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Episode
31

How Google Works

Feb 28, 2020
Science & Technology
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21
minutes
Technology
The Internet

It's the most visited website in the world, with 80,000 searches per second.

But have you ever actually wondered how it really works?

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[00:00:03] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to episode 31 of English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about how Google works. 

[00:00:18] Is the biggest search engine in the world with 80,000 searches per second. 

[00:00:25] And for most humans, it's how we find information.

[00:00:31] But have you ever actually wondered how it works? 

[00:00:36] What happens when you press search? 

[00:00:40] And how is it such a money making machine, valued at almost a trillion dollars? 

[00:00:47] That's what we'll be talking about in today's podcast. 

[00:00:52] Before we get right into it, though, I have two little public service announcements.

[00:00:57] Firstly, thank you to everyone who wrote in with feedback on the podcast. 

[00:01:02] I want to build this into the best, most interesting way for you to improve your English while learning fascinating things about the world and the feedback has been really, really interesting. 

[00:01:14] I'm always on the hunt for more feedback, so if there are things that you like, things you don't like, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

[00:01:23] Just email hi 'hi' at Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:28] Secondly, for those of you listening to this podcast on Spotify, iVoox Apple Podcasts or wherever you might be listening, you can get a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for the podcast over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:45] We also just launched two new ways to become a member, so you can now choose to join by week, by month or even by year.

[00:01:53] So check that out. 

[00:01:54] That's over at leonardoenglish.com/subscribe. 

[00:02:00] Okay then, Google. 

[00:02:02] Now this isn't going to be some very technical analysis or some marketing type-podcast where I tell you how you can be number one in the search rankings. 

[00:02:13] Instead, today we are going to talk about what actually happens when you make a Google search.

[00:02:20] What happens in the background. 

[00:02:22] Why Google decides to show you certain things instead of others, and we'll talk about the money-making machine that is Google Ads. 

[00:02:32] As you may know, the name of the parent company, the company that owns Google, is actually Alphabet. 

[00:02:41] It does everything from self-driving cars to smart-home sensors to health.

[00:02:48] That's far too much to cover in detail in today's podcast, so we'll be focusing on Google Search, the search engine, that classic, original Google. 

[00:02:58] So I think Google probably needs no introduction. 

[00:03:04] It's the biggest search engine in the world, the most popular website in the world, and it was visited 62 billion times last year. 

[00:03:15] And I don't need to tell you that it's obviously a very effective search engine. 

[00:03:21] It does one thing incredibly well. 

[00:03:24] It organises all the information on the internet and makes that information easy for people to find. 

[00:03:31] And again, this won't be news for you, when you search Google, when you ask Google for something, the results are normally pretty good. 

[00:03:42] You get the information you're looking for, whether that was 'hotel in Madrid' or 'how old is the queen' or 'how to learn English with podcasts'. 

[00:03:52] Google gives you a selection of results that answer your question and all in a matter of seconds, right? 

[00:04:00] All of this information is available at the tip of your fingertips.

[00:04:04] But if we take a step back, it's quite interesting to think about how Google actually does this. 

[00:04:13] You could say, well, it's all on the internet and Google just searches the internet and shows you stuff. 

[00:04:21] At a very basic level, there is some truth to that, but it's a lot more complicated. 

[00:04:28] Firstly, let's take the term 'the internet'.

[00:04:32] There are over a billion unique websites, and it's estimated that there could be 60 trillion pages. 

[00:04:41] Obviously a load of these are junk, they're rubbish, but a lot of them do, of course, contain useful information, the kind of information that someone might want. 

[00:04:53] But there's no central system that organises everything, there's not an organisation or a central database for the internet.

[00:05:03] Google can't just query the internet every time you make a search. 

[00:05:09] So what Google does is it makes its own copy of the internet, of webpages on the internet.

[00:05:16] It does this by sending what it calls crawlers all over the internet, and they gather information about websites, about webpages, and they bring it back to Google. 

[00:05:30] This is sometimes known as Google Spider. 

[00:05:33] And obviously it's not a real spider, that would be ridiculous. 

[00:05:36] It is a computer program, an algorithm or series of algorithms that are constantly scanning websites and adding information to Google's copy of the internet.

[00:05:47] But how does it actually know where to look for information? 

