific search query.

Now, to understand how a search engine works we need to know that the goal of a search engine is to provide relevant information to a search query from a user, not to help us make a good SEO of our websites.

After a user makes a query with a search engine only the content with the highest rating will make it into the first results page as the search engine algorithm has deemed that is the best answer, the one that the user was looking for in the first place.

What you need to know about ranking and retrieval is that if you aim to be in the top spot for a specific search, then you need to provide top-quality content with your website – relevant, insightful and well written content.

These are the core mechanics of a search engine.  Next we want to provide you with a few useful tips.

Can you find your website pages within search result pages?

Naturally, some pages within your site can be better ranked for any specific search because it just may be so that the content provided with them is significantly better than what other websites are providing on that topic.

On the other hand, you may not be able to find some website pages from your site within any search engine and there may be a simple reason for it – because this page or pages are “locked” behind a login form or other kind of obstacle that a crawled bots cannot surpass.

The sitemap we mentioned can be of help in this case, though the best case scenario is to have that external page linked for better navigation.

search engine bots demand sitemap

Another reason for a search engine omitting a page from a search result can be that your website shows different results for desktop and mobile devices. Know that search engines now index with mobile first in mind.

Unique pages tailored to specific users will also be “invisible” to search engines, and the same can be said for scripted pages, meaning you need to provide different means of search visibility to the content within these pages.

Are your site pages recorded in the search engine index forever?

Now that we have discussed how search engines find your pages, we need to talk about how the search engine index stores our pages.

One important thing you must know is that pages stored in the index will not remain indexed forever, but can be removed.

The main reason why a search engine has removed a specific page from index is that it was not accessible the last time a spider bot crawled your website.

While the “not found” error (4XX) or server error (5XX) may be a temporary thing the spider bot will remove it, but if you make it available the next time it comes to crawl your site, it will be added again.

On a side note, an URL can be manually penalized for violating the search engine’s Webmaster Guidelines and thus removed from the index database, in which case you need to remodel the page and contact a specific webmaster (search engine) administrator.

Conclusion – understanding the search engine mechanics

Back in the beginning of search engines the algorithms used with them were much simpler, and SEO based on keywords was heavily favored, but things have changed and now the key ingredient for great SEO is quality content and the content SEO.

We can conclude that understanding the search engine mechanics and applying this knowledge to your website content will be beneficial for both you as the website owner and search engine, and you will benefit from better search ranking for your site content.