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What is a Search Engine Anyway?

Jul 27, 2008
We have all heard and used the term search engine dozens if not hundreds of times. But what is a search engine and how does it work?

A search engine is a group of software programs. One of these programs is commonly known as the spider or crawler. This program searches the web by following links. It fetches as many documents as possible. These documents are web pages.

Then a program called an indexer goes to work reading these documents and creating or adding to an index based on the words found in each document. Part of the information these spiders read is the meta tags which are part of the code and are not seen by the usual website visitor. The way these indices are set up and how they call upon results differs from search engine to search engine and is a closely guarded secret. The goal of this program is to return the most relevant results from a user query.

This brings us to the last and most familiar search engine program, the Browser Search Line. This is the part the user sees on a day-to-day basis. Whether we use Yahoo, Google, MSN, ASK or another smaller search engine what we want it to do for us is retrieve relevant and meaningful information based on the search term or keywords we type in. This is called a query.

When you query a search engine you are not actually searching the web. What you are doing is getting the program to look up your query in its index. Though this index is updated on a regular basis it is not in fact an exact representation of the current World Wide Web. This explains why you may sometimes click on a search result and have it turn out to be a dead link or site not found. How frequently the web is spidered and how often an individual web site is re-spidered is up to the engineers who write the program and the administrators of that particular search engine.

In a very basic form this is what a search engine is and what it does.

Based on the above we know:

1. To be found and ranked by the search engines you must have your website available up on the Internet and viewable by the search engine spidering program. This means your site should not be designed in a format called "frames".

2. Make sure all your pages are linked from at least one page on your site.

3. Links coming from other places in the Internet help the pages of your site get found and indexed

4. The more pages your site has the more chances to be indexed.

5. The more pages that are indexed the better your chance to have your site rank well and get visitors from the Search Engines

This understanding of the parts of a search engine is vital to optimizing and marketing your site. By being aware of each of these program steps we can help increase your search engine rankings by honestly and legitimately giving the search engines what they want.
About the Author
Meridith Berk is one of the founders of UltimateSitePromotion.com one of the oldest and most respected Search Engine Optimizing and Pay Per Click Management firms on the Internet.  To read more newsletters about Search Engine Optimization you can visit her site at http://ultimatesitepromotion.com
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