the process behind each search – WAU

Understand how Google scans the internet, documents information and ranks search results.


(Click on the player to hear the narration of our post!)

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself how Google collects and organizes results for any questions in a fraction of a second?

From the first times I looked at Google searches, the number of responses and the time until I got the final list surprised me.

Take for example the search result for the keyword Digital Marketing:

Search digital marketing

Impressive, isn’t it? Approximately 1.7 billion results in less than half a second!

How can a tool go through so many pages on the Web, understand which of them have answers to the term I typed, and still order the results to give me the ones that will best answer my question?

The mission seems worthy of Santa Claus. Visiting several addresses, making deliveries at all without missing any, and still going unnoticed by children?

Santa Claus Google

But unlike Christmas, doing a Google search is nothing magical.

In this article, you will understand how a Google search works and how you can get to the top of searches. Come on?

How does Google scour the internet?

How does Google search for the answers to your search?

When you do a search, Google doesn’t search for answers directly on destination sites, but on the list of pages it indexes.

Instead of scouring every webpage every time someone searches – and there are approximately 3.5 billion daily searches worldwide – Google uses a computer program they developed, called GoogleBot, to scour the internet and build a page index.

GoogleBot, also known as a crawler, spider or bot, starts by scanning a small number of pages (usually by pages with high domain authority), and follows the links it finds on those pages to reach other pages, and so on. We explain better how GoogleBot works in this post.

Soon, GoogleBot basically scans every page it can find and records all the information it can find about each one in its index. It is in this index that Google looks for the answers to your searches!

In the beginning, every time Google scoured the internet it took about 1 month. Today the internet is mapped several times in a single day, featuring content that has recently been posted and increasing the search engine’s immediacy.

Every time it searches the web, Bot searches for new sites, changes to existing sites and inactive sites / links.

It is important to be aware of this, and we give tips on how to index a page on Google in this post.

Because it is in your own system, the index is a much faster way to browse the internet, and ensures that in a fraction of a second you get a giant volume of responses.

But how is the information for each site recorded in the index?

How does Google document information from the internet?

When searching the internet, GoogleBot records all the data it can from a page.

It records every word it finds and where they are on the page. The same goes for links, images, embeded content, which domain, which publication data and all the other elements that make up the page.

Google uses a form of storage known as an Inverted List. In it, the mapped terms and elements are registered according to their presence and position on a page or document.

This helps to decrease the time it takes to process a search, as it allows for easier location of each keyword term in the index.

Usage data is also mapped, recording how many people access the page, for how long, where they come from and what their path is inside – or the exit.

The index is a giant database (to make Santa Claus jealous), with all the information about the pages that GoogleBot browsed.

As you can imagine, this generates a huge amount of information. To store them, the company has about 16 data centers, spread over 3 continents, mostly in the USA.

Google database

Google invests a lot of money in ways to have more secure and efficient databases, and we are talking about cutting edge technology. If you want to understand a little better, they explain a lot in the video below.

But a database alone does not answer any questions. The third step of this article will show you how Google transforms the information it accumulates on each page into an answer when you type your search. Follow us!

How does Google rank the results?

We went back a few years, until the day that I (or at least a younger version) tried to better understand what digital marketing is.

Like anyone else, I turned to our friend Google, who found the 1.7 billion possible answers to my research. My reaction was more or less this:


But, why did he select these answers in the first place? And how does he decide which of all these possibilities has the best chance of answering what I want to find out?

In order to define and rank the results, Google starts in very obvious ways, but gains complexity throughout the process. Stay with me!

How does Google select possible responses?

The process starts with the tool defining which documents in the index contain the words “marketing” or “digital”. This puts them among the possible answers to my search.

In doing so, Google reached 1.7 billion responses, but still does not know how to rank those options.

To assess which order of results are most likely to match my search goals, more than 200 ranking factors are evaluated.

It is the intersection between all of them, generated by Google’s algorithm, that defines which results you will see first.

This is the object of study for SEO professionals. Understand search engines, and ensure that sites have the necessary elements to appear at the top of Google searches.

I know, life is too short to read an article with 200 intertitles, but if you are one of those people who like to hear the full story, we have an article talking about all the main ranking factors.

It is important to note that Google does not disclose its secret formula, so no one knows the absolute and unquestionable truth about which factors and how much each one weighs.

secret formula

But we know enough to pass on some factors that directly influence search results, and how you can work those factors on your pages.

Note: the list no is in order of relevance.

Ranking factors on Google

If you skipped straight to this title (without judgments), I already notice that I will talk about a few factors responsible for ranking, but you can access our post with the top 200 here, or go straight to how to get to 1st place on the results page .

