The 4 Stages of Search and Why All SEOs Should Know Them

SEOs are constantly talking about the 4 stages of search, but if you’re new to SEO it can be hard to understand what they’re talking about. The stages of search represent important functions within Google’s ranking algorithm and understanding them will help you better comprehend how Google works and why certain content ranks above others.

READ: What Is SEO / Search Engine Optimization?

  1. How Search Works?
  2. What is Crawling?
  3. What is Rendering?
  4. What is Indexing?
  5. What is Ranking?
  6. Conclusion
How Search Works - 4 Stages of Search - Be the Square Digital Marketing

4 Stages of Search – Let’s Go!

How Search Works

In a simplistic explanation, search engines are algorithms.

These algorithms help computers find the best results for your queries. The search engine’s algorithm is a complex mathematical formula that uses information about you and your search terms to rank results, then crawls the web to get more data that it can use to improve its ranking methods.

The search engine’s algorithm is also responsible for rendering the results you see when you do a query, which means that when you type something into Google or Bing, they are simply rendering what their algorithms have determined based on all of these factors.

Crawl – Render – Index – Rank

In terms of SEO, the crawl, render and index stages are the most important.

Crawling: The first step in the search process is crawling. This is where a bot visits your site and identifies all of your pages. It checks each page to see if it can be found by Google and adds it to their index if relevant. The crawler makes many requests for each page resulting in hundreds or thousands of hits per day. Sometimes this can result in a site being temporarily unavailable due to excessive traffic from bots!

Rendering: Once the pages have been identified and added to Google’s index, they need formatting so that users can see them on their screen when searching online through Google or other search engines (like Bing). Rendering involves reformatting text so that it fits within pixel widths as well as removing any extraneous code such as headers/footers within webpages which could be blocking some content from showing up properly on results pages at times.

Indexing: Once the pages have been rendered, they are indexed. This is where Google stores all of the information about your site so that it can be easily retrieved when someone searches for something online. Ranking: When a user types something into Google’s search box, it will display results in order from most relevant to least relevant based on what you typed in. For example, if you type “SEO marketing,” then Google will show results for sites with content related to that phrase at the top

Rank and relevance: Rank is determined by a variety of factors, including: the number of incoming links from other sites (backlinks), anchor text on those backlinks (if any), social media signal strength from Twitter/Facebook.

What is Crawling?

Crawling is the process of proactively traversing the web, following links and indexing resources. The purpose of crawling is to bring fresh content into Google’s index.

Crawling and indexing are two different things in SEO, but they’re often used interchangeably by marketers and professionals alike. Here’s how you can tell if you need a more nuanced understanding: Crawling refers to any instance in which Google visits your site (or any other website), while indexing refers to a process that occurs after crawling has taken place.

What is Rendering?

Rendering is the process of taking the data that is returned by the search engine and converting it into something that is readable by the user. The goal of rendering is to present a clear, understandable, and high quality version of your site’s content in a way that makes sense for users.

With Google’s shift to mobile-first indexing, it has become increasingly important for search engine optimization (SEO) pros to understand how the rendering process works.

What is Indexing?

Google’s search engine is comprised of two parts:

  • The crawlers, which crawl the web to find pages and add them to Google’s database.
  • The index, which is a list of all the pages that Google has found and stored.

Google’s crawlers are constantly crawling the web and creating a record of all the pages they find. This allows them to be as relevant as possible when someone performs a search on Google.

If there aren’t any matching results found, Google will begin crawling the web. This process begins with a list of web addresses known as seeds, which are sites that Google knows about but has never visited before. When it finds new pages on these sites, it adds them to the index. If you’re trying to rank for a particular keyword or phrase in search engines like Google, one of the most important steps is making sure your website is visible to search engines.

You can submit a URL for indexing in Google by utilizing the Google Search Console and using the URL inspection tool. Once Google has crawled and analyzed your webpage, and determined the page has passed initial quality checks, you can request indexing. This does not guarantee the page will be indexed by Google, but Google will be aware of the page submitted.

What is Ranking?

Ranking is the process of determining which results are shown in a search engine’s results page. The algorithm powering this process changes frequently, so it’s vital for SEOs to stay on top of updates and trends.

In a nutshell, ranking is an iterative process that starts with an initial set of rankings produced by an algorithm. Those initial rankings are then used to produce new ones until you get to a point where further iterations don’t make much difference or cause too many anomalies in the results. This idea—that there is diminishing marginal return from each additional iteration—is known as the “law of diminishing returns.”

How search works - How Does Google Rank Websites - Be the Square Digital Marketing

In the SEO world, we don’t have anything like a law of diminishing returns. There are tons of tweaks to the algorithm that can be made on an ongoing basis to improve a given result set. But even if Google were to make thousands of changes annually, it would still not affect each and every query equally. So while ranking is crucial for SEOs newbies who want their sites to show up on top in search engine results pages (SERPs), it’s important to remember that this ability is not unlimited.

An algorithm tweak here or there can make all the difference in the world, but don’t expect massive changes right away. Instead, take one small step at a time!

Why Do I Need to Know These 4 Stages of Search?

Knowing how search works is important for SEOs, marketers and business owners. And let’s be honest: it’s also pretty fun to dig into the details of how Google organizes information on the internet. You might find yourself reading long articles about how long it takes for a new page to show up in search results or debating whether or not a certain keyword is relevant to your industry (it’s not).

Understanding the 4 stages of search will help you better understand what Google is doing when it’s indexing new content, as well as how your site fits into the whole picture. This will make it easier to optimize your site and improve its ranking on search results pages.

The 4 stages of search are not just terms thrown around by SEOs, they represent vital functions for Google and the way in which it serves up results.

  • Crawling
  • Rendering
  • Indexing
  • Ranking

The 4 stages of search are not just terms thrown around by SEOs, they represent vital functions for Google and the way in which it serves up results. It is no surprise then that understanding how each of these steps work can be essential to your SEO strategy.


Search is a complicated process, but understanding the 4 stages of search can help you understand how to optimize your website for search engines. When you know what each stage does, you’ll be able to make better decisions about how to improve the way people find your site and what content they see when they do so.

We know search engines! We can help you develop a winning SEO strategy! If you feel your website could be performing better, we know it can! Contact us to learn more!

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