Search engines

What is a search engine?

Web directory, referencing, visibility on the web… At a time when new technology is an essential tool in the business world, search engines are all the rage. To this day, the American giant Google dominates the web market. However, new companies and start-ups oriented in the field of communication and digital content are constantly striving for innovation. They are planning to take over a larger market, particularly by offering increasingly personalised services that meet the needs of Internet users. This is the case of, a search engine by the company aicom Web Performances, which is an agency specializing in web innovation and digital communication.

Today’s society is undergoing an unprecedented digital revolution, putting new technologies at the heart of all discussions. Therefore, it is more than important to know what a search engine is. Unfortunately, very few people really know what a search engine is, how it works and what its purpose is.

Search engines are of great use to both users and participants in the digital world. If the Internet generally allows a company to make itself known in its market, or even all over the world, it is still necessary for them to know how to position themselves well in search engines to optimize their visibility. For individuals, especially the general public, search engines are tools that allow them to easily find the information they are looking for in real-time.

In short, a search engine is "etymologically" a computer tool or application that allows you to search for resources, content, documents, etc. Originally, search engines were mainly designed to perform local searches on a computer. But with technological advancements and especially the development of the Internet, the use of search engines has grown considerably. Indeed, it is enough for a person to submit a request based on one or more keywords to launch his or her search. The tool, for its part, processes the request according to an algorithm or a referencing system set up by the search engine itself. It should be noted that each search engine that exists today has its own logic for displaying search results. Thus, the most relevant results on Google will not necessarily be the same as those shown on Bing or Qwant.

How do search engines work?

Search engines are designed to work automatically. In particular, they are equipped with bots that carry out these searches systematically and independently. You will often hear the terms "spider" or "crawler" in search engine jargon. These terms refer to bots designed to search the database based on queries made by users.

"Spiders" are programmed to identify or reference existing web pages for indexing or attachment. For web page indexing, bots will associate each page with frequently used keywords. This is where the keywords and tags used by companies and site creators to naturally reference their website on search engines come in. Also, when a site is referenced from a cloud of defined keywords, search engines or crawlers easily manage to get them out on the first page of results. This list of results is called SERP or Search Engine Result Page. For companies, appearing on the first page, in the top 5 of search results, remains an important objective to achieve or keep. To do this, they often spend huge sums to optimize their SEO, Search Engine Optimization. However, it must be noted that referencing can vary according to the search engine. A site that is ranked first in Google's search results may only appear on the fifth page on other search engines.

Search engine history

Today, 6 search engines are competing for the consumer market all over the world, but Google is still the leader. However, it is far from being the first search engine in the history of the web. Indeed, all search engines that exist today come from the very first engine: "Archie".

Created in 1990 by a student at McGill University in Quebec, Archie was designed to search for documents through the web. Three years after this first engine, the first "Spiders" were created through the search engine "Wanderer".

In 1994, Yahoo's arrival on the web market gradually changed the face of this constantly evolving digital world. Created by two students from Stanford University, Yahoo is the first directory that the web has ever known. For Jerry Yang and David Filo, the idea was to select and list the best sites in a large directory. In just a few months after its creation, Yahoo became the first web portal used worldwide. Over the years, new search engines have continued to emerge: Lycos and Excite in 1995, Altavista in 1996, Inktomi in 1997, Google in 1998..

In 1997, Yahoo chose Inktomi to motorize its searches, it only took a few years for Google to dethrone it and become the first search engine in the world. In 2000, the Yahoo web directory recognized Google as the best search engine on the market. From there, Google will seek to go public and develop even more in the world of the web.

The search engines that exist today

Despite Google's rapid evolution, digital agencies, digital communication start-ups and other companies in the sector have continuously developed new search engines. This is the case of Microsoft which, after the creation of its first MSN Search engine, developed Bing, the second most used search engine in France after Google.


    Launched in 1998, Google has continued to develop and perfect itself to finally become the world's number 1 in the world of the internet. Now a complete ecosystem in the digital world, Google has forged a name for itself through its online platform. From its inception to the present day, the American giant has never stopped bringing innovations to its search engine. For them, the objective has always been to offer quality content to its users in record time. To achieve this, Google is committed to continuously expanding its resources and tools, but especially the criteria for website referencing.

