How does Google search work?

Have you ever wondered how or why certain information shows up on Google when you Google a certain phrase?  This blog post briefly explains how Google gets its information to display on its search results page.

Start by Googling a phrase, any phrase, just Google something. In this case, I was doing some subject matter research for a client of mine, World Bank.  The subject matter is Gender.  So, the search term is, “World Bank Gender.”  This is a snippet of what I get from Google:

If I were to pick any of these links and then click on them, I could view the source code (or HTML) of the web page and see how this information gets pulled directly from the website and displayed on Google’s search engine results page (SERP).

The very first line, Gender, that is in big bold blue letters and underlined comes directly from the page title.  If you are the coder or webmaster for the website, you would go to to the HEAD section of the page code and at the top is a bracket called <title>.  Within that bracket, you will see the word, Gender.

The title tag is important for two reasons:

  1. Google places a LOT of weight in the page title.  So, you want to make sure that the page title is both relevant to your site plus meaningful to your prospective web visitors.
  2. This title will be one of the most prominent things that people see when they Google a phrase.  So, the page title needs to be catchy, almost like a newspaper headline.

Below the title is usually 1-2 lines of text that further describe or elaborate on the page title.  You can control this text by placing it within the meta description tag, also within the head section of the code.  In the absence of a meta description tag, Google will just grab the first couple lines of content that it sees.

The meta description tag does not carry weight on Google’s algorithm.  In other words, you cannot trick Google into displaying your website because you have stuffed a bunch of keywords in the meta description tag.  However, this area does carry weight with your potential web visitors.  These one to two lines are often what convince, compel or trigger a web surfer to click or not to click onto your site.

So, your meta description tag needs to be like a 30 second elevator pitch.  It should be compelling, sensational and perhaps a call to action.

Finally, you have the URL or the web address of the site.  This is taken directly from the page address on the website.  The URL includes the domain name, the file/directory path and sometimes the final page name of the selected page.  The URL is important for a couple reasons:

  1. Like the Title tag, Google actually indexes the URL and gives it some weight in its algorithm
  2. Many people who choose to link to you or share a link to your website will copy and paste your URL.  So, the URL should be descriptive, contain the keywords that would be relevant to a prospective web surfer’s Google query and be somewhat friendly and readable – it should help to reveal the content behind the URL, if possible.

Hope that helps.  If you have any questions or comments, please contact us or leave a comment below.

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