[00:05:53] As we now know, there isn't a central database of websites, and of course, new web pages and websites are being created every millisecond. 

[00:06:04] So what Google does is it follows the links on websites. 

[00:06:10] It basically goes from one link to another, following links from page to page to page, going on this huge internet journey, discovering new websites, discovering new web pages, discovering dead or broken links and adding these all to Google's gigantic copy of the internet, its index of the internet. 

[00:06:33] Okay, so far so good, perhaps. 

[00:06:36] But now that Google has this copy of the internet, how does it decide what to show you as a search result? 

[00:06:45] Why might you and I see completely different things, even if we type in exactly the same thing. 

[00:06:52] And how does Google decide what order things are shown? 

[00:06:58] Again, it's complicated, but Google's aim is to answer your question, answer your query in the quickest, most efficient way possible. 

[00:07:09] How does it actually do this? 

[00:07:12] Well, the way that Google thinks about this can be summarised with three things, really. 

[00:07:21] Firstly, something called relevance. 

[00:07:24] It tries to show you relevant results to the question you've asked. 

[00:07:29] If you search for 'adopt a dog', you don't want to see websites about dog food or about adopting a cat. 

[00:07:38] You want to see information about adopting a dog.

[00:07:42] Obvious you might think, but it's actually quite difficult to get right. 

[00:07:47] The adopt a dog example is a bit more straightforward, but let's take a slightly more complicated one. 

[00:07:55] Let's say you search for the phrase "London Paris". 

[00:08:01] Are you looking for train tickets or flights? 

[00:08:05] Are you looking for the hotel called 'London' in Paris?

[00:08:09] Or maybe you're looking for an obscure artist called London Paris. 

[00:08:14] You could mean a lot of different things and the results you see depend on who you are, where you are when you're searching, and a load of different other factors. 

[00:08:29] The more Google knows about you, the better it can try and guess what you might really be searching for, and therefore the better or more relevant search results it can show you.

[00:08:43] This is why Google wants to collect as much data as possible about you in order to show you more targeted search results, and of course, more targeted adverts.

[00:08:55] And the relevance of a search result also depends on the content of the webpage, the words on the website. 

[00:09:04] The closer the words on the website are to the words that you're searching, in general, the more relevant Google will think that page is for you.

[00:09:13] Back when Google started, over 20 years ago now, people use to fill websites up with supposedly relevant words just to trick Google into putting them higher up in the search rankings. 

[00:09:29] But now at least Google has got a lot smarter and lots of these tricks don't work anymore.  

[00:09:37] Our second factor that Google takes into consideration when deciding what results to show you is something that Google calls quality.

[00:09:48] Now, what does this actually mean? 

[00:09:51] Well, we know that quality is a scale of how good something is. 

[00:09:56] But what does good mean in this context? 

[00:10:01] Well, by good quality, Google means webpages, websites that are trustworthy, ones that will provide accurate information. 

[00:10:11] And going back to our example of searching for 'London Paris ', Google will show you results from websites like eurostar.com or tripadvisor.com, websites that you probably know and trust. 

[00:10:27] All good so far. 

[00:10:28] But Google isn't a person, how does it know if a website is good quality or not? 

[00:10:35] Again, this is simplifying it, but the main way in which it does this is through the other websites that link to it. 

[00:10:44] If a website has links from other websites that are also considered good quality or good authority, then Google will be more likely to consider that website to be a good quality one.

[00:10:58] Likewise, if a website doesn't have any links from good quality websites or it has lots of links from websites that Google considers spam or low quality, well then Google is going to decide that this website isn't very high quality. 

[00:11:18] And the final factor of are three important factors is user experience.

[00:11:27] By this we mean is the website easy for people to use and do people seem to like using it? 

[00:11:35] Does it load quickly? 

[00:11:37] Does it not have those annoying popups that ask you to put in your email address or to send you notifications? 

[00:11:45] Do people tend to continue to stay on it when they arrive or do they immediately leave?

[00:11:51] Our friend, the Google Spider, can help with this as not only does it make copies of every website out there, but it also tries to figure out how easy a website is to use. 

[00:12:03] So we have these three factors, relevance, quality, and user experience. 

[00:12:13] With every single search term, Google takes these things along with about 200 others into consideration and shows you relevant search terms in milliseconds.

[00:12:26] Pretty cool, huh? 

