Aviva Directory » Computers & Internet » Internet » Searching » Search Engines

This is a guide to search engines, which are programs that identify items in its database that correspond to search queries made by users who are looking for information on the web.

A search engine collects content from websites all over the Internet, storing it in databases, and organizing it through the use of algorithms. Someone using a search engine will enter a query about whatever it is that they would like to find, and the search engine will provide links to web content that matches the searcher's query. Millions of searches are conducted every day, and the search engines return results that its algorithms consider to be the most relevant to the search query. Algorithms are changed often in an attempt to avoid manipulation.

In 1993, there were only a few hundred websites, and most of them were hosted by colleges and universities. Even before most of these sites were created, a search engine had been developed. Known as Archie, the first search engine combined a script-based data gathering program with a regular expression matcher for retrieving file names that matched a user query. Unlike today's search engines, Archie's database included only file names and did not archive the contents of the documents.

Search engines use small software programs known as bots to locate the information that will be added to the search engine database. Bots are simple programs that automate repetitive tasks, and that name is used for any program that interfaces with the user or collects data. Bots used to collect data for search engines are known as spiders, which is a play on the idea of the Internet being a web. These spiders follow links from websites that are already in the search engine's database to other sites that are not, indexing them in the process, along with any links that are contained on these new pages.

By far the most popular search engine today, Google was created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who were students at Stanford at the time. Originally known as Backrub, their search engine was renamed when went commercial in 1998, with initial funding from Sun Microsystems.

Although Google's algorithm is changed often, some of the things that are involved in the decisions that it makes are believed to include the presence of the search query words or phrases on the pages, including synonyms, with an extra bump if they appear in the title or web address. Google assigns a ranking to each of the sites that it indexes. Although Google no longer makes its Page Rank public, it surely exists in some form, and pages with a higher ranking are likely to rank well in Google search engine results pages on relevant keywords. Also likely to be important is the length of time that the page or site has been online and how often it is updated. The site's authority is in part determined by the number and ranking of the sites that link to it.

Although the Bing search engine uses a separate algorithm, it is probably similar in most respects. Although they differ, pages that routinely rank well in Google's SERPs generally do well in Bing's.

Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex all allow for searches of the web, image searches, and video searches.

Using a search engine to locate information on the web, users will enter a query into the search field. This query may be a single word, a phrase, or a question, and these queries are often referred to as keywords or key phrases. They might also be known as search terms.

In preparation for a web search, a user should consider what it is that they are trying to find. Which words or phrases might they expect to find on a site that is relevant to what they are looking for? Also, remember that a search query is a communication with a machine, and not a real person, so proper grammar is not important. Words like a, an, as, and the are likely to confuse the search engine, and should be used only when the user is searching for a specific sentence, which would be enclosed in quotation marks.

When framing a query, every word matters to the search engine, as does the word order and the correct spelling of the word. Capitalization doesn't matter, and punctuation normally doesn't matter.

Most search engines include an auto-complete feature. As a user begins to type a search query into the search field, suggested phrases are included beneath the search field. When these appear to be relevant to what the user is looking for, they can be chosen. This feature can be a help to users who need help formulating their searches, and a timesaver for others.

Although they are displayed differently from one search engine to another, all search engines include paid advertising. Although intentionally subtle, paid ads are differentiated from native search results in one way or another, and are usually located at the top, bottom, or side of legitimate search results.


Metasearch Engines

Niche Search Engines

Privacy Search Engines

Social Media Search Engines



Recommended Resources

Search for Search Engines on Google or Bing