How Google Search works [The 3 step process to know]

Updated on June 3rd, 2023

How search works with the step-by-step procedure explained

How does Google search work for SEO ranking you wonder?

Understanding how Google Search works is very important to know if you want to increase the chances of ranking your website on page one.

This article will explain in detail the Google 3-step search process that breaks down the way Google’s search engine works to rank websites.

Picture showing search engine result page and that says, "How Google Search Works."

And answer some frequently asked questions too.

CrawlFinding new web pages
IndexStoring information in Google’s database
Serving results(ranking)Showing sites that passed the above steps on search result pages
Table outlining Google Search Engine process

Very Important:

The first two steps mentioned is a part of technical SEO. A part of SEO that causes all types of issues that prevent and tanks ranking.

So thoroughly grasping the 3 steps process for Google Search detailed below is extremely important.

Basically, if you want to boost your website pages ranking to page one prioritize understand it.

In a nutshell, Google Search Engine first uses what are called web crawlers. The crawlers will go to the internet to find new & updated website page content to add to Google’s index.

You can also submit your website manually to Google Search Console(formerly Google Webmaster Tools) to help Google find it for faster crawling.

Second, Google crawlers will add the website information(s) like videos, images, and texts to their index which is humongous.

Third, if your website makes it to the index, it will be served on the search result pages for various queries searched by users.

As you can see, how search works is by Google using a 3 step procedure in the following order:

  • Crawling
  • Indexing
  • Serving search results aka ranking pages

Let’s break down each process deeper.

Step 1: Crawling

In the crawling step of how search works, the procedure is Google Search Engine sending out what’s called search bots, crawlers, or spiders(officially called Googlebot) to scout for new web pages that include videos, texts, and images.

There are two main Googlebot:

White bot
NameUser-agent(description of the crawler)
Googlebot-desktopMozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; + Mozilla/5.0 AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko; compatible; Googlebot/2.1; + Chrome/W.X.Y.Z Safari/537.36 Googlebot/2.1 (+
Googlebot-smart phoneMozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 6.0.1; Nexus 5X Build/MMB29P) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/W.X.Y.Z Mobile Safari/537.36 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +
Information about Google Search bots

There are other Google Search crawlers for video(Googlebot-Video), news(Googlebot-News), and images(Googlebot-Image).

The crawlers find content by following links.

Once they find these contents, their other job is to recommend which ones need to be included in the Google Search database known as indexes.

These spiders don’t just visit new websites but existing ones to look for updated images, videos, and texts.

For existing web pages, how fast Googlebot crawls depends on many factors such as:

Cause of crawling issues
  • how fast or slow you set crawling on the Google Search Console
  • how often you ping search engines
  • how often you write new and update existing content

In other, for a successful crawling to happen, Google has to successfully render your website page to see the actual contents. This is why using clean and latest code (HTML, CSS, Javascript) is very important.

Rendering simply means seeing all the important website information like images, text, and videos the same way HUMANS see them.

Note that Google doesn’t crawl all the webpages that it finds because of various reasons such as:

  • Slow-loading server & errors
  • A page blocked from being crawled
  • Redirect loops
  • Incorrect canonical URL
  • 404 errors
  • DNS errors
  • Website pages loading issues

Step 2: Indexing

How does Google indexing work?

Book index with magnifying glass

In the indexing step, Google tries to understand the web page they found by analyzing the information collected by the crawlers.

If your website is successfully analyzed and passes other Google tests/requirements then it will be included in its index to be served on the Search result page next.

To improve your website’s chances of being indexed

  • Properly interlink your pages
  • Check and fix No-index tags
  • Fix and avoid duplicate contents
  • Write high-quality contents that are useful to users
  • Follow the search webmaster guidelines

Step 3: Serving search result

The last step in the process of how search works is serving the web pages from the index (humongous database) on Google’s SERP (search engine result page).

For a web page to show up when users search for a particular query, Google pulls the best websites from its indexes that are relevant to that query.

In simple terms, this is the step where Google ranks websites in various positions on their search pages.

Being served on Google Search page results doesn’t equate to getting to page one. Many factors play into how a page rank on page one.

How do you boost your chances of being served on result pages?

Below is a checklist to help with that:

  • Content quality
  • Page body organization of the content
  • Interlinking
  • External links
  • Anchor texts

Frequently asked questions(FAQs):

Person standing next to and leaning on a question mark symbol

How do I increase the chances of my website being crawled, indexed, and ranked?

  • Learn both basic & advanced SEO tips and checklists for boosting your website’s chances of ranking on page one
  • Master how to find and fix technical SEO issues

Does Google guarantee crawling, indexing, and serving my website pages?

Google doesn’t guarantee any of the 3 steps. Even if you follow all of Google’s search guidelines, your web pages are not guaranteed to show on their search engine result pages(SERP), even when crawled and indexed. Your site might be crawled but is not guaranteed to be indexed. Nor is crawling guaranteed.

Can I pay Google to be crawled, indexed, and ranked on the search result page?

The answer is no. You can’t pay Google for those.

If I’m paying Google for Ad-words will it guarantee my site showing on Search result pages?

Google search result page

Just as in the question before this, you can’t pay Google or be guaranteed to show on their search result just because you are paying for PPC. No part of the Google Search steps can be bought.

Final words

We hope that you enjoyed this OnlineBusinessConsutling in-depth article on how search works.

Fully grasping the way Google search operates will help you improve the SEO performance of your website for first-page ranking.

About the Author

Emmanuel Okeke

A Los Angeles resident who loves to write awesome guides on SEO, WordPress speed/security, content strategies, business and personal finance, digital and growth hack tools, legal stuff, etc, that are helpful to businesses, solopreneurs, bloggers, and consumers.

What I write about is based on tests, extensive research, and 11+ years of experience as a former Senior digital & content marketing consultant with a division of Thomson Reuters and running a successful digital marketing agency…[Read full bio]