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What are Search Engines Exactly?

Here, we share with you: A definition of a search engine; How a search engine works; Search engine drawbacks; and a definition of a metasearch engine.

Search Engine Defined

A search engine, or search engine software system, systematically searches the World Wide Web or Internet (not the deep web). Searches begin when a search term or question is entered into the search engine. The results of the search are shown and are composed of various items such as images, articles, videos, web page links and other file types.

Some may ask “Is a search engine the same as a browser?” The answer is no. A search engine searches the World Wide Web, while a browser just gives you access to the search engine.

Search Engine Processes

One important part of today’s business landscape is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). (Not to be confused with Content Marketing.)To understand SEO, it is helpful to know how search engines work:

  • Search engines are able to provide real-time information by using automated programs called spider bots or web crawlers. The most common method that web crawlers use, to look for pages, is by following links.
  • Search Engine indexing is when these searched-for-pages or data are collected and stored to allow for quick and accurate information retrieval at a future time.
  • Then the results are returned to the user. These results are served in an order that is ranked by algorithms.

Drawbacks to Certain Search Engines

Although Bing has good points, it’s biggest weakness, as a search engine, is when it is used for marketing. Bing is used much less compared to Google’s search engine so that means that your business won’t be exposed to as many customers.

Most people are probably aware that Google is the most popular search engine but it also has issues:

Medical Censorship: This is something that is not well known in the world of medicine but medical censorship is responsible for the dismissal of genuinely valuable alternative therapies. It also affects the choice of material for publication; grant awards that are given (or not given) by research institutions; and other decisions. Patients who are very ill are often the ones who suffer most from the effects of this censorship.

Political Filters: If users do a search for politically controversial terms like gun control or vaccinations, the results vary greatly based on the users search history. This MarketWatch article explains how Google’s algorithms are keeping us in a political bubble.

Other criticism: Google Search Engine will often only work with Google Apps; questionable indexing or caching of content; apparent prejudices are often revealed in the algorithms process; questionable use of search results.

If you are interested to find out about other available search engines, you would do well to check out Top Search Engine Alternatives to Google. Another valuable tool, in finding a search engine that fits your needs, is our custom search engine alternatives to Google survey.

MetaSearch Engines

Also known as a search aggregator, a metasearch engine is similar to a web search engine in that it takes input queries from a user. The difference is that It retrieves information by using the data of one or more web search engines and then returns its own results to the user. Some of the more popular metasearch engines include DuckDuckGo, Startpage, Million Short, Excite and Searx.


  • Users enter their query in only one search bar but get results from multiple search engines.
  • They are fast.
  • They are able to conceal the user's IP address.


  • Sometimes mistakes are made while translating complicated queries into other languages.
  • Because metasearch engines do not have an index base, users can’t add a URL as a query.
  • They seem to be accessing less information than in the past.


A search engine can be compared to a filter that sifts through the massive amount of information that is available on the world wide web. Individuals and organizations use search engines to efficiently locate information that they are interested in or that provides value. The workings of a search engine include: using crawlers, collecting / indexing and returning the results to the user. Though useful, Search engines have some disadvantages. Metasearch engines are different from web search engines in that they pull data from web search engines.
With all the search engine options available, it is wise to choose one that best fits your needs by using an unbiased search-engine comparison publication such as Top Search Engine Alternatives to Google.

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