How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

Summary: What actually happens when you type a search into Google? Just 5 minutes of your time and this post will have you up to snuff on how Google works -- as well as a few SEO takeaways!

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TOPICS: Google
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Here's a video I think some of you out there would really enjoy seeing. It provides a very brief and easy-to-understand explanation of what happens when you perform a search in Google! And for those of you who may be wondering, the person presenting is Matt Cutts from Google. As I've noted previously, he is in many ways our lifeline to how Google views SEO (Search Engine Optimization). After the video, I'll touch on a number of key points that may not be so readily apparent to some of you upon watching!

Now, where SEO is concerned, there is actually a *lot* more to glean from this video than meets the eye! For those of us who do SEO, there's confirmation of certain aspects that Google pays attention to when it comes to ranking your Web site. For those of you who don't do SEO, the following aspects are factors you can easily control that will make a big difference for how you rank:

1 - Title Tag: One of the most important factors of on-page SEO (the factors you can control on your Web site itself; be it everything from code to content) is your title tag. My personal recommendation is to use up to two (*maybe* three, but stacking keywords in the title tag has a way of getting spammy pretty quickly) keyword terms that are relevant to the content of the particular page you're adding them to. There's nothing wrong with that since the purpose of a title is to accurately describe exactly what the content of a page is about. After that, feel free to add your brand/site name/etc. Example: <title>Keyword Term and Keyword Term | MyWebsite</title>

2 - Meta Description: In addition to the title tag, your meta description is a very important factor to consider. For all of you folks who use Wordpress or a similar CMS (Content Management System) that allows for post summaries/excerpts, you should really consider using those to create informative and keyword-rich descriptions of your posts! As for individual pages, your meta description falls within the <meta name="description" content="Your description goes here."> tag. Unless Google sees fit to use alternate on-page content in place of your meta description (which I've personally found to be rare), this is your chance to really speak to both people *and* search engines in regards to what you post is about. Be smart about the content you choose to populate it with and use it to your advantage!

3 - Keywords and Synonyms: What is your post or page about? When you create content, the general rule is to write for people first, then go back and craft for spiders (the things that crawl the Web for search engines like Google). For instance, if your post is about cheetahs, it's okay to go back to find places where you may have said "they" and replace that word with the word "cheetahs." On the other hand, if your post is about "giant robots with purple feet," you may want to think twice about always using that whole term throughout the article -- especially if "they" sounds exponentially more natural in its placement. There's a fine line to walk between crafting for people and crafting for spiders, but so long as you put people first (meaning, you write completely naturally as if you're speaking to someone directly), you should have a good bearing of where to go from there. As a tip, just imagine that what you're writing is a conversation you're having directly with someone in-person. If you think it sounds stupid or unrealistic in that context, chances are, it's going to read that way as well. :)

4 - URL: Though Matt only mentioned URLs insofar as they show in the SERPs, it's always a good idea to format your URLs in a manner that contains relevant text to your post or page content. Also, use keyword terms in your URLs when possible. Doing as such will help you rank higher for keywords related to your content and it will give visitors another visual to let them know what kind of content they can expect from your page. For most CMSs like WordPress, your URL (or "permalink," as it's referred to as in the WordPress back-end) is derived from the title of your post. You're certainly not limited to using it for your URL, though.

If you have any questions about any of the noted points above (or anything else, for that matter), please feel free to leave a comment!

*Hat tip to Steve Plunkett for first posting this video on his blog and making me aware of it (which, in turn, made me want to make you aware of it)!

Topic: Google

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34 comments
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  • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

    Google conspiracy theories and FUD in 3... 2... 1...
    ZackCDLVI
    • Actually...

      @Zc456 I think I read your comment incorrectly. Edited accordingly!
      StephenChapman
    • ^^^I'm with stupid.^^^

      @Zc456

      It is a well known fact Google collects all of your data just like spyware. On the other hand I agree let the FUD begin!
      audidiablo
      • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

        @audidiablo Yet, for such a "well-known fact," people still use the product. Go figure!
        StephenChapman
      • Sigh...

        @audidiablo
        Thanks for proving my point.
        ZackCDLVI
    • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

      @Zc456 I agree Why place ads on teh search results because of relevance. Google would be smarter to have a different page that enables this, and another that is not. Seriously, there isn't that much to change in teh page to do this, and the search engine wouldn't have to be completely reone to do it either!! I agree man Fo realz.

