Understanding the Stages of a Search Engine

One of the most common goals within marketing is to rise through the ranks and be on page one of Google, Bing or, but how is this achieved? With so many processes involved in bringing your content to the forefront of search results, it is understandable that stealing that prime position on page one is difficult!

There are certainly more than four stages to this process but breaking it down makes is easier to understand and implement into your own content marketing. Here are our 4 easy steps to understanding how your website gets ranked:

  • Crawling
  • Rendering
  • Indexing
  • Ranking


When a search engine requests webpages from websites’ servers, this is called crawling. For example, if Google itself was searching through their own web browser typing in or clicking on a link to a webpage. Search engine machines all visit webpages similarly to how we do – when a search engine visits a webpage, it complies notes on the webpage of the content and the links. It will make sure to visit all of the links on that webpage and make a copy of them.

Most of the major search engines have their own technology to do the ‘crawling’ for them, and they are called ‘Googlebot’ for Google and ‘Bingbot’ for Bing. These search engine ‘bots’ can discover webpages’ links in some of the ways listed below:

  • When links are created back to their page
  • Through backlinks
  • Social media posts
  • Documentation including links
  • URLs found in written text and not hyperlinked.

In some instances, it will depend on how accessible the links and other information is to the bot, and it can affect how the search engine interprets the webpage. Therefore, showing the importance of creating strong backlinks and doing this in different and creative ways, such as guest posting.


Once the search engine crawls a webpage, it will then ‘render’ the page. Rendering involves taking the HTML, JavaScript and cascading stylesheet (CSS) information to generate how the page will appear to the user on a desktop or mobile. 

Search engines will store compressed files of how these pages will appear. Some will only keep a shorthand version of the webpages in a much more simplified formatting, i.e. just the text.


The next step in this process, is to determine what the content of the page is about and whether it will be stored in the index. Similar to an index of words found at the end of a book, the search engine index works in the same format.

A search engine index contains many keywords and keyword sequences that are featured on the webpage, and it then associates them with a list including where the keywords are situated.

Indexing is also like a master database look up table, allowing to easily find exactly what you are looking. Of course, this is now much more advanced – when you type in your keyword to google it lists all of the URL’s that would be of interest to you based on the keywords across a huge scale. Search engines like Google are keen to keep this search engine as effective as possible so there is a chance that any content that is of low quality, will not become indexed and make it high in the ranks!


The most popular step in this process, ranking. Once a search engine has a list of all the webpages associated with a particular keyword or keyword phrase, it must decide an order that all of the pages relating to those words will appear. Ranking is a very complex step which so much time and investigation has been spent on because getting it right is the difference between success for some businesses.

Most people who work within the SEO industry will know or have heard of the ranking process and the ‘algorithm’ in how it works. Different algorithms can include number of pages, views, clicks, comments, likes, shares. With new pages and links added every day, Google’s method to rank these is done quite quickly allowing an opinion to be made about the authority and usefulness of the page with its hundreds of factors included in the algorithm.

Simply understanding these stages to a search engine ranking, can help your content marketing preparation by including some of these points to achieve that no.1 spot!