  • BING

    Created in 2009 by Microsoft to replace Windows Live Search, Bing inherited the first MSN experiences with additional improvements. This search engine has been technically strengthened by new algorithms, the idea is to provide more features for better user experience. Bing is closer to Google and offers many features: web, news, photos, videos, map, translation, price comparison, etc. Today, Bing engineers are considering offering new tools to website administrators to enable them to better reference their site on the platform.

  • Yahoo

    Originally, in 1996, Yahoo was a simple web directory. But with the evolution of the digital world, changes have multiplied. Over the years, Yahoo has become a well-known and appreciated search engine, especially for the French. In 2005, they developed a wide range of tools and modifications to position themselves as a Google competitor. Additionally, the search engine has implemented many features. For example, it offers its users news divided into several themes. This will allow the individual to filter and directly see the news that interests them.

  • Qwant

    Qwant is now perceived by specialists as the "French Google". Active since 2013, the search engine promotes the security of its users' personal data. To consolidate its commitment, the search engine’s slogan is "The search engine that respects your privacy". Unlike Google, which stores caches and cookies to provide users with searches and suggestions, Qwant guarantees total confidentiality. No cookies track the user, and the list of results is more trend oriented.

  • Duck Duck Go

    Created in 2007, this American search engine promotes values similar to those of Qwant, positioning itself as "The search engine that does not spy on you". If for Google, sponsored ads are displayed according to the user's search habits, Duck Duck Go has chosen a completely different way to do it. The search engine offers its users sponsored ads but based on the request used by the user for their search. This platform provides, in addition to website searches, image, and video searches.

Meta search engines

Meta search engines extract information by combining general search engines or web directories. In short, meta-engines send queries to several search engines and directories. Subsequently, they will combine the best results from the platforms concerned. Meta search engines are thus more interesting since users only have to enter a single query to get results from several engines and directories.

Today, there are several meta search engines, the most relevant and most used are:

  • Clusty

    Considered one of the best meta search engines on the market given the relevance of the results it offers, this metasearcher sends a query simultaneously to 9 search engines (Google, Bing, Looksmart, Gigablast, Yahoo…). But also, the requests are sent to directories and news sites such as CNN, NY Times…

  • Polymeta

    This one mainly questions the major search engines: Google, Yahoo, MSN, Gigablast… It also allows users to perform a more targeted search on news by sending requests to news engines such as Google News, Yahoo, MSN… Additionally, users can refine their query with the features offered by this metasearch engine.

  • MetaCrawler

    Created in 1995, this meta search engine is one of the oldest and most famous search platforms. MetaCrawler simultaneously sends a request to Google, DirectHit, FindWhat, Overture, Sprinks, Open Directory, LookSmart, Kanoodle and Internet Keywords. Including paid search engines or pay-per-click, this meta-engine offers solutions purchased in its first list of results. It also provides access to a completely different feature to refine the results. Indeed, the user can filter and choose the engines to query or the domains to include in their searches.

  • Query server

    Also considered one of the most efficient meta-engines, Query Server stands out for its clearer and relatively faster presentation of results. In addition, it offers 5 types of meta-engines depending on the functionalities or rather the theme sought by the user.

How do search engines work?

Search engines mainly have 3 functions:

  • carry out searches based on users' requests by browsing the web, pages, and sites, but also the other search engines currently available.
  • manage databases, by analysing, recording or indexing pages according to searches and keywords often used by users.
  • propose the pages in the search results according to a certain logic and according to the keywords used by the user during his search.

To browse the web, navigate from page to page and search for relevant results, the search engine uses these "indexing robots", i.e. "Crawlers", "Spiders" or "Bots". Each time these little bots find a relevant result, they add it to their database.

It should be noted that the most understandable and accessible content for indexing bots is editorial content in a simple form. It can be plain text or HTML text, but it must first and foremost be text. It is in this sense that most companies with an online presence are turning more to content writing to improve their visibility.

The search engine also takes sponsored pages into account. Indeed, it is an effective way for the engine to finance itself. But to ensure the reliability of search results and above all to offer users relevant results, the engine organizes the results more clearly. In the first page of results, sites that have paid for an SEO are always marked with the Ad icon which means that the site is sponsored. On the right-hand side of the results page, the engine also provides special offers and tips. These are mainly paid ads that can sometimes be linked to the Internet user's request.

Importance for the internet user and for a company

Search engines are of interest not only to Internet users but also to companies.

Find what you are looking for easily and quickly

For the Internet user, a search engine makes it possible to find information and sites in only a few minutes or even a few seconds. Depending on the keywords or information entered in the search field or search bar, can quickly and easily lead to significant results. It can be a site, an image, a promotion, a shop or other information he needs.

While a web directory often redirects to the home page of a site, the search engine, for its part, makes it possible to find directly on the page of a site dealing with a theme or on the keyword precisely searched by the Internet user. By using a directory to search for a well-defined video, an Internet user can, for example, land on the YouTube homepage. However, with a search engine, it will be redirected directly to the channel or even to the video in question.

What are the advantages for a company?

For a company, search engines make it possible to make itself known by its target audience or to optimize its visibility by appearing directly on the first page of search results. This is the ultimate goal of any company with a website or blog. Since queries are mainly based on keywords, and page indexing is also based on specific keywords, many companies spend huge amounts of money to improve the indexing of their pages. This is called SEO or Search Engine Optimization.

When an engine searches based on a given keyword, there are often thousands or even millions of pages that respond to it. However, the engine does not display them immediately. Search engines or rather "bots" in these engines previously perform a quick evaluation of each page and their content. The most relevant content is offered to Internet users in the first search pages. Generally, to do this sorting, the bots follow 2 main criteria:

  • The relevance of the web page: i.e. the keyword used for the search is present in the title of the page, but also in the URL, the content and most of the page's content. In addition, the engines also take into account synonyms or variants of the keyword.
  • The popularity of the site or its notoriety: on this point, Google has recently made changes or rather set up a system to sort or evaluate the sites. Is the site in question popular? Does it receive links from other sites? Are the linked sites also known? Do they deal with the same theme? Are the sites reliable? …

How to improve your visibility on a search engine

By taking into account how search engines work, companies that have websites or blogs can improve their visibility on the Internet. To do this, it is possible to choose between two methods:

  • Natural referencing consists mainly of using best practices in the creation of site content so that sites naturally obtain a better positioning in the search results of an engine. In principle, it is a question of choosing precise keywords, corresponding to the theme dealt with by the site and also approaching the request of Internet users. As a result, when the engine searches for results based on a specific keyword, the site will be easy to identify and index. For example, for a site dealing with real estate, the idea will be to place the main keyword "real estate" in the title of the page, but also in the content of the page. It should be noted that the natural referencing technique takes a long time to bear fruit and also requires continuous updating. However, the advantage of this technique lies in the fact that it can bear fruit in the long term but also that it does not require significant investment.

    It should also be noted that competing sites may have had the same idea by referencing their site based on the same keywords. In this case, the best solution is to further optimize SEO by working on the content, its quality and by promoting link exchanges.

  • Paid referencing generally consists in paying a certain amount of money to the search engine or web directories so that a site appears in the first search page, among the sponsored results. At Google, for example, the SEO system is based on the Google Ads service. Today, this referencing technique is based on an auction system. The sites that manage to bid the most can get the best positioning in the SERP or Search Engine Result Page.

There are also other methods of SEO one is called "Black Hat". These methods mainly consist of exploiting the flaws in the algorithms of search engines to try to position themselves well in search results. However, these methods are not viewed very favourably by search engines, and especially not by Google. For the American giant, sites referenced via the Black Hat technique are directly blacklisted.

Search engine funding

Generally, search engine funding is obtained by sponsoring certain sites that want to appear on the first page of results. To be ranked in the top 5 search results for a keyword or cloud of keywords, these sites pay search engines. However, to respect Internet users and especially the relevance of their searches, search engines must display next to the links that they are sponsored sites. Thus, the Internet user will already know from the outset that this site has not been mainly checked as a whole. It can indeed happen that the site has paid for a keyword, but does not mainly deal with the theme that interests the Internet user.

For some search engines such as Google, for example, sponsored pages have a privileged place in search results. They are either at the top of the search results or on the right-hand side of the search results.

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