How Search Engine Algorithms Work: Every Software Engineer Should Know

How Search Engine Algorithms Work

The question 'how search engine algorithms work' has an ever-changing answer. Most software engineers know the basics of how search engines find new websites. There are algorithms for how a search engine crawls the web and how it ranks a website. Seo companies and software engineers both need to know the importance of understanding how these algorithms work. 

This is not a comprehensive article on the topic, but let's get started about these pesky algorithms.

There are many algorithms

The search result by google follows a collection of algorithms and sub-algorithms that have developed and evolved to solve different problems. With new issues, new algorithms are created. 

Each algorithm has its understanding, architecture, and importance.

Panda algorithm

Panda algorithm was a response to 'content farms'. They are collecting low-quality and thin content websites that exist but give nothing new and unique to the reader. Panda was developed to look in the search index and classify unique content better than the 'content farms'. It also identified 'content farms' and gave them negative ratings. 

Penguin algorithm

The penguin algorithm was a response to manipulative link building. Content farms were able to associate a lot of links to their content without offering a good range. Previously the volume of links meant the algorithm favoured this low-level content. But penguin algorithm stepped in to put an end to that. Quality of links became more important than quantity of links, and low-quality links became a liability.

Task-specific algorithms

These are a group of multiple smaller algorithms designed to do specific tasks in the overall process. These include how images are captioned, how it associates content with a geographical location, how it classifies a content or idea as a specific language, and many more. 

Organizing algorithms

Previous algorithms are about how data is collected and recognized into tags and descriptions. This algorithm is about how that data is organized. Search engines have data volume in billions. These algorithms are responsible for probing through billions of data points and giving out results in half a second.

Why study these algorithms

These algorithms are essential for software engineers for different reasons than SEO content writers. An SEO content writer responds to the trends of the algorithms through trial and error. 

Seo writers can make dozens of products a week, see how they perform, and edit their content easily. The response on SEO content is quick as well. On the other side, it isn't easy to analyze why a more extensive product or service is successful or not.

Software engineers need to understand how these algorithms work because their products are complete websites, apps, marketplaces, products, and services. Software engineers have to hit the mark pretty close the first time because they have a smaller room for trial and error. 

What are entities?

Entities changed the game of search engines. We humans think in terms of commodities. All our words and actions carry meaning. When we see the word 'table', we imagine a place to work or study, imagine wood or glass, imagine a purpose to it, and give it a unique identity. 

Search engines in the past understood data points as only that, data points in binary with tags. When it came to searching, it only cared about where that data point could be found and then excreted out the top results in order. Now, Google can identify entities. 

For Google, everything is an entity. Search engines use machine learning algorithms to understand which entities are being discussed in a content, service, or product. The content is classified with tags to show how well it is related to a particular entity.

What are entities

How do these entities help?

Entities help us in two ways. First and foremost, entities enable to relate data points. It establishes superficial relationships like a parmesan steak sauce is a food item and cheese is its ingredient. 

Then, they help establish complex relationships like recognizing that content about the importance of metadata and the importance of sub-headings are related topics in the SEO category. 

A search query about metadata might be answered by providing a more extensive article with metadata and subheadings rather than providing only the metadata article. 

The second feature of entities is that google classifies its users as entities too. It gives its users tags that describe them through their data on search history, location, language, and preferences. If you use pinterest 3 hours a day, you will see more pinterest in your search results. These complex relationships can only be utilized by looking at everything as entities. 


A complete understanding of search engine algorithms is a daunting task. You have to start small and find a comfortable foothold in a small algorithm. Then work your way out into other ideas. Good luck!

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