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So, How Does Google Actually Work?

It's not magic, but the tech wizardry behind the world's favorite search engine may still amaze you.

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There are over 1 billion websites online

The Internet reached the 1 billion milestone in September of 2014, but the number of unique URLs living online reaches into the trillions. These webpages cover everything from news and social media to sites that give you access to free books, coupons, and more. (To compare, there were only 3,000 in 1994.) Google crawls each one by following links from site to site.


<img class="aligncenter size-large wp-image-111361" src="https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-03-sl.jpg" alt="" width="640" height="427" srcset="https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-03-sl-380x254.jpg 380w, https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-03-sl-13x10.jpg 13w" sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px" data-image-analytics='{"licensorName":"not available","credits":"Photo by Kham Tran via Flickr (Photo by Kham Tran via Flickr (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>)

Google fields more than 100 billion searches each month

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The search engine giant uses software called web crawlers to basically mimic the same web-browsing behavior you do. (By the way, these keyboard shortcuts make browsing so much easier). They follow link after link to relay info about those webpages back to Google’s server. Then, it’s all organized into the search index.

<img class="aligncenter size-large wp-image-111517" src="https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-07-sl.jpg" alt="" width="640" height="427" srcset="https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-07-sl-380x254.jpg 380w, https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-07-sl-13x10.jpg 13w" sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px" data-image-analytics='{"licensorName":"not available","credits":"Photo by Trey Ratcliff via Flickr (Photo by Trey Ratcliff via Flickr (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>)

Fifteen percent of a day’s searches are completely new

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“How can I lose weight fast?” “What’s up with Queen Elizabeth’s neon outfits?” Google is no stranger to these often-asked questions. However, the masterminds behind Google’s search engine need to be constantly learning how to provide accurate, relevant answers to new inquiries, because people are just going to keep on asking. In other words, you’re teaching Google how to best present the right page for the right search.

<img class="aligncenter size-large wp-image-111454" src="https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-05-sl.jpg" alt="" width="640" height="427" srcset="https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-05-sl-380x254.jpg 380w, https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-05-sl-13x10.jpg 13w" sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px" data-image-analytics='{"licensorName":"not available","credits":"Photo by Kristina Alexanderson via Flickr (Photo by Kristina Alexanderson via Flickr (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>)

Google’s index is over 100 million gigabytes large

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That’s well beyond the storage capability of any one hard drive (and definitely bigger than cell phone storage!). It’s actually over 16,000 times larger than the biggest hard drive available to consumers. But that shouldn’t be surprising. After all, hundreds of billions of webpages live in that index.

<img class="aligncenter size-large wp-image-111359" src="https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-02-sl.jpg" alt="" width="640" height="427" srcset="https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-02-sl-380x254.jpg 380w, https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-02-sl-13x10.jpg 13w" sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px" data-image-analytics='{"licensorName":"not available","credits":"Photo by MoneyBlogNewz via Flickr (Photo by MoneyBlogNewz via Flickr (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>)
<img class="aligncenter size-large wp-image-111496" src="https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-06-sl.jpg" alt="" width="640" height="427" srcset="https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-06-sl-380x254.jpg 380w, https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-06-sl-13x10.jpg 13w" sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px" data-image-analytics='{"licensorName":"not available","credits":"Photo by bradleypjohnson via Flickr (Photo by bradleypjohnson via Flickr (<a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>)
<img class="aligncenter size-large wp-image-111365" src="https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-04-sl.jpg" alt="" width="640" height="427" srcset="https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-04-sl-380x254.jpg 380w, https://www.rd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/how-does-google-work-04-sl-13x10.jpg 13w" sizes="(max-width: 640px) 100vw, 640px" data-image-analytics='{"licensorName":"not available","credits":"Illustration by Leon Nicholls via Flickr (Illustration by Leon Nicholls via Flickr (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC BY-NC 2.0</a>)
Originally Published in Reader's Digest