[00:12:27] And all for free, right? 

[00:12:29] You don't pay Google anything for this service. 

[00:12:34] But note the use of the pronoun you. 

[00:12:37] You don't pay Google anything. 

[00:12:40] Advertisers, of course, do, and they pay Google huge amounts of money. 

[00:12:47] Google is just incredibly good at making money. 

[00:12:52] In fact, in the last quarter of 2019, the last three months of 2019, it made almost $6,000 every second.

[00:13:04] So if we're about 10 minutes into the podcast, let's say, Google has probably made about $4 million in the time that you've been listening. 

[00:13:13] And one big thing that we haven't talked about yet in any detail is ads, adverts.

[00:13:23] Again, another pretty complicated subject, but let's try and keep it as simple as possible. 

[00:13:29] Google is a huge corporation and its objective is to make as much money as possible. 

[00:13:36] It does this through showing adverts and like any advert-supported media platform, it has the tradeoff, the consideration, of wanting as many people as possible to click on their ads without people getting too annoyed about there being too many ads.

[00:13:57] Obviously it would be super annoying if it was just ads, but if there were no ads at all, Google wouldn't make any money. 

[00:14:05] So it's a delicate balance to get right, and as you probably have noticed over the past 10 years or so, Google has gradually been showing more ads and the ads that it has been showing have become less and less distinctive from the normal search results.

[00:14:25] You don't have to be a genius to figure out what's going on here. 

[00:14:29] Google is obviously hoping that the changes it's made will mean that more people click on ads.

[00:14:34] Google Ads is obviously a huge business, and agencies that help other companies with Google Ads is also a multibillion dollar industry. 

[00:14:44] So I'm going to simplify things a little bit with the explanation of how it works.

[00:14:50] But the principles are pretty simple and similar in some respects to how Google chooses to order, to rank, its normal search results. 

[00:15:01] So how does Google Ads work? 

[00:15:05] Advertisers decide that they want their adverts to be shown for certain searches, then every time that there is a search, Google shows adverts based on things like how relevant that ad is for the search, what is the experience on the website that the advertiser has, but also, and here's where it gets interesting, how much money that advertiser is willing to pay. 

[00:15:33] And as it's an auction, the more an advertiser offers to pay, the more another advertiser needs to offer to pay to compete with them.

[00:15:44] For some searches, because the amount of money that the advertiser is likely to make from someone clicking on their advert is quite small, they would bid, they would offer, a relatively small amount of money. 

[00:15:58] For example, someone searching for 'cheap bread', an advertiser isn't likely to make much money from that sale.

[00:16:07] And for some searches there aren't any ads at all, no adverts at all, because those searches are from people looking for information. 

[00:16:17] For example, someone's searching, how old is the queen? 

[00:16:22] That's obviously a search for information, it doesn't indicate that that person wants to buy something. 

[00:16:28] The answer is 93 by the way. 

[00:16:31] But if someone searches for "buy expensive diamond ring now", well, companies that sell expensive diamond rings would probably be interested in showing adverts to that person and would probably offer to pay lots of money to appear in that search. 

[00:16:49] So that person would see adverts from advertisers selling diamond rings, and if that person clicks on one of the adverts, then the advertiser would have to pay Google.

[00:17:04] In fact, the cost that advertisers pay for each click can be very large. 

[00:17:09] The most expensive search term last year was "best mesothelioma lawyer" for which the average amount paid for each click was $935, $935 just for a click. 

[00:17:27] I guess you probably don't know what mesothelioma is. 

[00:17:31] I didn't either, and I'm sure I'm pronouncing it in a terrible way.

[00:17:34] It's a kind of disease caused by exposure to asbestos

[00:17:39] So the advertisers who are bidding on this particular search are law firms who are hoping that each click is going to bring them more than a thousand dollars in new business on average. 

[00:17:53] Mad, right?

[00:17:56] And so if you are wondering how Google manages to make quite so much money, well that's how. 

[00:18:02] There are a load of things that we haven't covered in here that I know are pretty interesting, such as how Google uses our data, the implications of this and all of the other stuff that Google does.

[00:18:17] So I hope you'll excuse me for not covering that. 

[00:18:21] I just want to share with you a few more strange facts about Google that I guess you probably didn't know. 

[00:18:29] Firstly, about 20% of queries of searches that are asked every day have never been asked before. 

