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A guide to how Google works

John Murray

It’s estimated that there are an incredible 60 trillion web pages across the world, and Google has the enormous task of reading and indexing the web. Here are some of the things it does:


Google sends out small programs called ‘spiders’ or ‘robots’ that crawl the internet following links from page to page. They then report back what they find.

You can help the robots to efficiently read your website by providing a site map.

The index

Google amasses all the raw data from the robots to create a massive database of over 100 million gigabytes in size. It has rooms full of servers to store all that data.


Google writes programs that contain complex formulas that sort through the index to put it in order.

When someone puts in keywords in the Google search bar, sophisticated algorithms try to understand what they are trying to find.

After the algorithms have attempted to understand the purposes of the search keywords , the most relevant results are displayed in the browser.

The algorithms are not published by Google, so the art of search engine optimization (SEO) is trying to guess how they work, then tailoring content accordingly. Google periodically changes the algorithms, which means that SEO is not a one-off process, but one that needs to be updated in response to changes.


Google wants to keep the results relevant to the search. There are several types of content that it treats as spam and these will be removed from the results. These include:

• General gibberish that’s of little or no value to the reader
• Content consisting purely of material copied from other websites
• Webpages tailored to specific keywords that are not related to the topic of the rest of the site

Understanding how search engines work is the foundation of search engine optimization, and can give you a clearer idea of what you need to work on.

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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