Going to the library is nearly a thing of the past, but do you remember asking the librarian to help you find a particular book? Well, that’s basically what a search engine does — they’re our modern-day librarians for the Internet. In our technology-driven world, we depend on search engines like Google®, Bing®, and Yahoo!® to find exactly what we’re looking for in seconds. (Can you imagine putting that kind of time pressure on a real librarian?!)

Every search engine was built with a different system with unique preferences and features, making each of them beneficial in their own way. But they all have two major functions: they index content and turn over relevant results when a search is processed.

Spiders and bots, oh my!

The Internet is a complex place that houses billions of websites, documents, apps, you name it, and search engines help link all the information together like a giant spider web – everything’s connected!

Through links, search engines use robots called crawlers and spiders to skim information, collect data, catalog content and make connections based on relevant information. As spiders gather together all this information, they break down, prioritize and sort related information using a process called indexing. (It’s like the Dewey decimal system, just a trillion times more advanced.)

Snappy results and SEO

It might sound easy to figure out, but search engines are constantly changing their algorithms – the criteria and processes they use to rank websites. Now, they’re focusing on a website’s content, relevance, popularity and appropriate keyword usage. Each search engine is unique and uses its own algorithms, but people try to figure out how they can better optimize their sites to improve their search engine rankings. We call this process search engine optimization (SEO) – and it’s revolutionized the process of website building and content creation.

For more info, check out 8 SEO Best Practices.