How a search engine works

Because large search engines contain millions and sometimes billions of pages, many search engines display the results depending on their importance. This importance is commonly determined using various algorithms.

Visual search engine example
As illustrated, the source of all search engine data is collected using a spider or crawler that visits each page on the Internet and collects its information.

Once a page is crawled, the data contained in the page is processed and indexed. Often, this can involve the steps below.

Strip out stop words.
Record the remaining words on the page and the frequency they occur.
Record links to other pages.
Record information about any images, audio, and embedded media on the page.
The data collected is used to rank each page. These rankings then determine which pages to show in the search results and in what order.

Finally, once the data is processed, it’s broken up into files, inserted into a database, or loaded into memory, where it’s accessed when a search is performed.