[00:18:38] So Google is constantly having to figure out answers to new questions.

[00:18:43] Secondly, every search has to travel on average 1,500 miles to a data centre and back to return the answer to the person who searched for it. 

[00:18:57] So that question you've just asked, it has traveled 3000 miles, it's done a round trip of 3000 miles and returned to you in under a second. 

[00:19:07] And finally, a single Google search uses a thousand computers in 0.2 seconds to find an answer.

[00:19:18] Okay, I hope that this has been an interesting introduction to how Google works. 

[00:19:25] It's a fascinating company and we have only just scratched the surface today. 

[00:19:32] As always, if you have questions, feedback, thoughts, or more, I'd love to hear from you. 

[00:19:38] You can get in touch on Facebook, Instagram, or of course by email.

[00:19:42] That's hi hi@leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:19:47] And as I said at the start of the podcast, if you are interested in becoming a member of Leonardo English, getting access to all of the transcripts, key vocabulary, bonus episodes, and supporting the podcast, then you can find out more at leonardoenglish.com/subscribe. 

[00:20:04] We've also just launched weekly and annual membership options, so go and check that out if you haven't done so already. 

[00:20:12] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:20:17] I'm Alastair Budge and I'll catch you in the next episode.

Continue learning

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Become a member
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[00:00:03] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to episode 31 of English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about how Google works. 

[00:00:18] Is the biggest search engine in the world with 80,000 searches per second. 

[00:00:25] And for most humans, it's how we find information.

[00:00:31] But have you ever actually wondered how it works? 

[00:00:36] What happens when you press search? 

[00:00:40] And how is it such a money making machine, valued at almost a trillion dollars? 

[00:00:47] That's what we'll be talking about in today's podcast. 

[00:00:52] Before we get right into it, though, I have two little public service announcements.

[00:00:57] Firstly, thank you to everyone who wrote in with feedback on the podcast. 

[00:01:02] I want to build this into the best, most interesting way for you to improve your English while learning fascinating things about the world and the feedback has been really, really interesting. 

[00:01:14] I'm always on the hunt for more feedback, so if there are things that you like, things you don't like, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

[00:01:23] Just email hi 'hi' at Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:28] Secondly, for those of you listening to this podcast on Spotify, iVoox Apple Podcasts or wherever you might be listening, you can get a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for the podcast over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:45] We also just launched two new ways to become a member, so you can now choose to join by week, by month or even by year.

[00:01:53] So check that out. 

[00:01:54] That's over at leonardoenglish.com/subscribe. 

[00:02:00] Okay then, Google. 

[00:02:02] Now this isn't going to be some very technical analysis or some marketing type-podcast where I tell you how you can be number one in the search rankings. 

[00:02:13] Instead, today we are going to talk about what actually happens when you make a Google search.

[00:02:20] What happens in the background. 

[00:02:22] Why Google decides to show you certain things instead of others, and we'll talk about the money-making machine that is Google Ads. 

[00:02:32] As you may know, the name of the parent company, the company that owns Google, is actually Alphabet. 

[00:02:41] It does everything from self-driving cars to smart-home sensors to health.

[00:02:48] That's far too much to cover in detail in today's podcast, so we'll be focusing on Google Search, the search engine, that classic, original Google. 

[00:02:58] So I think Google probably needs no introduction. 

[00:03:04] It's the biggest search engine in the world, the most popular website in the world, and it was visited 62 billion times last year. 

[00:03:15] And I don't need to tell you that it's obviously a very effective search engine. 

[00:03:21] It does one thing incredibly well. 

[00:03:24] It organises all the information on the internet and makes that information easy for people to find. 

[00:03:31] And again, this won't be news for you, when you search Google, when you ask Google for something, the results are normally pretty good. 

[00:03:42] You get the information you're looking for, whether that was 'hotel in Madrid' or 'how old is the queen' or 'how to learn English with podcasts'. 

[00:03:52] Google gives you a selection of results that answer your question and all in a matter of seconds, right? 

[00:04:00] All of this information is available at the tip of your fingertips.

[00:04:04] But if we take a step back, it's quite interesting to think about how Google actually does this. 

[00:04:13] You could say, well, it's all on the internet and Google just searches the internet and shows you stuff. 

