Google has transformed the way we find information. In fact, the term 'to google' has become synynomous with searching online. It's the world’s most popular search engine, and for good reason:
- its database of indexed websites is the biggest and most comprehensive
- it's fast – it takes less than a second to retrieve your results
- it's easy to use
- the most relevant results are listed at the top of the page
- the results include 'snippets' of information to help you assess their usefulness.
How Google works
Google uses automated programs that crawl the internet following billions of links to make an index of millions of web pages, blogs, discussion forums, articles, documents, videos, directories of people – in fact, anything the program can access.
When we use Google to search the web, it decides which websites to offer us, and in what order, based on:
- the words we type in, and the order in which we type them
- what the search engine knows about the websites – how reliable they are and how many times they’re linked to by other sites
- what they know about us – our location, online profiles, browsing history etc.
In this video, Google engineer Matt Cutts explains Google’s formulae for deciding which sites to show you (and in what order).
As Matt explains, when you type words or a question into Google, you're not searching the web. Instead, you're searching Google's database of indexed websites, which is why the results are retrieved so quickly. Google acts as a gateway and filter to the web, like the index in a book.
Search engines such as Google shape the way we see the web, for better or worse. They use our web and search histories and online profiles to anticipate the kinds of results we might find useful. They also keep the details of their methods secret so we don’t know exactly how they work.
Google can't access your personal information (unless it's been published somewhere), company or government records, information kept in complex databases, emails, archival records and other information that is stored securely.
Google has become part of our everyday life. But it's not the only way to search.
Things to remember
- Google searches its database of indexed websites
- Google interprets our searches based on the information we provide
Next, let's look at some other options for finding information online.Next