Browsing the internet on a smartphone or personal computer requires the use of a search tool called a search engine, used by all internet users. Search engines are at the heart of the internet and play the most important role in classifying content and presenting it to the public. Web search involves a dedicated search tool that analyzes web pages, classifies them, and integrates them into vast databases. When users conduct searches and queries, these search engines consult their databases to offer content in order of relevance. Whether confidential, exclusive or for the general public, search engines are everywhere and used worldwide. Understanding their mechanisms is to appropriate one of the basic concepts of the web.
To understand the reasons why different search engines provide different results, you need to understand what search engines are and how they function. Let’s take a look at the three most popular ones.
Google: the essential search engine
Google is the most powerful search engine of all time with a 90% market share and 30 billion indexed pages. It is number one and far ahead of its competitors. It is not just a search engine, Google is present in several areas of expertise such as email addresses with Gmail, social networks with Google+, and physical products. The search engine operates on user experience, Google’s job is to display the right content in the right place and at the right time. User queries on the Google search network fuel statistics and the AdWords advertising agency, which is the undisputed leader for advertisers worldwide who want to promote a product or service.
Google is an American search engine that mainly works with keywords and page content. The content is analyzed by robots that constantly visit website pages on the web. To appear in the search engine results, the robots analyze the pages, classify the content, and present it to users. Users make their queries by typing words into the search bar and consulting the results, which must be as relevant as possible to allow the user to access the requested information. We could compare Google to a huge library and its search bar to a librarian who could bring us all the requested books based on our demand. Everything is automated at Google. The robots that crawl the Internet and index pages (indexing means referencing the website on the search engine) work autonomously, and Google’s algorithms allow for displaying search results based on different criteria, but also including advertisers who want to be preferentially positioned on the network.
Bing, the Microsoft search engine
Microsoft understood the importance of search engines, as it is a leader in operating systems and equips the majority of computers with its system. The software giant has decided to install Bing as the default browser on computers equipped with Windows. When you turn on your computer for the first time on a Microsoft operating system, you find yourself using the Bing search engine. The majority of users who use this search engine do so because they are not looking to change their homepage to Google and so they are ultimately trapped by Microsoft and inadvertently discover this alternative search engine. In 2009, Microsoft and Yahoo signed a partnership to display search results together: together we are stronger.
Taking on the strongest player in a 1-on-1 battle is not an easy task, even if your name is Microsoft. That’s why Microsoft and Yahoo have decided to join forces in an “All against Google” approach.
Yahoo, the directory-turned search engine
Initially an online directory, Yahoo quickly developed its search engine using its algorithms and search technology in 2004, building on its success in this area. Yahoo stands out from other search engines with a “portal” style homepage that includes news, weather, and access to Yahoo mail. Yahoo has developed its proprietary ecosystem, including email and web hosting. Through its partnership with Bing, Yahoo now holds about 2% of the search engine market share – a small slice of a massive pie.
How search engines work
Search engines serve one purpose: to provide answers to user questions. To provide relevant search results, these tools go through two stages:
Crawling is the first function of search engines. It is a systematic inspection of websites on the internet. This step, which is performed before the user’s query, involves gathering as much information as possible from web platforms. It is accomplished by robots called “spiders or crawlers.” At the end of this step, they send the collected information to the index to carry out what is called indexing.
Upon receiving information from the robots, the index (which can be considered the brain of the search engine) proceeds to evaluate it. Thus, every time a user searches, the index can provide relevant results.
How do search engines determine the relevance of a result?
Evaluating relevance is not just about measuring the match between the query and the web platform. There are other factors to consider. Search engines assume that the more popular a site is, the more relevant the information it contains. This assumption allows engines to guarantee user satisfaction with search results.
The reasons why search engines give different results
Search engines have become an integral part of our daily lives. We rely on them to help us find information, products, and services quickly and easily. However, have you ever noticed that different search engines give different results, even when searching for the same thing? This is because each search engine has its own unique algorithm and indexing system that determines which results to display.
1. Indexing system
One of the primary reasons why search engines give different results is the indexing system they use. Most search engines have two primary indexes, a large and comprehensive one, and a quicker and more up-to-date one. The larger index contains data on the vast majority of web pages, while the quick index contains the latest news and posts from blogs and social media. Depending on the query, the search engine may use one or both of these indexes to generate results, resulting in different outcomes.
2. User’s IP address
In addition to indexing, search engines take into account a wide range of other factors when generating results. For instance, they consider the search region based on the user’s IP address. If someone in Canada searches for a query, they may receive different results than someone searching from Sweden. Additionally, safe search settings can affect results, as some sites may be excluded from the search results if a safe search is enabled.
3. The number of results per page.
The number of results per page can also impact search results. If someone sets Bing to display 50 results per page, they may see different results than someone who has it set to show just 10 results per page.
4. The formulation of the request
The formulation of the information request also plays a significant role in search results. A poorly formulated query can lead to irrelevant or unrelated results, while a well-crafted query can yield useful and accurate results.
5. Cookies in action
Another factor that can influence search results is whether the user is logged in or not. If someone is logged into Bing or Gmail, for example, the search engine will be able to use their search history and preferences to generate more relevant results. Even if someone is not logged in, the search engine may still have some data on them based on their browser history and cookies.
6. Different algorithms give different results
Finally, different search engines use different algorithms to determine which results to display. For instance, Google uses PageRank, which measures the popularity and relevance of a web page based on the number and quality of links pointing to it. Bing, on the other hand, uses its algorithm that takes into account a wide range of factors, including social media signals, keyword usage, and more.
Different search engines give different results because they use different algorithms and indexing systems, and take into account various factors when generating results. To get the best possible results, it’s important to use a well-crafted query, consider the search region and safe search settings, and use multiple search engines to compare results. By understanding how search engines work, we can make more informed decisions when searching for information online.