What happens when you search on Google?

Depending on your internet connection, a search engine query usually takes only a few thousandths of a second. It's hard to imagine what happens between the time you enter your query and the time your search results appear. However, year after year, the number of parameters that Google takes in consideration in order to refine its results is constantly increasing. Let's take a look at what's really happening behind your search bar.
Search Engine Process

February 18, 2021


Pre-Match Preparation

Before looking at the search itself, it’s important to understand how Google works. Indeed, the work of the American giant is divided into 3 distinct parts. However, what worries users, the “request” part (which on the search engine side is called diffusion), comes only at the end of its process. Let’s see together what happens upstream.


This is the foundation. In the discovery phase, Google’s robots scan the entire web continuously. At least, the part that is accessible. Because there is the already known part of the internet, which they have to check regularly to update the available information, and on the other hand the unknown part. To discover the latter, there are only two options. Either the site owner notifies Google of new pages to explore, or the robots follow an external link redirecting to these new pages.


This is where content analysis begins. After discovering a new page, Google dissects each element in order to measure its performance, to define the subject, to evaluate its relevance and quality. This is based on specific data for the page itself, such as display time, bounce rate, number of visits, etc. But also on external data to measure the notoriety of the page, such as external links, the famous backlinks. Then, all this information is stocked in Google’s gigantic database, among thousands of servers around the world…


So we finally arrive at the phase we are interested in. After having explored the web in order to collect as much information as possible, having classified and indexed it, the search engine is now going to be able to make all its knowledge accessible to Internet users. All you have to do now is to continue reading to understand how it works…

The customer is king. No, sorry, the user…

The way searches work has significantly evolved since the launch of the first version of Google in the late 1990s. If at the beginning it was just a question of sorting and indexing a huge database of information in order to present it to an audience, the philosophy has been completely reversed.

Indeed, all searches are now user-based. Because while everyone knows that Google adapts its results according to the language selected, few people are aware of the entire range of information considered by the search engine before it even explores its database.

Type of device

This is criterion number one. Have you ever heard of “responsive design”? It’s normal, it has become unavoidable. Responsive design allows a website to automatically adapt the display of its content to the size of the screen on which it is consulted.

However, in 2015, Google began a merciless war against websites that do not offer a mobile display. And for good reason: mobile traffic in the world now accounts for more than 55% of the queries made on the search engine. From now on, if your page doesn’t fit perfectly on a smartphone, you can say goodbye to SEO.

Geographical location

The second key criterion is the geographical area. But don’t think it’s limited to the country or the region! If you have allowed it to identify your location, Google will consider the exact location from which the query was entered. For example, if you type “emergency car service” on your cell phone, your search results may vary depending on where you are in your city.

And this is not the end : since, it will even include date and time in order to prioritize the businesses that will be open. To do this, Google crosses its database with Google Maps and Google My Business, all with the aim of favoring small businesses and local players rather than big brands. A true philanthropist this Larry Page.

Browsing history

Again, when I tell you that Google adapts its results to your history, no one is surprised. But if you think that the search engine only highlights sites you’ve already visited, you’re so far from the truth. The same query made by two people in the same place, from the same type of device, but with a different history, can then give two results that are also completely different.

Google stores and analyzes all your searches in order to understand and anticipate your behavior. And to refine its results even further, it cross-references your data with users whose browsing habits are similar to yours. In short, it’s a bit like the “those who viewed this product also liked…” selection when you’re surfing on an e-commerce website. These are just statistics. But at the casino, we call it a martingale…

Spelling and interpretation

Just one more thing, before sending someone to search the registry to find your sesame… You may also have accidentally scratched your request. Mistyping, inattention… It even happens that you type a proper name you overheard during a conversation without really knowing how to spell it. Well, our dear search engine takes care of correcting the problem for us! And to do so, it has two approaches. But in both cases, sometimes hides behind the altruistic pedagogue a subjective will to direct our research…

Indeed, if the engine detects an “error” that it thinks it can easily correct, it presents the result directly for what it thinks is the search you wanted to perform. Then, magnanimously, it offers the following option: try it with the spelling “what you typed”. On the other hand, if he’s not quite sure, he tells you again to “try it with the spelling”, this time in red and roughly, with always an accompanying suggestion. For most research, this is a very useful tool so you don’t have to worry about your typing skills. But sometimes, it can also intentionally direct our query…

Approximately 7 billion results…

So, in a wink of an eye, or perhaps the time to prepare a coffee (if you’re still looking for the 3G network under the apple tree at the back of the garden), Google takes the time to analyze in detail who, where, when and how, even before digging through its billions of bytes. In this way, the search is now extremely personalized, in order to always meet the user’s expectations as closely as possible. Unless it’s the advertiser’s ones…

In any case, a list of more precise results follows every time. And it’s no coincidence if Google is by far the most used search engine of the planet. Its indexing and diffusion process is incredibly efficient. Constantly updated, its database is sorted according to a number of criteria that are as precise as they are heterogeneous, and its method has the merit of being as implacable as it is impartial. Moreover, there is even a penalty system for those who do not respect the famous “Google Guidelines“. So, if you’ve never heard of Penguin or Panda, be aware that we’ll be writing about it soon. But keep in mind that the best way to build an SEO strategy is to continuously keep an eye on the evolution of the most important search engine in the world. Or, if not, to appeal to professionals.