      Also


      The guy in this video TAGGED PERFECTLY Why I will never, and refuse to use Google, it is the truely only reason too. Advertising busienss behind google, the whole reason google exists and gets paid to exist. Sure they don't want the partners to spam us and spy on us in anyway, but they do, not all but some do!

      I would use google if they used a page that was advertising free without a problem. I don't care if the ads are related to my searches or not, they don't belong on there just becuase it could possibly answer your search que
      Ez_Customs
      • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

        @Ez_Customs er, do you watch TV, read newspapers/magazines & listen to radio? Or do you refuse to do so because they advertise? Have you found an advert-free search engine, or do you avoid ALL social interactions because someone somewhere is trying to make money from advertising? The truth is, without advertising, TV, radio & newspapers would be a whole lot more expensive, and online search would not be free. The importance of the adverts to its bottom-line is also one of the reasons that Google is committed to making its search results as relevant to your search queries as possible - i.e. if you did not trust the search results you would not use Google and there would be less chance of Google making money from advertising.
        Office Chair UK
      • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

        @Ez_Customs
        Google as a search engine becomes the necessity to doing anything on the web. Just for an example I start my work with Google and finish it with Google. As far as advertising are concerned Google makes its earning through this advertising. So they don't drop this model.

        <a href="http://www.e2solutions.net/effective_web_promotions_seo_company_india.htm">SEO India</a>
        raghavtt
  • Google how???

    Now I know that I don't know anything about "How Google works". Am I stupid? Maybe yes, maybe no.
    Romano4444
  • What DOESN'T HAPPEN When You Search Google

    Actually, two things happen, usually within minutes of one another. The first is that I click on the first 10-30 links because they "might" have what I'm looking for. Second, I give up on Google and go try something else (Ask.com, Bing, different words) because Google usually only gets close but no cigar. Here's the problem: Google used to work better: I'd enter a phrase (yes in quotes) and I'll be damned! It would come back with articles with that exact phrase! I really could not care less how many pages might link to one another when what I want is a literal match. I also am not always looking to buy something. I mean, how many "BLS Hourly Wages" from ALLTHEBLSYOUCOULDEVERWANT.COM can you afford or use? Right? (Relax people, I know this is a bad example). GOOGLE IS FRUSTRATING AND LOSING GROUND. The spiders are not smart. I am pretty sure Google used to work better even without the tools off to the side. I like drill down searching, not "close your eyes and make three wishes" searching.
    oldguardreindeer-techrepublic@...
    • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

      @oldguardreindeer-techrepublic@... I certainly do not share your experiences with Google, but I agree with you that they could do a *lot* better. Having said that, though, I can *always* find what I'm looking for with Google where a typical search is concerned. I do drill-down searching as well -- much more so than anyone I personally know, so I'm with you on that one, too.<br><br>I would really like to see more innovation happen in the search space where information accuracy is concerned, but I'd also like more powerful tools/triggers to drill deeper than a normal search would allow you to (e.g. searching for only powerpoint and pdf presentations that contain a specific set of criteria while leaving out a specific term). While I can do that quite nicely now, I have to wade through a *ton* of junk to find what I'm looking for (sometimes, what I want is located on page 23 out of 28 and I do sit there and take the time to go through all the pages with a fine tooth comb).<br><br>So, as for typical Web searches, Google does just fine, but when I dig deep, I find myself wishing for more innovation and more intelligent algorithms. Here again, though, Google takes the cake on even allowing me to find certain information in the first place.<br><br>-Stephen
      StephenChapman
      • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

        @StephenChapman Agreed; all good points. When you get into a complex search there is an amount of experience that's very handy to have. The least I ever get from Google is a better set of search term/s and good leads from one or more of usually their first two pages of hits.
        Forgive me if you have already, but have you looked at Advanced Search? For those gazllion-hit/vague responses you can often finesse them with Advanced Search. In fact, IMO, that would be a good place to put the improvements you'd like to see. I find the single-entry search is often enough depending on the term chosen, but that's a long way from being "always", though it's quick & dirty.

        And if a search engine is going to be important to you, taking the time to become well experienced in its use is worth the time.

        And a final point: Depending on what is being searched for, Google isn't always the engine of choice, especially for professional areas and off the beaten path (not porn et al) one will often be able to find better, specalized search engines for those. Some of them you have to be invited into, but it's normally as easy as simply asking for an invite.
        I played with Bing a bit and ti's pretty good, but not really much different than Google so personally I'll stick with Google until something better shows up.

