How Google Search works

Posted Online: March 16, 2013, 9:20 am
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
By Leslie Meredith
Looking for something on the Web? Chances are you turn to Google.

The results you see are a product of complex machinations, and for the first time, Google gives people a behind-the-scenes look at how search works.

Google has launched a new site featuring a clever infographic that not only reveals the process of search, but gives a real-time view of spam removal — a key component that shows that the pages we don't see are just as important as those we do when it comes to good results.

The numbers tell the story. Google "crawls" and tracks trillions of Web pages, ranking each page's importance based on more than 200 algorithms or formulas. Google has accumulated about 100 million gigabytes of information.

When you type in something for Google to search, your query travels an average of 1,500 miles over the Internet to get your answer, a pace that's close to the speed of light. You start seeing results even before you hit enter — usually in about one-tenth of a second. To date, Google has seen 450 billion searches.

Google has eliminated a lot of the garbage on the Web. Every day, millions of worthless pages are created, which Google lumps together as spam.

Sites long have tried to trick Google into thinking they're legitimate, using methods like cloaking (displaying different content to human users than is shown to search engines). Google has automated formulas to find these pages and has a team that reviews questionable pages as well. You can see pages that Google has removed in the last 30 minute or so.

Google also has included search tips and tricks you may find useful.

First, keep it simple. Use one or two words for an initial search. The more specific or descriptive the words are, the better your results will be. But popularity trumps precise, meaning that the most common term for what you're looking for will produce more results than one that's obscure.

As you continue to search, Google will "remember" what you've looked at and use that information in subsequent searches.

If you're looking for a quote or title, type it out and enclose it in quotation marks.

Don't worry about correct spelling; Google is pretty good at understanding what you meant and automatically searches for alternate spellings. Likewise, don't bother with capital letters — search is not case sensitive and you can save a little time by skipping the capitals.

Search also ignores punctuation and special characters. If you want to ask a question, use words like "what is" rather than a question mark.

To fine tune your search, you can confine Google to a website by typing the name of the site, followed by a colon and then your search term. You might try "wikipedia:steve jobs." In this case, Google recognizes the colon as a command to look only in the specified site.

Using the same principle, you can skip dictionary sites by typing the word define, followed by a colon and then the word you'd like defined.

Over the years, Google has gotten a lot smarter. Track your packages by typing in the UPS, FedEx or USPS tracking number right in the search box. Similarly, you can get stock information by typing in a ticker symbol, such as "goog," and sports scores by using only the name of the team.

Google could make calculators obsolete. Type in a math problem and you'll get the answer, and if appropriate, Google will graph the result as well. If you need a conversion from one numeric system to another, type in your known amount in current units, followed by "to" and the converted unit. (This is harder to explain than do — just type 271 feet to meters.) This works for all types of measurement conversions, as well as currency.

If you're interested in digging into the details of how Google Search works, visit
Ogden, Utah-based guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question? Email Leslie Meredith at, or join her at AskLeslie on Facebook or Leslie Meredith on Google+.


Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, April 23, the 113th day of 2014. There are 252 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: Some persons are negotiating for 80 feet of ground on Illinois Street with a view of erecting four stores thereon. It would serve a better purpose if the money was invested in neat tenement houses.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Central station, car house and stables of the Moline-Rock Island Horse Railway line of the Holmes syndicate, together with 15 cars and 42 head of horses, were destroyed by fire. The loss was at $15,000.
1914 — 100 years ago: Vera Cruz, Mexico, after a day and night of resistance to American forces, gradually ceased opposition. The American forces took complete control of the city.
1939 — 75 years ago: Dr. R. Bruce Collins was reelected for a second term as president of the Lower Rock Island County Tuberculosis Association.
1964 — 50 years ago: Work is scheduled to begin this summer on construction of a new men's residence complex and an addition to the dining facilities at Westerlin Hall at Augustana College.
1989 — 25 years ago: Special Olympics competitors were triple winners at Rock Island High School Saturday. The participants vanquished the rain that fell during the competition, and some won their events; but most important, they triumphed over their own disabilities.

(More History)