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What do Search Engines do ?

by | Last updated: Feb 7, 2024

Search Engine Functions

Search Engines do a few things, they crawl content on the web and index it for relevancy based on their own algorithms, so that they can deliver results to specified queries. As time goes by they get access to books, documents, pdfs and much much more than just websites, so the Semantic Web will make a major impact on our futures. Search Engines will cache or save the information it finds so that it can retrieve it when someone is looking for it. Indeed they will keep copies of the information in different locations to help deliver the information quickly. Then it ranks the value of the information based on relevancy and how well people react to it as an answer or something worth reading. This is what determines the make up of SERPs Search Engines Results Pages.


Crawl – this is literally that – where a search engine has robots crawling through your pages to determine which ones are worth listing. These robots look at your code, rather than the images or visual pages. It checks the code to see what terms are important, headlines, bold writing etc.
Index – once a page is deemed worth of listing in results it is indexed. Not all pages are deemed worthy of indexing
Cache – saved on a server or multiple servers in Datacentres around the world ready to deliver when the right question is asked.
Rank – Pagerank is the rating the page gets for relevancy, based on the indexing and how people react when they get it served up to them. Google will also check the speed of delivery of your page, so slow pages will be punished. The 200 Google algorithms have all been created to do the ranking as best as possible.

Link Building and SEO

Link Building

Originally, in the early 2000s the number of links to your website was very important, until Google realised that some webmasters were gaming the system, creating doorway pages and false links. Thus, Google made changes in 2005. Link building may still work somewhat, but the sites that link to your site need to be quality relevant sites. In 2010 with Caffeine and again in 2012 Google got better at ranking based on links, so quality rather than quantity took prominence. Keywords had been important, but again in the same way, some webmasters gamed the system, to ad specific words to attract visitors.


Search Engine Optimisation, entails many parts, but the aim is to drive more pertinent traffic to websites. These parts include things like adding tracking code, relevant keywords per page, creating useful content, structuring the website properly and generating links, as well as managing connected any Social Media presence.

Web partners offer free guidance on how to manage your SEO, as it is not difficult, just time consuming. Google does the same and their Matt Cutts offers some great video snippets of advice. He does not specify every secret Google algorithm, but he does give great direction on how to create a site using best practice that will rank well. The main tip is to simply create good relevant content and present it in a logical easy to navigate fashion. The Target for success is to become a popular Authority site where content is relevant, well structured and easy to navigate & read. Every page needs to be easy to find, with user friendly URLs, have relevant keywords and description. The result should be desired Traffic, visitors who are likely potential customers which will generate interaction and ultimately increase sales.

You can make this happen or employ someone to do it, once you identify your goals. Check out our short guide about On Page SEO Tips here.

Search Engines Updates 2021

Page Experience as a Ranking factor

Google has announced that it will launch a ‘Page Experience Update’ mid June, which will be in full effect from the end of August 2021.  The introduction of this new feature will be gradual in order for Google to effectively monitor the effects and prepare for any unexpected issues. Page experience concerns the visitor’s perception of their experience interacting with a web page itself. This update will place emphasis on pages that offer excellent user experience, making it that much more important for you to utilise SEO for your business. It will consider page experience signals including Core Web Vitals metricsLCPFID, and CLS, all of which are crucial for providing a good page experience in Google Search.

Even more, Google will be providing a Page Experience Report to enable you to efficiently analyze your site’s performance. This report combines the current Core Web Vitals reports with other parts of the page experience signals including, but not limited to HTTPS security, mobile friendliness, and safe browsing status.

Heads up – At this stage, with good SEO, getting found organically is all very well. However, between the Sponsored Ads and the Map Stack, the Knowledge Graph or Google Business Profile, getting clicked even if you are ranking number 1 organically is a real challenge. Especially in mobile view where your number 1 spot may only get single digit clicks. Position 2 is obviously even worse. Google may be over doing it with their attempt to make more and more money by reducing the value of organic results in search results. As of 2023 the Google SGE Search Generative Experience is also changing how results are shown.

