Search Results & Search Algorithms

Search Results (delivered in 0.29 secs)

A web search is performed by typing relevant words into a search engine. These words form the search query (also called a keyword phrase KWP or search string). Eg If someone is looking for a house to rent in Sydney they might use the keyword phrase ‘home rentals Sydney ‘.

The search engine then accesses the search index and returns a list of relevant sites in the form of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). There are often thousands of relevant web pages listed on the results page. For this reason search engine developers created rules for ‘ranking’ the results so they could be listed in order of importance to make it easier for the user to find what they are searching for.

These ‘rules’ are a set of complex calculations called search algorithms.

What is a search algorithm?

Search algorithms assign value to different parts of each web page and then work out an overall score based on how relevant the web page content is to the search query. Some search algorithms also take into account how popular the web page is based on how many other sites link to the page (especially if the linked site is of a similar topic). The best match takes the first spot on the search engine results page. This is often called a No. 1 ranking.

Search algorithms are frequently updated and are different for each search engine. For obvious reasons they are not disclosed however, basic information is published by each search engine in the form of guidelines and recommendations for web page developers.

What kind of information does a search engine collect?

A search engine cannot actually ‘see’ the way a human user can.

A search engine finds out about each web page by ‘reading’ the code. (To see this code, visit a web page then choose ‘view’ and then ‘source’ from your web browser).

There are certain parts of this code that a search engine will favour. These are generally divided into two categories:

•  ‘on the page’ content which is visible to a user. Eg the web page title, headings, text and links

•  ‘off the page’ content which is information contained in the code that is NOT visible to the user. Eg ‘meta tags’ and ‘alt text’ (these are names given to specific parts of the html code that creates web pages).

The type of information that can be indexed from a web page will depend on how the page is written (on the page content) and built (off the page content). This determines what information is made available to a search engine.

Some web page content is difficult or impossible for search engines to access and index. For example, content that is purely ‘visual’ such as a picture of a word cannot be ‘seen’ by a search engine, therefore the typed version of a word is often preferable. Other types of content that a search engine cannot ‘easily’ index include: dynamic content such as that generated by an online database, frames based web pages, content created with Macromedia Flash and content accessed via JavaScript’s. 

The first step with search engine optimisation is to make sure page content is accessible to search engines so that it can be properly indexed. A web page that has been built with care for search engine accessibility is commonly called a search engine friendly web page.

What is a Search Engine?

A search engine is a tool that helps us to retrieve information from the World Wide Web.


Search engines rely on automated programs called ‘spiders’ (also called crawlers or robots) to traverse the World Wide Web, following hyperlinks (linked text) from web page to web page. These spiders collect and catalogue data from each web page and store the information in a database called a ‘search index’.

The major search engines have their own search engine spiders and create their own search index which is regularly revised to keep the information accurate and up-to-date. Did you know the individual crawlers actually have names?! Google’s web crawler is called ‘Googlebot’ and Yahoo’s web crawler is called ‘Slurp’.

Data collected and stored in a search index provides an overview of a web page. The page can then be quickly and accurately matched to a relevant search query and included in the search engine results page (SERP).

The goal of a search engine is to provide the most relevant match to each search query in as little time as possible.

The goal of a web page owner is to make sure their web page is matched to every relevant search query and included in the search results page when it should be. Search engine optimisation helps to make this happen.