According to NetCraft, there are about 189 million active websites on the internet today. Google estimates that this number breaks down into 60 trillion individual pages, a number that is constantly growing. In navigating through the internet’s many articles, images and videos, Larry Page, co-founder and CEO of Google, describes the perfect search engine as one that “understands exactly what you mean and gives you exactly what you want.” Therefore, Google’s stated goal “is to make it as easy as possible for you to find the information you need” in this great sea of data “and get the things you need to do done.”
Contrary to popular belief, Google does not search the naked web. Rather, Google searches its own index of the web. Drawing from its internal database is what allows the engine to pull such accurate and extensive answers to search queries.
In this section we will discuss what happens when a user queries Google and how Google delivers the results that it does.
1) A Request is Typed into the Query Box
Whether you’re searching “Panda cams” or “How do I fix a broken heart,” the process is the same. Over the years Google has become much more sophisticated in what queries it recognizes. Today, Google Instant will begin to auto-complete your query as soon as it gets enough letters, providing suggestions based on what you’ve searched before and the popularity of searches by other users across the web.
2) The Search Begins
This is where Google’s algorithm kicks in. We’ll discuss PageRank in more detail in the next section; for now we’ll say that the algorithm is a set of instructions for Google’s computers, informing them how to do their job – that job being to find what you’re looking for. The keywords in your query are picked out and used to identify relevant pages in Google’s vast index. Google’s 2013 update, Hummingbird, has improved this initial process to also take the query as a whole into account.
3) Combing the Clusters
It is believed that Google owns or leases about 200 data centers all over the planet. The software for Google’s domain-name servers runs on computers in these centers, each forming an incredible cluster of information consuming an equally incredible volume of power. Which of these clusters is combed in relation to your query is an efficient process that takes into account the nearest data center to you as well as which cluster is the least busy at that moment. Google’s web server splits the components of your query across hundreds of machines in the center (potentially thousands) to allow them all to search simultaneously.
Every relevant entry of Google’s index is compiled while each component of your query is run through an advertisement database. These matches are fed to the web server when the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is generated. However, if the ad results take longer to pull than the search results, they will not appear on the SERP. Though Google makes no money from searches that do not display ads, the speed of its results takes precedence over advertisements.
5) The SERP
In answer to your query, the web server pulls the data of its thousand or so operations into an organized results page.
This whole process takes less than one second.
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