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How Google Works

by PotPieGirl on July 15, 2010 · 39 comments

How Does Google Get Their Search Results?

It never ceases to amaze me – I type something… anything… into the Google search bar and in less than a second or two, I get this huge list of web pages that can help me. Since I first started playing with the internet back in 1995 or so (AOL anyone…2400 baud rate…remember the sound when you tried to connect via dial-up…lol!) – since then I have been fascinated by how search engines work. HOW do they get all those different web pages and then list them in some sort of order of importance? Let’s talk about that…

Getting Search Results

Just now, I went to Google and typed in keyword marketing research. In “.26 seconds” almost 4 MILLION web pages were returned just waiting to give me the information I need.

HOW does that happen?

In my previous post, we talked about the “New Google” (Google Caffeine) and changes that have happened with the Google search engine – but what about the basics of Google that HAVEN’T changed?

When you are working online, I think it is REALLY important to understand how this happens.

How can you learn how to rank web pages
if you don’t understand how web pages are ranked in the first place?

Google is BIG… as in B-I-G big. It is claimed that Google has over 19 data centers in the United States and at least 17 more all over the world (which explains why sometimes your search results are different from what others see).

Now, these data centers are HUGE…. 500,000 square feet EACH with a cost of something like $600 MILLION each.

Google is a very complex beast – no one will understand exactly what happens… and just when you think you are getting close, they change again. When you consider all that people do to manipulate the Google search engine, you can imagine that staying at least 50 steps ahead is a really good idea to preserve their business model, agree?

So let’s get into how Google works. Let’s start at the top with what happens as soon as you add content to the web. This could be a comment on a blog, a “tweet”, a new blog post (such as I am adding now), a new page on your site, a comment in a public forum, an ebay auction, a social bookmark… or an entirely new website… anything that makes the web bigger.

We, as online marketers, are adding to the web in MASSIVE proportions every second of every day.

So what happens after we add something to the web?

How Google Works

This image/flow chart from ppcblog.com was shared on the Wealthy Affiliate forum not too long ago (thanks, Des!). I think it is fantastic! I’ve had it open on a browser tab all this time with the intention of sharing it with y’all.

Go ahead and start at the top and follow it all the way down. This chart takes you from you adding new content to the web to how pages are returned and ranked when a user searches Google for related terms and phrases.

It’s a BIG image and I did the best I could to get it to fit on my page here at PotPieGirl.com – but if you can’t read it, just click the image to view it in full size (MUCH easier to read it and follow it that way).

How Google Works.

Infographic by PPC Blog

Spend some time and really think your way through that chart…let some light bulbs go off and let it all sink in.

I’ve said it before…and I’ve heard it said by others quite often…

If you want to rank well in Google – GIVE GOOGLE WHAT IT WANTS.

It’s not magic. When you combine the factors that Google wants with the factors that PEOPLE want, you will do just fine.

To me, this is all flat-out amazing. Yes, I’m weird, but seriously, Google fascinates me.

What do you think?


CJ July 15, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Great post PotPieGirl!
You did a great job explaining Google for the new guys online!

It can be really tough understand the serps when you start out. Once again, great post.


PotPieGirl July 15, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Thanks, CJ!

Also, I apologize for the long gap between posts. It’s been nuts around here lately. If you’ve got kids, I imagine your house is the same this summer…lol!

We also had a death in the family and we’ve been out of town. He was a very dear Uncle to my husband and he will be missed SO much!

Thanks for reading!


Heather Bryant July 15, 2010 at 9:07 pm

When it comes to being online I have to learn something new everyday. It’s hard to believe how much you gotta know just to rank.

Karen A. July 15, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Thank you so much for this. I’m getting ready to teach a class for small businesses, and this is a perfect visual to dispel the myth that “if you just put the right keywords in the meta keywords in the header, Google will be happy”. Riiiiight.

PotPieGirl July 15, 2010 at 9:10 pm

I hear ya, Heather!

I’ve been doing this for years now and still not a day goes by when I don’t learn at LEAST one new thing.

