Many of the questions we get from webmasters boil down to “How does Google work?” What most webmasters are really asking is, how do I get my site to appear in search results? The first step of this answer is that your site needs to be discovered and comprehended by search engines, and understanding the fundamentals of how search works will help with this.
Google has lots of computers that continually visit and analyze web pages it knows about. These computers are collectively known as Googlebot. We give Googlebot an initial set of sites, then send it out to visit those sites. It scans the content, and then follows links to other sites or pages that it finds. It then repeats the process on each page it lands on, and continues to spider out, hence the term "spidering" or "crawling" many use to refer to a search engine's discovery process.
When Googlebot visits a webpage, it downloads and stores a copy (called a “cached” page) to our index. It analyzes each page, noting the words and any other relevant content. Googlebot understands some types of content, like text, better than others, like images or Flash (you can find some ways to make these better understood in Webmaster Academy). In order to perform well when customers search for you, it’s important that Googlebot can access and understand the content of your website.
Each time someone searches on Google, our ranking algorithms draw up a list of relevant webpages from the index of information that Googlebot has saved while “crawling” the web. This list is given back as the Google Search results page. To see if your website is included in Google’s index, you can use the site search operator, restricting search results to your site’s domain. For example a search for [site:youtube.com] would only show results from the website youtube.com.
For a more visual look at Google Search, check out the How Search Works video below:
If you’re interested, there’s a lot more to learn that’ll help you build your online presence at the Webmaster Academy. In our next post, we’ll explain best practices for brick and mortar business owners.
Posted by Garen Checkly, Search Quality Team