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A search engine is an online software system which web surfers use to search for content on the internet. It most commonly describes the search infrastructure provided by Google, Bing and Yahoo. Search engines are one of the most important components of the modern internet.

How it Works

Modern search engines create an enormous index of all the content on the web by using automated software programs, called bots, to crawl from web page to web page. The bots follow links in the pages, gathering information as they go.

When you search for content on a search engine, you enter words into a text field. This search can be enhanced with advanced search fields. For example, if you were using Google to search for information on search engines, and you wanted to restrict the search to pages within phoenixweb.com.au, you could enter site: phoenixweb.com.au search engines into the search bar.

When a search is made, the search engine lists websites which include the words in the search. The search engine sorts the results from most relevant to least using an incredibly complex algorithm and displays them on a web page. There is an entire field in the web industry, called search engine optimisation, dedicated to tailoring websites to be considered the most relevant search result by this algorithm. It is very powerful for your business website to rank highly in keywords pertinent to the industry you operate in.


Due to the way they work, search engines gather vast swathes of data, both on the structure of the internet and the usage behaviours of people using the search engine. This data is a lot of power for any one body to hold and could be used for malevolent purposes.

Additionally, search engine results can be manipulated by the providers themselves. If a website cannot be found on a search engine, unless it already has a large following, it figuratively ceases to exist. This is a lot of power to put in the hands of just a few companies.

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Find out more about search engines with these resources:

Search Site
Phoenix News Desk
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