[00:04:21] At a very basic level, there is some truth to that, but it's a lot more complicated. 

[00:04:28] Firstly, let's take the term 'the internet'.

[00:04:32] There are over a billion unique websites, and it's estimated that there could be 60 trillion pages. 

[00:04:41] Obviously a load of these are junk, they're rubbish, but a lot of them do, of course, contain useful information, the kind of information that someone might want. 

[00:04:53] But there's no central system that organises everything, there's not an organisation or a central database for the internet.

[00:05:03] Google can't just query the internet every time you make a search. 

[00:05:09] So what Google does is it makes its own copy of the internet, of webpages on the internet.

[00:05:16] It does this by sending what it calls crawlers all over the internet, and they gather information about websites, about webpages, and they bring it back to Google. 

[00:05:30] This is sometimes known as Google Spider. 

[00:05:33] And obviously it's not a real spider, that would be ridiculous. 

[00:05:36] It is a computer program, an algorithm or series of algorithms that are constantly scanning websites and adding information to Google's copy of the internet.

[00:05:47] But how does it actually know where to look for information? 

[00:05:53] As we now know, there isn't a central database of websites, and of course, new web pages and websites are being created every millisecond. 

[00:06:04] So what Google does is it follows the links on websites. 

[00:06:10] It basically goes from one link to another, following links from page to page to page, going on this huge internet journey, discovering new websites, discovering new web pages, discovering dead or broken links and adding these all to Google's gigantic copy of the internet, its index of the internet. 

[00:06:33] Okay, so far so good, perhaps. 

[00:06:36] But now that Google has this copy of the internet, how does it decide what to show you as a search result? 

[00:06:45] Why might you and I see completely different things, even if we type in exactly the same thing. 

[00:06:52] And how does Google decide what order things are shown? 

[00:06:58] Again, it's complicated, but Google's aim is to answer your question, answer your query in the quickest, most efficient way possible. 

[00:07:09] How does it actually do this? 

[00:07:12] Well, the way that Google thinks about this can be summarised with three things, really. 

[00:07:21] Firstly, something called relevance. 

[00:07:24] It tries to show you relevant results to the question you've asked. 

[00:07:29] If you search for 'adopt a dog', you don't want to see websites about dog food or about adopting a cat. 

[00:07:38] You want to see information about adopting a dog.

[00:07:42] Obvious you might think, but it's actually quite difficult to get right. 

[00:07:47] The adopt a dog example is a bit more straightforward, but let's take a slightly more complicated one. 

[00:07:55] Let's say you search for the phrase "London Paris". 

[00:08:01] Are you looking for train tickets or flights? 

[00:08:05] Are you looking for the hotel called 'London' in Paris?

[00:08:09] Or maybe you're looking for an obscure artist called London Paris. 

[00:08:14] You could mean a lot of different things and the results you see depend on who you are, where you are when you're searching, and a load of different other factors. 

[00:08:29] The more Google knows about you, the better it can try and guess what you might really be searching for, and therefore the better or more relevant search results it can show you.

[00:08:43] This is why Google wants to collect as much data as possible about you in order to show you more targeted search results, and of course, more targeted adverts.

[00:08:55] And the relevance of a search result also depends on the content of the webpage, the words on the website. 

[00:09:04] The closer the words on the website are to the words that you're searching, in general, the more relevant Google will think that page is for you.

[00:09:13] Back when Google started, over 20 years ago now, people use to fill websites up with supposedly relevant words just to trick Google into putting them higher up in the search rankings. 

[00:09:29] But now at least Google has got a lot smarter and lots of these tricks don't work anymore.  

[00:09:37] Our second factor that Google takes into consideration when deciding what results to show you is something that Google calls quality.

[00:09:48] Now, what does this actually mean? 

[00:09:51] Well, we know that quality is a scale of how good something is. 

[00:09:56] But what does good mean in this context? 

[00:10:01] Well, by good quality, Google means webpages, websites that are trustworthy, ones that will provide accurate information. 

[00:10:11] And going back to our example of searching for 'London Paris ', Google will show you results from websites like eurostar.com or tripadvisor.com, websites that you probably know and trust. 

[00:10:27] All good so far. 

[00:10:28] But Google isn't a person, how does it know if a website is good quality or not? 

[00:10:35] Again, this is simplifying it, but the main way in which it does this is through the other websites that link to it. 

