How Does Google Search Work? The In-Depth Guide

Haley Carroll

  | Published on  

September 29, 2023

If you’re like over 90% of Internet users, you probably use the search engine Google every day to find websites, answer questions, and surf the web. -You may have even found this article through a Google search. Google is the most popular search engine by a landslide —  in fact, there are approximately 70,000 Google searches made every second!

That’s a lot of traffic coming to this search engine, and subsequently a lot of knowledge being communicated to users. But where does Google get its information?Google has become a staple to so many online users’ lives, but a small fraction of these people actually understand how Google search works.

While it’s unnecessary for most of us to know how Google connects its users to relevant search results, it is extremely important and relevant when you’re working on the search engine optimization of your website.

In order to get started in the SEO world, you must first understand how search engines work. Then, you can begin learning Google search best practices.

Today, we’ll be going through how Google works and how the search engine became so successful. You will learn how the algorithm works, and how Google picks its search results and then decides which pages come first. This information will make you better equipped to start forming your website’s SEO strategy.

How does Google work?

In short, Google completes three steps in order to deliver search results to a user when they perform a query. The process goes as follows: crawling, indexing, and ranking. Let’s look at each step a bit more closely.

1. Crawling

So how does Google get its information? The answer is through crawling.

Picture Google sending its bots out into cyberspace to determine what’s on the Internet. The bots analyze websites and pages to figure out the information that’s kept on them. Then, they report back to Google, who in turn adds the new pages to its list of known pages. This process is called crawling.

In reality, the bots aren’t flying around cyberspace. Instead, bots find new web pages largely through links on known pages. That’s why proper link building (links from credible websites, not spammy ones) is important for new websites to start ranking on Google.

Links aren’t the only way for Google to find a web page, though. Website owners may submit a sitemap to get Google to visit their pages.

Once Google finds a new web page, it will begin to index it.

2. Indexing

How does Google choose its search results? The search engine refers to its index (called Caffeine). The second step to Google’s process involves indexing all of the information it gathered from crawling.

When Google is looking at a new page, it reads the text and analyzes visual cues. Google looks at not only what’s written, but also any images, videos, and other non-text visuals, as well as the layout of the page, in order to determine the page’s purpose and value.

On page SEO focuses on optimizing your web pages so they are easier for Google to understand accurately. If Google doesn’t understand the purpose of your website or see the value in its pages, you won’t be able to rank highly for relevant search queries.

As an example, here are three on-page SEO tips straight from Google to improve the indexing of your website:

Write short, meaningful page titles.

Incorporate page headings that convey the subject of the page’s content.

  • Always have alt text for your images and videos, in case Google cannot understand these components on its own. Use text to convey content as much as possible.

There are plenty of other ways to optimize page content for Google, and tools like Centori’s SEO software can make the process a lot easier.

If you know your website is being indexed correctly, Google is much more likely to favor your site in the third and final step of its process.

3. Serving/Ranking

We’ve finally reached the part where a user types a question or phrase into the search bar of Google and hits enter. What happens next?

First, Google will refer to its index of pages to try to find the most relevant information to show the user based on their particular query. Google will also use other information about the user, such as their location, language, and whether they are using a computer or phone to help determine which results it should display to them.

Serving refers to Google displaying web results for the user to see and click on. Ranking is how Google decided what order to list the results it has compiled to serve to the user.

For website owners, you want your pages to be served for the search queries your target users are making, and you want to be ranked highly on the SERP so that users are more likely to view and click on your page.

A higher search ranking means more organic traffic will come to your website, which creates more opportunities for conversions and profits to your business.

There’s a ton of information and strategies out there to improve your website’s ranking on the SERP, but here are few things Google recommends to get you started:

  • Make sure your page loads quickly and is mobile-friendly.
  • Post useful, valuable and up-to-date content regularly.
  • Follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
  • If your page is meant for users in specific locations or languages, tell Google.

How does the Google search algorithm work?

You cannot pay to increase your ranking on Google’s search results — it is all determined by Google’s algorithm.

This algorithm is highly complex, and it’s also constantly being updated. For example, you can read about the Google Panda update that had massive implications for the SEO of many websites here.

There’s also a component of the core algorithm called RankBrain. It uses machine learning, meaning that it continues to improve over time though the observations it makes and data it collects. This machine learning allows RankBrain to constantly improve how it functions for the search algorithm.

So, it’s not possible for a website owner to outsmart the algorithm or master it. Some workers at Google even admit they don’t completely understand it themselves.

Instead of trying to trick the algorithm into getting higher rankings, it’s much better to follow white-hat SEO strategies and create great content that will bring in users to your site and provide value to them.

Why is Google so successful?

Google’s advanced algorithm is a big reason why the search engine has become much more successful than its competitors. The constant improvements that are being made to its operations mean that Google consistently provides the most accurate and relevant results to its users.

Tied in with the fact that Google has been able to make massive profits off ad revenue, this is how Google has become one of the most powerful companies in the world today.


For many small websites, getting their site ranked in Google can seem like a large, daunting challenge. How can one web page be found in an index that contains hundreds of billions of web pages?

The trick is to not be intimidated, and not to view Google as the enemy. This search engine can help boost your website and increase exposure to your target audience, as long as you are deliberately employing solid SEO strategies and maintaining a high quality, authoritative, and relevant website.  

To learn more about how your site can perform better on Google, check out other posts on our blog.

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