What is a Search Engine?

What is a Search Engine?

Each day we are searching for tons of information on the Internet. Sometimes the results are not what we are looking for and sometimes just the opposite. But how does the Internet know what we want? The answer is Search Engine.

You must have words like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. All these are search engines that curate top results for the queries that we enter. Let us dive deeper to understand what is a search engine?

Search Engine Definition

A search engine is a software that is accessed on the internet to assist a user to search its query on the world wide web. The search engine is helpful as it carries out a systematic search on the web and displays the results that best match the user’s query.

The results are usually retrieved in the form of a list often referred to as SERPs or Search Engine Result Pages. These results or information may be links to web pages, or a mix of images and videos, research papers, newspaper articles, etc.

There are various search engines available, google being the most popular of all. All these search engines are capable of searching so quickly due to the web crawler. Let us learn about what a search engine is in detail.

How does a Search Engine work?

With thousands of informative web pages available on the internet, how does a search engine displays the relevant ones? How does it list these pages on our screen? What are the criteria? let us look at how to do search engines work.

The search engine follows three steps to execute the query of the user-

  1. Crawling
  2. Indexing
  3. Ranking

The search engine follows these steps to provide relevant results to the user.


Discovering new web pages on the internet starts with crawling. All search engines use these bots called web crawlers or spider bots that follow links to the new webpages present in the known ones.

They get the information by crawling from site to site. Once the information is collected it is indexed. While indexing is going on the spider keeps going with discovering new pages. Once a certain amount of time is spent or base on the amount of data collected, the spider stops crawling.


Once the data is crawled it is sent for indexing-saving data on the database of the search engine called the index.

It is the job of the index to find information related to the query as soon as possible. This process can be performed quickly by adopting any of these steps-

  • Stripping out the stop words.
  • Listing links to other pages.
  • Listing information about images or embedded media on the page.

Any website has to be indexed to get listed on search results. Sometimes when a query is entered, the index results are obtained quickly because it has already stored a few website links containing the keywords.


The last step is to rank the results on the SERP. The search engines have their criteria based on which the search results are listed. These signals or criteria are hidden from the public. It is the work of the ranking to determine the order of the web links on the results page.

One of the most common doubt is- do all search engines give the same results? And the answer is, not necessarily. Each search engine has its algorithm, based on which it performs the search on the web.

These searches are also based on the factors like your location, what was the preference of other users for the same keyword, what have been your past searches, etc. Therefore, all the search engines tend to give different search results.

What are the top 5 Search Engines?

Google is of course the leader of search engines with more than 90% of the market share. So much so that, it has become synonymous with searching on the internet.

What is search engine - Google

Let us look at some of the other most popular search engines apart from Google.

1. Bing (renamed as Microsoft Bing in October 2020)

This one is almost as popular as the google search. Bing is the default search engine of the windows PC. One might find various similarities between google and bing with result features like – images, videos, places, maps, and news.

Though Microsoft might have attempted to make it as successful as Google it still holds only 2-3 percent of the total search engine market share.

bing search engine

2. Yahoo

Yahoo used to be one of the most popular sites to visit at one time. It is exclusively provided by Bing. It is also a default for Firefox users in the United States.


3. Baidu

This one is a popular engine in China. Though not very popular, its shares are increasing worldwide, according to Alexa. It is available all around the world but only in Chinese.

baidu search engine

4. Yandex

Yandex.ru is a popular search engine in countries like Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, etc. Its name is derived from Yet Another Indexer. It has less than 1 percent market share of the overall search engine.


5. DuckDuckGo

This not-so-popular search engine has about 0.45 percent of the market share. Its competitors are also small search engines like Bing and Yahoo. Unlike most search engines it does not have a search index of its own, instead uses a variety of sources.

In other words, it does not have data of its own and depends on other sites like yahoo, Bing, etc. But what makes it unique from the lot is that it’s much cleaner and is not full of trash ads.

duck duck go


There is no such as the best search engine. Though, Google’s algorithm might be superior to the others it does not mean it will always curate the best results. Various upcoming search engines are fighting their way into the most popular search engine category. Try all these search engines yourself and decide which one gives the perfect solutions to your queries.

От QA genius