[00:10:44] If a website has links from other websites that are also considered good quality or good authority, then Google will be more likely to consider that website to be a good quality one.

[00:10:58] Likewise, if a website doesn't have any links from good quality websites or it has lots of links from websites that Google considers spam or low quality, well then Google is going to decide that this website isn't very high quality. 

[00:11:18] And the final factor of are three important factors is user experience.

[00:11:27] By this we mean is the website easy for people to use and do people seem to like using it? 

[00:11:35] Does it load quickly? 

[00:11:37] Does it not have those annoying popups that ask you to put in your email address or to send you notifications? 

[00:11:45] Do people tend to continue to stay on it when they arrive or do they immediately leave?

[00:11:51] Our friend, the Google Spider, can help with this as not only does it make copies of every website out there, but it also tries to figure out how easy a website is to use. 

[00:12:03] So we have these three factors, relevance, quality, and user experience. 

[00:12:13] With every single search term, Google takes these things along with about 200 others into consideration and shows you relevant search terms in milliseconds.

[00:12:26] Pretty cool, huh? 

[00:12:27] And all for free, right? 

[00:12:29] You don't pay Google anything for this service. 

[00:12:34] But note the use of the pronoun you. 

[00:12:37] You don't pay Google anything. 

[00:12:40] Advertisers, of course, do, and they pay Google huge amounts of money. 

[00:12:47] Google is just incredibly good at making money. 

[00:12:52] In fact, in the last quarter of 2019, the last three months of 2019, it made almost $6,000 every second.

[00:13:04] So if we're about 10 minutes into the podcast, let's say, Google has probably made about $4 million in the time that you've been listening. 

[00:13:13] And one big thing that we haven't talked about yet in any detail is ads, adverts.

[00:13:23] Again, another pretty complicated subject, but let's try and keep it as simple as possible. 

[00:13:29] Google is a huge corporation and its objective is to make as much money as possible. 

[00:13:36] It does this through showing adverts and like any advert-supported media platform, it has the tradeoff, the consideration, of wanting as many people as possible to click on their ads without people getting too annoyed about there being too many ads.

[00:13:57] Obviously it would be super annoying if it was just ads, but if there were no ads at all, Google wouldn't make any money. 

[00:14:05] So it's a delicate balance to get right, and as you probably have noticed over the past 10 years or so, Google has gradually been showing more ads and the ads that it has been showing have become less and less distinctive from the normal search results.

[00:14:25] You don't have to be a genius to figure out what's going on here. 

[00:14:29] Google is obviously hoping that the changes it's made will mean that more people click on ads.

[00:14:34] Google Ads is obviously a huge business, and agencies that help other companies with Google Ads is also a multibillion dollar industry. 

[00:14:44] So I'm going to simplify things a little bit with the explanation of how it works.

[00:14:50] But the principles are pretty simple and similar in some respects to how Google chooses to order, to rank, its normal search results. 

[00:15:01] So how does Google Ads work? 

[00:15:05] Advertisers decide that they want their adverts to be shown for certain searches, then every time that there is a search, Google shows adverts based on things like how relevant that ad is for the search, what is the experience on the website that the advertiser has, but also, and here's where it gets interesting, how much money that advertiser is willing to pay. 

[00:15:33] And as it's an auction, the more an advertiser offers to pay, the more another advertiser needs to offer to pay to compete with them.

[00:15:44] For some searches, because the amount of money that the advertiser is likely to make from someone clicking on their advert is quite small, they would bid, they would offer, a relatively small amount of money. 

[00:15:58] For example, someone searching for 'cheap bread', an advertiser isn't likely to make much money from that sale.

[00:16:07] And for some searches there aren't any ads at all, no adverts at all, because those searches are from people looking for information. 

[00:16:17] For example, someone's searching, how old is the queen? 

[00:16:22] That's obviously a search for information, it doesn't indicate that that person wants to buy something. 

[00:16:28] The answer is 93 by the way. 

[00:16:31] But if someone searches for "buy expensive diamond ring now", well, companies that sell expensive diamond rings would probably be interested in showing adverts to that person and would probably offer to pay lots of money to appear in that search. 

[00:16:49] So that person would see adverts from advertisers selling diamond rings, and if that person clicks on one of the adverts, then the advertiser would have to pay Google.