        Above relates to Google's Search capabilites only and no other part of Google's operatons or features/presentations. The main value I see in Google's searches is that am no longer single-sourced for a search engine: They have fostered good competition by being successful. And first at being the best. Competition is good. My oly dread is the day those kind of things become pay-for.
        twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
      • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

        @StephenChapman
        www.Dogpile.com does this google is a loosely said search engine, and even this geek in teh video says it too, GOOGLE ISN"T A SEARCH ENGINE, BUT A PORTAL/INDEX SEARCH! dogpile.com however is a meta search that searches everything, websites, and search engines of all types, and it will allow you to select the one that you want to use by means of taggedl inks by search engine name. it is very optimized, and what makes it so much safer and better on top of that, NO FREAKING AD'S, no chance for greedy money schemes, is funded on Charities, you won't find any commercial advertising on dogpile.com, and you haven't sense Webscrawler. yeah it is basically the same thing with a more optimizing Meta Search. Basically dpgpile.com has been around longer then any other search engine, and it is always on teh top 10 still. Google never even damaged it's rank at all!! googles actually making it gain ground, Thank You google!
        Ez_Customs
      • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

        @twaynesdomain

        Advanced search still doesn't beat the diversity in search results as http://www.dogpile.com in any sense. Googles advanced search sure tages up much better, but really why do you need thousands of pages of confusing results, and if you can't find the best source for your search in the top five links 100% of the time, even on less popular topics, what good is a Search engine. Google even in advanced search for me never finds anything but ads on the first links. And really the las page of result is the only portion that you will find with other search engines results on it. To be more efficient in searching, it is better to include every search engine out there in every search result, then the last page. check it out, I bet that you will find everything that you type forsearch in dogpile.com in teh first 5 in most the searches, and ounce in awhile in the first 8. that isn't so shabby. KILL GOOGLE, use a more refined search method. yeah so you loose this Fancy Dynamic ability to adjust search results with keystrokes, so what. Speed is no good if everythign is utter BS results1!
        Ez_Customs
    • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

      @oldguardreindeer-techrepublic@... I really don't unserstand your point. If you search for "my bggest one" then that phrase is exactly what you'll find, and you said that above. But then you complained that's not what you wanted. Huh? Whether Google searches in titles, content, etc. etc., is a control you have access to. In addition you have all the booleans available to you: Search for "my bggest one" and then throw out anything from educational institues with "-edu, whatever) and you'll never see a .edu hit. Add +sociology and now you'll only find its use where it's accompanied by "sociology", etc. etc..
      Might I suggest you do some further reading at Google? They have gobs of information on how to search.
      twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
      • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

        @twaynesdomain
        thats nothign special when you look at 80% of the search engines out there, there is no thign special anymore about boolean, if anything Google inerats that in there syntax by default, becuase of the designed search of docs stores. this is mentioned basically in the video, yes it will help being entered into teh OG syntax, but google is supposideyly already doing this. Still doesn't make it a reasonable ting to place ads in teh searhch like aolgaurdreindeer mentioned he hates as well! Ad's have no place in a search engine, keep them silent they don't have to be advertised and brought out like that!! it is just clutter
        Ez_Customs
    • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

      @oldguardreindeer-techrepublic; Maybe I don't understand but doesn't a search term with a hypen in front of it turn off all substituting? (-"a phrase" instead of "a phrase").
      <br><br>It isn't perfect and it goes against the boolean logic I previously tried, but the results seem to be better. Also, sometimes I find the exact phrase in the cached version. It seems that dynamic content is causing much of the confusion today.<br><br>All that said, Google is pushing its weight around too much. It decides when a substitution should be used instead of what we ask for, and that we want it displayed immediately. A function I hate since it makes me dizzy if I leave it on. (I clear my cookies every session so I need to turn it off each and every time)<br><br>BTW Steve, I liked the way you talked about a balance between human and spider views.
      dave@...
  • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

    Outstanding article, great video and AFAIK free of errors. You even intro'd "SEO"!! Well written and informative; thanks.
    twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
    • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

      @twaynesdomain Thanks a lot! I'm glad you found this article useful. =)
      StephenChapman
  • RE: How It Works: What Happens When You Search Google?

    This is an excellent piece of communication!!!!! I do this type of material for a living so find a lot of material very ho hum.
    This piece is a sensational balance of scope and content. The Google video is just right too. Excellent. I have just emailed the link to a bunch of my work associates.
    I want more!!!
    ians318