What is a Search Engine?
The purpose of a search engine is to extract requested information from the huge database of resources available on the internet. Search engines become an important day to day tool for finding the required information without knowing where exactly it is stored. Internet usage has been tremendously increased in recent days with the easy to use search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! There are different types of search engines to get the information you are looking for. In this article, we will explain different types of search engines and purpose of them.
Why Search Engines are Important?
Search engines are part of daily life for two types of people.
- Users who search and get information
- Site owners who try to optimize their websites for getting top rank in the search results.
User do more than billions of searches only on Google to find relevant information. This opens out a huge scope for businesses and online content publishers to attract people to their website for free. Search engines follow guidelines and have their own algorithm to decide the ranking of websites in search results. Optimizing websites for Google and other search engines is an essential part of any website owner for reaching out the large audience. The visitors can generate revenue for site owners either through advertisements displayed on the site or though purchasing products.
Different Types of Search Engines
Search engines are classified into the following three categories based on how it works.
- Crawler based search engines
- Human powered directories
- Hybrid search engines
- Other special search engines
Let us discuss all types of search engines in detail in the following sections.
1. Crawler Based Search Engines
All crawler based search engines use a crawler or bot or spider for crawling and indexing new content to the search database. There are four basic steps, every crawler based search engines follow before displaying any sites in the search results.
- Calculating Relevancy
- Retrieving the Result
Search engines crawl the whole web to fetch the web pages available. A piece of software called crawler or bot or spider, performs the crawling of the entire web. The crawling frequency depends on the search engine and it may take few days between crawls. This is the reason sometimes you can see your old or deleted page content is showing in the search results. The search results will show the new updated content, once the search engines crawl your site again.
Indexing is next step after crawling which is a process of identifying the words and expressions that best describe the page. The identified words are referred as keywords and the page is assigned to the identified keywords. Sometimes when the crawler does not understand the meaning of your page, your site may rank lower on the search results. Here you need to optimize your pages for search engine crawlers to make sure the content is easily understandable. Once the crawlers pickup correct keywords your page will be assigned to those keywords and rank high on search results.
1.3. Calculating Relevancy
Search engine compares the search string in the search request with the indexed pages from the database. Since it is likely that more than one page contains the search string, search engine starts calculating the relevancy of each of the pages in its index with the search string.
There are various algorithms to calculate relevancy. Each of these algorithms has different relative weights for common factors like keyword density, links, or meta tags. That is why different search engines give different search results pages for the same search string. It is a known fact that all major search engines periodically change their algorithms. If you want to keep your site at the top, you also need to adapt your pages to the latest changes. This is one reason to devote permanent efforts to SEO, if you like to be at the top.
1.4. Retrieving Results
The last step in search engines’ activity is retrieving the results. Basically, it is simply displaying them in the browser in an order. Search engines sort the endless pages of search results in the order of most relevant to the least relevant sites.
Examples of Crawler Based Search Engines
Most of the popular search engines are crawler based search engines and use the above technology to display search results. Example of crawler based search engines:
Besides these popular search engines there are many other crawler based search engines available like DuckDuckGo, AOL and Ask.
2. Human Powered Directories
Human powered directories also referred as open directory system depends on human based activities for listings. Below is how the indexing in human powered directories work:
- Site owner submits a short description of the site to the directory along with category it is to be listed.
- Submitted site is then manually reviewed and added in the appropriate category or rejected for listing.
- Keywords entered in a search box will be matched with the description of the sites. This means the changes made to the content of a web pages are not taken into consideration as it is only the description that matters.
- A good site with good content is more likely to be reviewed for free compared to a site with poor content.
Yahoo! Directory and DMOZ were perfect examples of human powered directories. Unfortunately, automated search engines like Google, wiped out all those human powered directory style search engines out of the web.
3. Hybrid Search Engines
Hybrid Search Engines use both crawler based and manual indexing for listing the sites in search results. Most of the crawler based search engines like Google basically uses crawlers as a primary mechanism and human powered directories as secondary mechanism. For example, Google may take the description of a webpage from human powered directories and show in the search results. As human powered directories are disappearing, hybrid types are becoming more and more crawler based search engines.
But still there are manual filtering of search result happens to remove the copied and spammy sites. When a site is being identified for spammy activities, the website owner needs to take corrective action and resubmit the site to search engines. The experts do manual review of the submitted site before including it again in the search results. In this manner though the crawlers control the processes, the control is manual to monitor and show the search results naturally.
4. Other Types of Search Engines
Besides the above three major types, search engines can be classified into many other categories depending upon the usage. Below are some of the examples:
- Search engines have different types of bots for exclusively displaying images, videos, news, products and local listings. For example, Google News page can be used to search only news from different newspapers.
- Some of the search engines like Dogpile collects meta information of the pages from other search engines and directories to display in the search results. This type of search engines are called metasearch engines.
- Semantic search engines like Swoogle provide accurate search results on specific area by understanding the contextual meaning of the search queries.
During earlier days of Internet, human powered search engines were popular and important source of information. The technological world is moving very fast towards automation and artificial intelligence. Big technology companies like Google and Microsoft, who own the popular search engines, are driving this change and getting benefit out of it. None of the human powered search engines could survive this fast shift. Though people uses special purpose search engines in very small scale, at this point of time artificial or crawler based search engines acts as a primary source of information with minimal human intervention.