[00:17:04] In fact, the cost that advertisers pay for each click can be very large. 

[00:17:09] The most expensive search term last year was "best mesothelioma lawyer" for which the average amount paid for each click was $935, $935 just for a click. 

[00:17:27] I guess you probably don't know what mesothelioma is. 

[00:17:31] I didn't either, and I'm sure I'm pronouncing it in a terrible way.

[00:17:34] It's a kind of disease caused by exposure to asbestos

[00:17:39] So the advertisers who are bidding on this particular search are law firms who are hoping that each click is going to bring them more than a thousand dollars in new business on average. 

[00:17:53] Mad, right?

[00:17:56] And so if you are wondering how Google manages to make quite so much money, well that's how. 

[00:18:02] There are a load of things that we haven't covered in here that I know are pretty interesting, such as how Google uses our data, the implications of this and all of the other stuff that Google does.

[00:18:17] So I hope you'll excuse me for not covering that. 

[00:18:21] I just want to share with you a few more strange facts about Google that I guess you probably didn't know. 

[00:18:29] Firstly, about 20% of queries of searches that are asked every day have never been asked before. 

[00:18:38] So Google is constantly having to figure out answers to new questions.

[00:18:43] Secondly, every search has to travel on average 1,500 miles to a data centre and back to return the answer to the person who searched for it. 

[00:18:57] So that question you've just asked, it has traveled 3000 miles, it's done a round trip of 3000 miles and returned to you in under a second. 

[00:19:07] And finally, a single Google search uses a thousand computers in 0.2 seconds to find an answer.

[00:19:18] Okay, I hope that this has been an interesting introduction to how Google works. 

[00:19:25] It's a fascinating company and we have only just scratched the surface today. 

[00:19:32] As always, if you have questions, feedback, thoughts, or more, I'd love to hear from you. 

[00:19:38] You can get in touch on Facebook, Instagram, or of course by email.

[00:19:42] That's hi hi@leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:19:47] And as I said at the start of the podcast, if you are interested in becoming a member of Leonardo English, getting access to all of the transcripts, key vocabulary, bonus episodes, and supporting the podcast, then you can find out more at leonardoenglish.com/subscribe. 

[00:20:04] We've also just launched weekly and annual membership options, so go and check that out if you haven't done so already. 

[00:20:12] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:20:17] I'm Alastair Budge and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[00:00:03] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to episode 31 of English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about how Google works. 

[00:00:18] Is the biggest search engine in the world with 80,000 searches per second. 

[00:00:25] And for most humans, it's how we find information.

[00:00:31] But have you ever actually wondered how it works? 

[00:00:36] What happens when you press search? 

[00:00:40] And how is it such a money making machine, valued at almost a trillion dollars? 

[00:00:47] That's what we'll be talking about in today's podcast. 

[00:00:52] Before we get right into it, though, I have two little public service announcements.

[00:00:57] Firstly, thank you to everyone who wrote in with feedback on the podcast. 

[00:01:02] I want to build this into the best, most interesting way for you to improve your English while learning fascinating things about the world and the feedback has been really, really interesting. 

[00:01:14] I'm always on the hunt for more feedback, so if there are things that you like, things you don't like, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

[00:01:23] Just email hi 'hi' at Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:28] Secondly, for those of you listening to this podcast on Spotify, iVoox Apple Podcasts or wherever you might be listening, you can get a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for the podcast over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:45] We also just launched two new ways to become a member, so you can now choose to join by week, by month or even by year.

[00:01:53] So check that out. 

[00:01:54] That's over at leonardoenglish.com/subscribe. 

[00:02:00] Okay then, Google. 

[00:02:02] Now this isn't going to be some very technical analysis or some marketing type-podcast where I tell you how you can be number one in the search rankings. 

[00:02:13] Instead, today we are going to talk about what actually happens when you make a Google search.

[00:02:20] What happens in the background. 

[00:02:22] Why Google decides to show you certain things instead of others, and we'll talk about the money-making machine that is Google Ads. 

[00:02:32] As you may know, the name of the parent company, the company that owns Google, is actually Alphabet. 

[00:02:41] It does everything from self-driving cars to smart-home sensors to health.

[00:02:48] That's far too much to cover in detail in today's podcast, so we'll be focusing on Google Search, the search engine, that classic, original Google. 

