Search engines are like answer machines that discover, understand, and organize online content to offer the most relevant results to answer the questions visitors have to ask. But to appear in search results, your content needs to be visible to search engines, making it arguably the most important piece of the SEO puzzle.
How do search engines work?
Search engines have the following three primary purposes.
Crawl: Search the Internet for content, examining the content/code for each URL they locate. Crawling is the detection process in which search engines send out a team of crawlers or spiders to locate updated and new content. The content could be a webpage, an image, a video, a PDF, etc., but regardless of the format, the content is noticed by links.
By moving along the path of links, the crawler discovers new content and adds it to their index to later be recovered when a searcher is seeking information that the content on that URL is a good match for.
Index: Collect and organize the content found when crawling. When a page is in the index, it competes to be displayed as a result. Search engines process and store the information they find in an index, which is a huge database of all the content they’ve discovered and decide to be good enough to present to searchers.
Rank: Deliver the pieces of content that will best answer a visitor’s question, ranked by most relevant to least relevant. When someone conducts a search, the web crawlers search their index for the most relevant content and then orders the results to answer the visitor’s question.
This ordering of search results by their relevance is referred to as ranking. You can generally assume that the higher a website is ranked, the more pertinent the search engine believes that site is to the query.