This is one business where things never get old or become the “same ol, same ol”!

Thanks for reading!


PotPieGirl July 15, 2010 at 9:11 pm

hahahah Karen!

However, I’m a bigger fan of the “keywords in the meta tags” myth than I am of the clients that think I can just call Google and make them rank their site higher!

Jock July 15, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Thanks Jen,

Fascinating, isn’t it?

Probably in the time it took me to read the data it’s out of date :-)

Old Goog’s a wiley old sod.

Julie July 15, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Hi Jennifer!

First of all – I am so sorry to hear about your Uncle! My prayers are with you and your family.

Thank you so much for posting this VERY detailed and easy-to-understand explination!!! I’m a newbie marketer and this really helped me understand the process.

As always – AWESOME BLOG!

PotPieGirl July 15, 2010 at 9:34 pm

@ Jock – yep, we better read it quickly… before anything changes…lol!

Good news is that the things detailed in that chart above are pretty much the solid basics of how it all works with Google. Solid basics don’t go out of style =)

@ Julie – Thank you! My husband loved that man so much. He was the kind of man who touched so many lives. His life was a beautiful life to celebrate….and someone that will be missed so much.

I’m glad this post helped. Every single little “a-ha” moment really helps to move us forward in this business.

Thanks for reading!


Anne S July 15, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Thank you for sharing this, Jennifer. It is truly mind-boggling and useful. I love flow-charts. Thanks to the author of the diagram too.

I get a bit lost with all the terminology, but I can see that content and links are king here. I’m going to get my head round links now!

Thanks again for all your generous and useful posts.

John July 15, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Hey Jen, Thanks for the AWESOME illustration
about Google, pictures are worth a THOUSAND
words and that really turns on some lights!
Being new myself, that really helps.
Sincerest Condolances to you and your family
regarding your Uncle. I know what it feels like to
lose someone near and dear.

PotPieGirl July 15, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Anne and John -

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed and that it all helped!


Kelly @ Pirate Costumes Plus Size July 15, 2010 at 10:31 pm

The clearest example of how Google works anyone has shown me. You’re not crazy at all – Google really is fascinating, especially when you consider that they’ve developed this massive network in such a relatively short amount of time.

Jonathan July 15, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Fantastic work on the flowchart. As always the Potpiegirl has the most fun and informative posts as far as I’m concerned. Kudos to you Jen!

Steve July 16, 2010 at 12:19 am

Hi Jennifer
Thanks for the awesome visualisation as to how Google works. It never ceases to amaze me that all of this happens in under a second.
One of the other things that it highlights again for me is that if your business is entirely dependant on Google then you have a lot of outside factors controlling your business success. All the more reason to build a strong list and other forms of marketing in addition to good old Google.

Mark/Rob Hairston July 16, 2010 at 12:35 am

I have never seen anything like this online about Google before. Thank you soo much Jen. I will be drawing it up on a LARGE piece of construction paper and studying it. Knowing how Google works is PRICELESS. Thanks again PPG. Very helpful info, if I can understand it. Sincerely Mark Hairston

Maria (WriterGig) July 16, 2010 at 12:39 am

Very cool graphic, I like it!

Len July 16, 2010 at 1:00 am

reading all of that is overwhelming. Do you have any specific recommendation. ie for us dummies like a do this do that?
thank you so much for your great info.

Paul July 16, 2010 at 1:33 am

Good Stuff pot pie girl. But I have stopped worrying about google algorithms and their data centers about 1 year ago.

I concentrate on good content and information for all my subscribers and visitors…this is what it’s all about.

This includes SEO, PPC, social media, etc..etc…Everything else will fall into place.

BTW I’ve read your post about the “dam way” and it’s pretty damn good.



mtnmom5 July 16, 2010 at 3:00 am

Thanks Jen – once again, very good information and although I am a bit behind you in experience, I agree totally with continualy learning new stuff – in fact, I think it would soon become tedious and boring if there WASN’T something new to learn!

