What is a Search Engine?
A search engine is a platform on internet that has been around for as long as the world wide web. It is where you go when you want to look up or locate something on the internet. You type in what you are looking for, press enter, and voila, there are countless answers to your query, usually with the most relevant answer coming up first. Several search engines have become household names in their familiarity, like Google, Yahoo! or Bing, for instance.
Search engines are actually pretty slick little software programs that crawl the web, going through links, pages, and sites, and then places all of the information found into searchable indexes. It’s kind of like the old index file cards that one would go through in libraries to locate a specific book back in the day…only on a much, much larger, not to mention faster scale.
How do Search Engines work?
There is actually quite a lot going on behind the scenes to get you those answers to things like where the best place eat is near to you. Each time that you type in a question, or enter your search criteria, the search engines programming goes through some rather complex mathematical formulas to search out, and then provide you with your answers.
Each search engine will have slightly different formulas in use to collect this information for you, and they then group their results lists by what seems to be the most relevant to your query being first. This can mean that what seems relevant enough to make the top of the list on one search engine, may not be on the top of the list on another search engine, because they use different formulas, with different algorithms in play to figure out what you are actually looking for.
These algorithms that are used also get changed and tweaked regularly, so it can be a bit tough to try and keep up with which search engine seems to give you the best results for your queries. There are people or companies out there who are there to help web pages stay up to date with Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. They do this by keeping up with the keywords that get typed into the queries, and incorporating them into the web page. This will keep their pages up near the top of the relevance lists, based on commonly used keywords. There are some of these companies that make big claims, and use less than reputable tactics to get what they want to be considered relevant to your searches, whether they are actually relevant or not. This is why the search engines change their algorithms regularly, trying to stay ahead of those tactics, and give you what you need. There is something quite annoying about having your search engine results page all messed up with a few good results, plus a whole lot of ridiculousness that has nothing to do with your query.
One would think that with the way some websites run so much ad driven garbage that litters up their pages with unnecessary video, graphics, and animation, that they would be getting somewhere with whatever business they are in, but the opposite is quite true, in terms of SEO, and visibility or relevance. Search engines do much of their work by looking at the text that is found on web pages, but they also take into account the way the HTML of a particular web page was built. Sites that keep their information relatively basic, and don’t go overboard with a lot of images, or Flash graphics and videos will get much higher rankings in the relevance department.
Those sites that use all of that cyber bling and eye catching animation simply will not rank as well on your search engine’s results page. A website’s SEO keywords need to be within the pages text in order to be found easily, and ranked well on the results pages.
The bottom line is really that in order to get the best results for your searches, use several different search engines, especially if what you are looking for is of critical importance to you. If you simply are not finding what you need, try doing a bit of tailoring on your search query. Sometimes we are including too many words in the query, which will give us much less relevant results.
Other times, we may not be using enough words in our query, and that too will give us irrelevant results. Once you have played with search engines for a while, you begin to learn the little tricks that will give you the best results. Some of the search engines will even prompt you to narrow your search parameters by cutting out a word or two, or may even offer suggestions for how to get what you need. Getting to know your way around some of these things can make the difference between getting incredibly frustrated and shutting the computer down without your results, and enjoying the whole new world of internet surfing.