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How Google Search Works (in 5 minutes)

Every day, billions of people come here with
questions – about all kinds of things. Sometimes we even get questions about Google
Search itself – like, how this whole thing actually works, and while this is a subject
entire books have been written about, there’s a good chance you’re in the market for something
a little more concise. So, let’s say it’s getting close to dinner
and you want a recipe for… lasagna. You’ve probably seen this before. But let’s go a little deeper. Since the beginning, back when the homepage
looked like this, Google has been continuously mapping the web – hundreds of billions of
pages – to create something called an index. Think of it as the giant library we look through
whenever you do a search for lasagna or anything else. Now the word lasagna shows up a lot on the
web: pages about the history of lasagna, articles by a scientist whose last name happened to
be “Lasagna” stuff other people might be looking for.

But, if you’re hungry, randomly clicking
through millions of links is no fun. This is where Google’s ranking algorithms
come into play: first, they try to understand what you’re looking for, so they can be
helpful even if you don’t know exactly the right words to use, or if your spelling is
a little off. Then they sift through millions of possible
matches in the index, and automatically assemble a page that tries to put the most relevant
information up top, for you to choose from. Ok, now we have some results. But how did the algorithms actually decide
what made it onto the first page? There are hundreds of factors that go into
ranking search results, so let’s talk about a few of them:
You may already know that pages containing the words you searched for are more likely
to end up at the top – no surprise there. But the location of those words, like, in
the page’s title, or in an image’s caption – those are factors too. There’s a lot more to ranking than just

Back when Google got started, we looked at
how pages linked to each other to better understand what pages were about and how important and
trustworthy they seemed. Today, linking is still an important factor. Another factor is location – where a search
happens – because if you happen to be in Ormea, Italy, you might be looking for information
about their annual lasagna festival, but if you’re in Omaha, Nebraska, you probably
aren’t. When a webpage was uploaded is an important
factor too – pages published more recently often have more accurate information, especially
in the case of a rapidly developing news story. Of course, not every site on the web is trying
to be helpful.

Just like with robocalls on your phone or
spam in your email, there are a lot of sites that only exist to scam, and every day, scammers
upload millions more of them. So just because lists
the words “lasagna recipe” 400 times, that doesn’t mean it’s going to help you
make dinner. We spend a lot of time trying to stay one
step ahead of tricks like these, making sure our algorithms can recognize scam sites and
flag them before they make it to your Search results page.

So, let’s review: billions of times a day,
whenever someone searches for lasagna, or “resume writing tips” or “how to swaddle
a baby” or anything else, Google’s software locates all the potentially relevant results
on the web, removes all the spam, and ranks them based on hundreds of factors like keywords,
links, location, and freshness. Ok. Good time to take a breath. This last part is about how we make changes
to search, and it’s important. Since 1998, when Google went online, people
seem to have found our results pretty helpful. But, the web is always changing, and people
are always searching for new things – in fact, one in every seven searches is for something
that’s never been typed into the search box before, by anyone ever. So, we’re always working on updates to Search
– thousands every year.

Which brings up a big question: how do we
decide whether a change is making search more helpful? Well, one of the ways we evaluate potential
updates to Search is by asking people like you. Every day, thousands of Search Quality Raters
look at samples of search results side-by-side, then give feedback about the relevance and
reliability of the information. To make sure those evaluations are consistent,
the raters follow a list of Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. Think of them as our publicly available guide
to what makes a good result… good. Oh, and one last thing to remember: we use
responses from Raters to evaluate changes, but they don’t directly impact how Search
results are ranked. So, there you have it: every time you click
“search”, our algorithms are analyzing the meaning of the words in your search, matching
them to content on the web, understanding what content is most likely to be helpful
and reliable, and then automatically putting it all together in a neatly organized page
designed to get you to the info you need.

All in… oh 0.81 seconds. Wow. Anyone else ready for dinner? Interested in learning more? We've got a whole website dedicated to how
Search works. Just click right here. Want to read the Search Quality Rater Guidelines
for yourself? Click right here..

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