Margaret July 16, 2010 at 3:07 am

WOW! this IS fascinating! My study of IM is making so much more sense this summer than last summer. I’m getting “light-bulb moments” all the time as I read through your material for the second time. Just the confidence booster I needed to finally do something about marketing online. Thanks for teaching us so that we understand.

ivory@affordable seo service July 16, 2010 at 8:02 am

Wow cool post. After reading the article I came to realized how really amazing google made their search algorithm. I have been using the internet for my business for than 15 years now.

Best Wrinkle Reducer July 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Thanks Jennifer for the info,

Yeah, It is fascinating to me too ;)

Fantastic work on the flowchart!

Miniature Schnauzers Rule July 16, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Thanks for the chart. It explains a lot! :)

George July 16, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Whenever I try to wrap my head around how Google works I always envision something similar to Santa’s workshop. Elves running around an elaborate setup similar to Willy Wonka’s workshop where time slows down like the Matrix… maybe I’m wrong.

Ron Passfield July 16, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Jennifer, thanks for providing this flowchart and the link to the larger version (for us over 40′s). I too find the whole thing fascinating – especially the speed with which the results appear.

I am still amazed at how deeply Google indexes Squidoo lenses. When I check the “cache” for search term results for my lenses, I can see that Google indexes my lenses right through to comments on the guestbook. This in turn shows the value of responding to comments (using appropriate keywords or semantically related words).

Jon July 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm

I used to work in IT so although this is very complex it does make sense. Thanks for sharing this.

Crystal July 18, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Thanks Jennifer for sharing.

I cannot but be amazed at the work (technology) and scale not to mention the money involved.

Pretty fascinating stuff. Of course I have so many questions I would love to ask but this is not the place.


Software Development Company India July 19, 2010 at 6:13 am

great information sharing and thanks for that.

Ari July 20, 2010 at 6:39 am

Jennifer, interesting and helpful information from you as usual. I’ve bookmarked both, your blog post and the full-size chart page. Thanks a lot.

Elena July 20, 2010 at 8:10 am

Thank you so much Jennifer for this great and easy to understand chart with personal touch! ;)
It’s so generous of you to give permission to place it on other websites. I’ll certainly will do that -new marketers need this visualization and demystification of Google beast.
Wish you the best!

Paul July 21, 2010 at 2:58 am

Great stuff!!!

Within the image, I see… “once crawled the page is indexed in seconds”. How long before the page or site is crawled? I only ask because I’ve had new sites that have not shown up after a couple of days, yet we see news articles (ok… maybe from authority sites) show up within minutes of breaking news.

Kat July 21, 2010 at 6:35 am

Thanks for sharing the chart Jennifer!

Ben July 24, 2010 at 3:42 am

Hi Jennifer,

The flow chart is very comprehensive and detail. It explains clearly how Google works in a logical and sequential manner.

I like it and thanks for sharing.

sciatica cure July 24, 2010 at 5:23 am

It’s really a great article,I learn a lot from it. thanks for sharing . It must be very useful for me in my business

Len July 24, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Hey Jennifer why do you call yourself pot pie girl? Probably been asked before but I didn’t see it on WA r here.
Thank you so much fir sharing your knowledge, tips and information with us.

Clive Anderson July 25, 2010 at 10:30 am

Hi Jen,

just wanted to congratulate you on this little gem…

The information provided within the map is what I would go as far as to say amazing, a world of eye opening information.

Reading between the lines and using the relevant information within certainly gives the reader a golden key for unlocking a few doors.

(Jen, I am on my knees at this point with my head down and waving my arms up and down outstretched in front of me with your picture on screen, saying “I’m Not Worthy, I’m Not Worthy”) Lol…

I have no idea what you have done recently to turn you into you, but you are certainly coming up with the goodies in my eye’s and I would even go as far as to say that you have a better grip on things than some of your own guru’s.

Thanks for the MindMap… I owe you one :-)

Warm Regards,

Clive Anderson

Buy Books Online India August 14, 2010 at 11:18 am

Hello Jen,

I think it’s a very useful article. This article tell us that how Google works as search engines. Thanks for providing such interesting information to me.

Thanks Again!

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