what is a search engine

An introduction to Search Engines

The S and E in SEO, as we’ve seen, stand for Search Engine.

A solid understanding of how search engines work is crucial for your SEO.

So, what are search engines? And what do they do?

What is a Search Engine?

A search engine is a software that facilitates the retrieval of data from a database based on keyword queries.

On the internet, the popular search engines in 2020 are Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex, Ask.com, AOL, and DuckDuckGo

We also have niche search engines like Amazon for eCommerce, Youtube for videos

How search engines work

At the core, search engines do three jobs. Crawl, Index, and Rank.

When it comes to the web, search engines crawl the internet for websites with new information. It indexes or saves that information in its database; when a user queries that database, it ranks the data and then returns it to the user.

The results they return to a user is what we call the SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

Your job as an SEO is to have your website dominate the SERPs.

To do that, you need to understand how search engines work, how they crawl, index, and rank websites.

What is search engine crawling?

Search engines have minions (web crawlers) that go by robots, bots, or spiders.

Their job is simple, to explore the world wide web for new content.

Search engine crawling is the process search engine web crawlers visit websites to learn about them and then send the information to the search engine for indexing.

When a spider lands on your website, it looks for a robots.txt file. This file instructs the crawler what it can or cannot access on a website.

The search engine will also rely on your content’s metadata, links on a webpage, and a sitemap to discover the site structure and content. 

For an SEO; two things are essential to know

1.Search engines should find your website. A noindex meta tag blocks crawlers from your website.

2.Make it easy for search engines to learn about your website. I dedicate the last sections of this SEO guide to this.

What is search engine indexing?

After crawling websites, search engine indexing collects and organizes the information for fast retrieval.

How search engines index data is beyond the scope of this guide.

However, most search engines employ an inverted index to retrieve and rank websites or files with words in the user query.

Here is an idea of a simplified version of an inverted index

ComputerSite 1, Site 2, Site 3, Site 4,….., Site N.
ShopSite 1, Site 6, Site 9, Site 4,….., Site N.
InSite 3, Site 2, Site 9, Site 10,….., Site N.
KampalaSite 1, Site 2, Site 3, Site 4,….., Site N.

What is Search engine ranking?

Search engine ranking is how search engines decide which document appears at which position in the SERPs.

So, what do Google and other search engines use to rank websites?

The truth is that no one knows.

However, there are practices that SEOs agree on backed by experiments and research and search engine patents.

Brain Dean has a massive list of 200 ranking factors that Google supposedly uses.

Two hundred ranking factors, that’s certainly a lot, the reality though, it could be more or less.

The next sections of the guide will help you understand how to optimize your website for the most important ranking factors.

Now that you know how Search Engines work – the S & E in SEO – let’s tackle the O – Optimization.

Next, we get to the good stuff: Keyword Research For SEO

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