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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.

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Google fields more than 100 billion searches each month

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.

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Fifteen percent of a day’s searches are completely new

“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.

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Photo by Kristina Alexanderson via Flickr (<a href="">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a>)CC BY-NC-SA 2.0<\/a>)"}' />

Google’s index is over 100 million gigabytes large

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.

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Algorithms serve up the pages you want

There is a set of formulas that deliver results from the index. They’re programmed to take over 200 factors into account, including the exact words you use (including spelling mistakes), webpages with info that matches your query, whether any sites could be spam or have a poor user experience, and your location and search history.

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Google made over 1,600 improvements to search in 2016 alone

For example, when you search for directions, you get a map of your route rather than a list of instructions. Sometimes you get a direct answer to your question, if it’s something like “When does this coffee shop open?” or “What time is the show tonight?” Google partners with businesses to give you that info without searching through webpages. Now, you may even get hired, thanks to Google’s new job search engine.

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Illustration by Leon Nicholls via Flickr (<a href="">CC BY-NC 2.0</a>)CC BY-NC 2.0<\/a>)"}' />

Chrome is the world’s most popular web browser

That alone gives users more (and quicker) access to the Google search engine. The company even owns domains similar to—,, etc.—to direct you to the right place even if you misspell its name. True techies know that Google also has fun tricks and shortcuts you definitely should take advantage of. Happy searching!

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest