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Google & Google Scholar: Understanding Google


Autocomplete predicts and displays search terms that may be similar to those you are typing.

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.

These predictions are determined by Google's algorithm without any human intervention, and are based on 200+ factors (as of 3/15), including:

  • Other users' web search activities
  • The popularity of search terms
  • Your search history
  • Your location


search results for slr camera

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.

Most major search engines earn revenue from advertising. In Google, paid advertisements may appear alongside search results, either at the top or to the right side. They are labeled sponsored, advertisements, or ads, and may be personalized according to your search history, location, time of year, and other factors.

What Search Engines Do NOT Find: The Deep Web

Did you know the vast majority of online content remains hidden from Google and other search engines?

Content typically not retrievable by search engines includes:

  • Content from subscription databases, including library research databases
  • Password-protected or registration-required content
  • Webpages excluded by a search engine's policy
  • Webpages deliberately excluded/hidden by their owners
  • Webpages that are not linked to by open websites

This type of information is known as the invisible, hidden or deep web. It is generally inaccessible to the robots or spiders that crawl the web and is therefore not included in search engine results.

In other words, if you rely only on Google or other browser searches to find information, you are limiting yourself to a small fraction of available information. There is a whole ocean of content you might miss unless you dig deeper. How do you dig deeper? For academic research, start by exploring Research Databases.

How Do Search Engines Work?

Search engines do not search the Internet directly. Rather, they search databases of webpages that have been harvested from the Internet by computer programs known as robots or spiders.

Spiders periodically crawl the web and index text, links and other data. This information is then stored in a search engine's database. When we create a search by using keywords, the files of the database are searched and if your search matches an indexed webpage's content, it will be retrieved.

For a more thorough explanation, check out this video created by the folks at Google:

Personalized Search Results

You may enter the same search query as someone else, but get different results based on:

  • Your search history
  • Your click behavior
  • Activities of others who used the same computer
  • Your location

This happens whether or not you are logged into a Google account.

While customized results may be welcome at times, at other times they might compromise the research process by reducing exposure to diverse perspectives.

For further information on the topic, check out the resources below. Articles from Library databases may require you to enter your My NWACC Connection login credentials.

Ranking results

The challenge for search engines is not only to find useful information, but also to order it so the most relevant content is displayed at the top of the results list. This is called relevance ranking.

Google uses algorithms to determine the order of search results. The algorithms use clues like the currency of content, the terms on a webpage, and your location in an attempt to estimate the importance of results. The assumption is that the more links a page receives from other pages, the more important it is. Note that no evaluation on the quality of the information itself is made.

Other factors that are considered include:

  • How often search terms or synonyms appear in the text
  • Where the search terms appear, such as the title or URL
  • The number of citations of a result