The search engine is always looking for the result that delivers the most value to the searcher, so it evaluates things like:

Keyword matching

Let’s assume that instead of 1.7 billion, Google had found only 10 pages where the terms “marketing” or “digital” appear:

Marketing appears on pages A, C, I, R and S.

Digital appears on pages C, D, R, S and X.

If my goal is to find a page that gives me answers about Digital Marketing, a result that contains both terms (like the C, R and S results in the example) gains momentum in the race to the top of the results page, or SERP.

Another important factor to mention about searching for keyword matches is the order in which they appear.

Again using the example above: if, from C, R and S results, only R and S contain the terms ‘marketing’ and ‘digital’ followed and in that order, as in ‘digital marketing’, it is more plausible that they are better results for my search, no?

The number of times and the position on the page where the terms appear are also taken into account.

If of the two results in which the terms ‘digital marketing’ appear in a row and in the right order, one of them has the keyword in the main title, in addition to the middle of the text, and the other has the term only at the bottom of the page, in the middle of a paragraph, the first one is more likely to deal with the subject of my research .

Google is getting better at understanding that content doesn’t need to repeat the keyword ‘digital marketing’ 439 times to have the most relevant information on the topic.

But, even so, it is important that the searcher knows what a content is about, mainly using the intertitles (h1, h2, h3 ..)

Domain Authority

One of the most decisive factors for the positioning of a result is the authority of the domain where the page is inserted. This page you are on now, for example, is within the domain

The ability of this post to rank well for a search like “How does a Google search” depends directly on the authority of this domain, even if it contains the exact keyword in its title.

This ranking factor tells Google when this domain is strong, functioning as a digital vote of confidence for a website.

For example: have you ever wondered why so many searches on Google have Wikipedia at the top of the answers?

I had this doubt, and I realized that the main reason is his very high domain authority.

As the site has a lot of complete content and receives links from several other sites – some of which are very important – Google understands that it is a strong and reliable domain, and its results receive more attention and affection at the time of ranking.

This graph shows the clear impact of domain authority on search result ranking:

Of course, the story is more complex, so I wrote a post about why Wikipedia performs so well in search and search. why a domain authority is high or not.

But there is one factor that is taken very seriously by the search engine, and it is often overlooked: the search intent.

Search intent

I was going to start by using the ‘digital marketing’ search example, but you must be tired by now, right?

So let’s relax with a universal distraction: cute puppies.

Apparently, looking at pictures of cute puppies makes people happier and more productive. So, you arrive at the office, open your browser and search for ‘cute puppies’.

What would be your level of disappointment if you only received results in text as an answer?

When you search for cute puppies, you are not after “5 scientific facts about cute puppies”, or “how cute puppies are fed”, or “cute puppies: complete guide”.

If you search for that term it’s because you want to see pictures of cute puppies, why!

You can have the highest domain authority in the world and make the most complete story content on the subject.

If he doesn’t have pictures of cute puppies, you’re not going to be the first result, period.

In cases where the intention is to get more information on a topic, such as the infamous keyword ‘digital marketing’, content that goes deeper into the topic comes into play.

Factors such as:

  • content size;
  • multimedia;
  • update frequency;
  • page dwell time;
  • intertitles (and the presence of keywords in them);
  • external links that the page receives.

You can see how Google increasingly seeks to offer exactly what you’re looking for in the first place through other examples:

What is the first information that appears when you search for the term ‘a mile’?

From the data analysis, the tool understood that the searches for this term are usually from people who want to convert units of measure, therefore, it already offers the result in the first place, and in the form of a conversion tool.

In the normal results section you can find our friend Wiki.

What if you search for the term ‘restaurant’?

Before the first ‘traditional’ result, Google offers a map result, showing where restaurants are closest to me.

This is because this type of search is characterized as a local search. Anyone looking for terms like restaurant, hotel or laundry is usually looking for geographically advantageous solutions. The shorter the distance, the better.

If you want to understand how to appear on the serp for local searches, we have an ebook that talks all about local SEO.

How you can get first place on a search page

I could address here the different aspects of a champion content that take you to the first place in the serp, but this has already been done – and with a lot of quality.

André Mousinho, Websites Are Us SEO expert, made an article on how to rank first for any keyword.

In the article, he tells how he placed the WAU Blog first for the most relevant keywords in our market, and gives all the tips on how you can do the same!

I recommend reading it carefully, because it is top-notch content (the way Google likes it).

I hope this content helps you to better understand how the largest search engine in the world works! Any other questions? Leave in the comments what you want to discover and we have updated this article.