How does Google search work? (Matt Cutts explains)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Searching the web is so fundamental now, such an every day part of people’s lives, we think how it works should be taught in schools. (Actually it’s only a matter of time.) Very few people really understand, so here’s the basics.

The 3 minute video here from Google themselves gives a simple explanation. Here’s our synopsis.

Where does Google get its info from? 

When you do a search you’re actually searching what Google has found on the web and put in its index.

Where does Google’s index come from? Google has these things called ‘spiders’ that go out search the internet – following links and fetching webpages for its index. When you do a search on Google it brings up all the pages it finds in its index that match your search terms.

For example, search ‘social media course’ and you’ll get 895 million results.

Google search social media course

How are webpages ranked? 

Google asks hundreds of questions of the different webpages it has on its index. Questions like:

  • How many times does a webpage contain the words you’ve typed?
  • Do those words appear in the webpage title or the URL (web address)?
  • Does the webpage include synonyms for the words you’ve typed?
  • Is it a quality webpage or spammy junk?
  • Are people recommending the webpage (via social media likes, tweets, and reviews)?
  • Are there many other webpages linking to the page (and are those webpages reputable sites)?

Those questions come together in an algorithm that ranks all the webpages.

What’s in Google’s algorithm? 

Google won’t give away the exact formula, but it is very up front about the key factors (like the above) that make it up. The algorithm gives every page a score that enables Google to rank all 895 million pages in order. Amazing hey? All in half a second.

To make matters more interesting, Google are making changes all the time to its algorithm. But a lot of the fundamentals remain the same.

Why learn about Search?

Knowing even the basics will give you some simple things you can do to give your website a shot at coming up higher in searches – maybe even Page 1.

Learning resources

To learn more check out our recommended:

One of the best intro’s to Search (and how to get higher) can be found in Google’s free Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.

We’ve also written a blog post which explains some things you can do as a small business to build a presence on the internet at minimal cost.


Our social media course includes the fundamentals of search engine optimisation. And how social helps with search.

Phil Stubbs About the author

Phil Stubbs is Founder and Principal Trainer at Media School in Sydney, Australia. Phil launched Media School to help people like you learn how to use new media to achieve your goals.

No Comments

Post a Comment