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The Basics Of Search Engine

The World Wide Web has been main stream for around 20 years, and has grown phenomenally in that time. In the early 1990s when the web was young, it was far more difficult for an average web user to create their website. Websites were mainly hosted by tech savvy companies or hobbyists.


In those days, there was no such thing as a ‘search engine’ -- websites were discovered by word of mouth, or one of the few ‘What’s new on the web?’ type pages that listed new sites. This was not very efficient to begin with, but as the web grew over the next couple of years it became clear that a solution was needed.

During 1993-94 the first web search engines sprang up followed over the next couple of years by many commercial engines, including Excite, AltaVista and Yahoo. The number of webpages and users had grown to the point where discovering the content you were looking for simply was no longer manageable via a centralised list.

Google itself started in 1996 and was called BackRub when Larry Page and Sergey Brin began working on it. They were the first search engine to realise the power and potential of hyperlinks as a signal of trust and authority, they talked in depth about this in their University paper released in 1997. Shortly after, PageRank was born and pushed Google ahead of their competitors on both the relevancy and quality of their results.

The World Wide Web now consists of billions of web pages, and search engines are a daily part of most people’s lives.

For a truly in-depth history of search engines, technically dating back to 1945 we’d recommend taking a look at Search Engine History.

Steps of Search Engines

There are 3 main areas to understand when looking at search engines: Crawling, Indexing and Ranking.

Crawling - This is the process that search engines use to discover new content. They have sophisticated programs that visit web pages and follow the links on them to find new pages.

Indexing - The search engines maintain a copy of the content of all web pages they have visited. This index is stored on a large collection of computers, in such a manner that it can be searched through very rapidly.

Ranking - This is the area of search engines that SEO is most concerned with. When a user performs a search on any search engine, the engine needs a ‘recipe’ (known as an algorithm) it can use to evaluate the pages in its index to determine which are most relevant, and thus determine in which position (rank) they are returned to the user.

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