Moblie-first Indexing

Mobile-first indexing refers to Google’s use of the mobile version of content for indexing and ranking. A majority of Google users now access Google Search through the use of a mobile device, meaning that ‘Googlebots’ will mainly crawl and index pages with the smartphone agent. What does this mean for your website? If you don’t already have a mobile version of your website, it is highly recommended that you create one, especially if you want your content to show up in a potential customer’s Google Search results.

Google’s Guide for the Transition to Mobile-first Indexing:

  • Utilise same meta robot tags on mobile and desktop
  • Confirm there is identical (primary) content on each version
  • Ensure that each version has clear and meaningful headings
  • Make content visible to Google crawlers and bots; unblock the URL if the disallow directive is enabled
  • Check that each version has the same structured data (Breadcrumb, Product, etc.)
  • Verify that the two versions share the same alt texts for images

SEO Trends in 2024

ChatGPT – The use of AI is already here and making a difference:

  • People are using AI to create content from blog posts to books, to code for websites, business plans, marketing plans, anything a very well educated assistant could do for you. This assistant has access to most of the knowledge in the world. Tools like ChatGPT are developing at an incredible pace. As is Googles Bard and Gemioni. This will affect everybody and everything.

Rich Snippets – the result that people see above the results:

  • This is generally an answer to a question, one that answers the question without any need to click on a link to the originating website.

Voice Search – 27% of global population uses voice search, over a billion searches a month and it continues to rise:

  • Voice search questions are long-tail and specific – adjust your website’s keywords

Keyword Research – Invest the Time:

  • Analyze the SERPs for the keyword prior to choosing it
  • Find longer and more specific keywords – useful when visitors use voice search or are at closer point-of-purchase

Original Content – becoming increasingly important in Google’s search results:

  • Add case studies, customer testimonials, interviews, milestones, etc. to your website – the more original content that appears on your site, the more likely it will appear on a visitor’s Google Search page
  • Google does not care if you use AI such as ChatGPT. It just cares about the quality of content and how relevant it is to any given search.

Note: In 1998 Larry Page and Sergei Brin wrote about how Google would work. See here if you are really interested in reading the whole detail. In 1993, Meta Data became the way websites were ranked. Up until then with AltaVista Keywords were enough to get sites found and this was easy to manipulate. In 1998 Google ranked based on backlinks, quality of linking sites and link text. By 2005, it became domain relevance and authority, how good was a site when it came to answering questions on a given subject.

Then 2009 saw Social make a big difference, who is talking about your site and sharing your content. 2012 saw semantic web and SEO impact on ranking and by 2014, it became a combination of all these items, with a focus on quality of content, NOT quantity, so Google is determined to see that when a search term is entered that they will deliver the best site for the answer, whether it is general or local, so that they stay the dominant search engine. Current revenues in 2015 would indicate that the plan is working well. This is good for the people searching and apart from the proliferation of advertising on the page, the search engine is getting better all the time.

SGE Search Generative Experience

Another innovation in Google that you should be aware of soon. SGE Search Generative Experience will allow users search in new or different ways, such as asking follow up questions in written or voice search. Much like talking with an assistant or AI Artificial Intelligence assistant, SGE is the next level in search, which will make search more intuitive for people. However, the way it works will pose challenges for SEO and for marketing in all firms. Read the guide here.
SGE is powered by a number of LLM Large Language Models, including MUM And PaLM2. Google has been using AI for years. The results presented in any given search will look different for everyone. Answers might include bits of information gathered from a number of sources or websites. Layout on a results page will also look different going forward, especially for eCommerce. This is all still very much in development so constant change is guaranteed.

About The Author

Do you want more traffic?

Hi, at MEANit we help 34 ‘Professional Services Firms‘ to be effective online annually. Will your business be one of the 34 in 2024?


Written by Michael MacGinty

Michael is a well known speaker, author and coach on SEO and how to use the web to grow a business. He is also WP Elevation certified as a Digital Business Consultant.
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