What Are the Functions of the Search Engines?

By Kiley Mitchell

Since the inception of the Internet, people have been storing and posting large amounts of easily accessible data online. The Internet now has an immeasurable amount of valuable information. Search engines are necessary for locating, sorting, storing and ranking the value of that information on the web. Popular search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing find relevant information and present it to users. In order to efficiently find a specific bit of data, it’s important for you to know the four main functions of the search engines.


The crawler, or web spider, is a vital software component of the search engine. It essentially sorts through the Internet to find website addresses and the contents of a website for storage in the search engine database. Crawling can scan brand new information on the Internet or it can locate older data. Crawlers have the ability to search a wide range of websites at the same time and collect large amounts of information simultaneously. This allows the search engine to find current content on an hourly basis. The web spider crawls until it cannot find any more information within a site, such as further hyperlinks to internal or external pages.


Once the search engine has crawled the contents of the Internet, it indexes that content based on the occurrence of keyword phrases in each individual website. This allows a particular search query and subject to be found easily. Keyword phrases are the particular group of words used by an individual to search a particular topic. The indexing function of a search engine first excludes any unnecessary and common articles such as “the,” “a” and “an.” After eliminating common text, it stores the content in an organized way for quick and easy access. Search engine designers develop algorithms for searching the web according to specific keywords and keyword phrases. Those algorithms match user-generated keywords and keyword phrases to content found within a particular website, using the index.


Storing web content within the database of the search engine is essential for fast and easy searching. The amount of content available to the user is dependent on the amount of storage space available. Larger search engines like Google and Yahoo are able to store amounts of data ranging in the terabytes, offering a larger source of information available for the user.


Results are the hyperlinks to websites that show up in the search engine page when a certain keyword or phrase is queried. When you type in a search term, the crawler runs through the index and matches what you typed with other keywords. Algorithms created by the search engine designers are used to provide the most relevant data first. Each search engine has its own set of algorithms and therefore returns different results.