How do Google searches work? Here's the answer

Numbers illustrate complexity and sheer volume of Google searches and results.

Numbers illustrate complexity and sheer volume of Google searches and results.  (Google)

Looking for something on the Web? Chances are, you turn to Google. The results you see are a product of complex machinations, and for the first time, Google is giving people a behind-the-scenes look at how search works.

Google has launched a new site, "How Search Works," featuring a clever infographic that not only reveals the process of search, but gives a real-time view of spam removal — a key component that shows the pages users don't see are just as important as those they do when it comes to good results.

The numbers tell the story. Google "crawls" and tracks trillions of Web pages, ranking each page's importance based on more than 200 algorithms or formulas. Since its start in 1997, Google has accumulated about 100 million gigabytes of information.

When you type in a search query into Google, your query travels an average of 1,500 miles from one server to another and back to you with your results. (This is close to the speed of light.) You start seeing search results even before you hit enter — usually in about one-tenth of a second. To date, Google has fielded 450 billion first-time searches and many more that are duplicates of those..

Google's methods have already eliminated a lot of the garbage on the Web. Every day, millions of worthless pages are created, which Google lumps together as spam. Spam sites have long tried to trick Google into thinking they're legitimate, using methods like cloaking (displaying different content to human users than is shown to search engines).

Google has automated formulas to find these pages and has a team that reviews questionable pages as well. On its new site, you can see pages that Google has removed in the last 30 minutes or so.

Taking a tour of Google's "How Search Works" is an eye-opening experience. You may never look at search the same way.