[00:02:58] So I think Google probably needs no introduction. 

[00:03:04] It's the biggest search engine in the world, the most popular website in the world, and it was visited 62 billion times last year. 

[00:03:15] And I don't need to tell you that it's obviously a very effective search engine. 

[00:03:21] It does one thing incredibly well. 

[00:03:24] It organises all the information on the internet and makes that information easy for people to find. 

[00:03:31] And again, this won't be news for you, when you search Google, when you ask Google for something, the results are normally pretty good. 

[00:03:42] You get the information you're looking for, whether that was 'hotel in Madrid' or 'how old is the queen' or 'how to learn English with podcasts'. 

[00:03:52] Google gives you a selection of results that answer your question and all in a matter of seconds, right? 

[00:04:00] All of this information is available at the tip of your fingertips.

[00:04:04] But if we take a step back, it's quite interesting to think about how Google actually does this. 

[00:04:13] You could say, well, it's all on the internet and Google just searches the internet and shows you stuff. 

[00:04:21] At a very basic level, there is some truth to that, but it's a lot more complicated. 

[00:04:28] Firstly, let's take the term 'the internet'.

[00:04:32] There are over a billion unique websites, and it's estimated that there could be 60 trillion pages. 

[00:04:41] Obviously a load of these are junk, they're rubbish, but a lot of them do, of course, contain useful information, the kind of information that someone might want. 

[00:04:53] But there's no central system that organises everything, there's not an organisation or a central database for the internet.

[00:05:03] Google can't just query the internet every time you make a search. 

[00:05:09] So what Google does is it makes its own copy of the internet, of webpages on the internet.

[00:05:16] It does this by sending what it calls crawlers all over the internet, and they gather information about websites, about webpages, and they bring it back to Google. 

[00:05:30] This is sometimes known as Google Spider. 

[00:05:33] And obviously it's not a real spider, that would be ridiculous. 

[00:05:36] It is a computer program, an algorithm or series of algorithms that are constantly scanning websites and adding information to Google's copy of the internet.

[00:05:47] But how does it actually know where to look for information? 

[00:05:53] As we now know, there isn't a central database of websites, and of course, new web pages and websites are being created every millisecond. 

[00:06:04] So what Google does is it follows the links on websites. 

[00:06:10] It basically goes from one link to another, following links from page to page to page, going on this huge internet journey, discovering new websites, discovering new web pages, discovering dead or broken links and adding these all to Google's gigantic copy of the internet, its index of the internet. 

[00:06:33] Okay, so far so good, perhaps. 

[00:06:36] But now that Google has this copy of the internet, how does it decide what to show you as a search result? 

[00:06:45] Why might you and I see completely different things, even if we type in exactly the same thing. 

[00:06:52] And how does Google decide what order things are shown? 

[00:06:58] Again, it's complicated, but Google's aim is to answer your question, answer your query in the quickest, most efficient way possible. 

[00:07:09] How does it actually do this? 

[00:07:12] Well, the way that Google thinks about this can be summarised with three things, really. 

[00:07:21] Firstly, something called relevance. 

[00:07:24] It tries to show you relevant results to the question you've asked. 

[00:07:29] If you search for 'adopt a dog', you don't want to see websites about dog food or about adopting a cat. 

[00:07:38] You want to see information about adopting a dog.

[00:07:42] Obvious you might think, but it's actually quite difficult to get right. 

[00:07:47] The adopt a dog example is a bit more straightforward, but let's take a slightly more complicated one. 

[00:07:55] Let's say you search for the phrase "London Paris". 

[00:08:01] Are you looking for train tickets or flights? 

[00:08:05] Are you looking for the hotel called 'London' in Paris?

[00:08:09] Or maybe you're looking for an obscure artist called London Paris. 

[00:08:14] You could mean a lot of different things and the results you see depend on who you are, where you are when you're searching, and a load of different other factors. 

[00:08:29] The more Google knows about you, the better it can try and guess what you might really be searching for, and therefore the better or more relevant search results it can show you.

[00:08:43] This is why Google wants to collect as much data as possible about you in order to show you more targeted search results, and of course, more targeted adverts.

[00:08:55] And the relevance of a search result also depends on the content of the webpage, the words on the website. 

[00:09:04] The closer the words on the website are to the words that you're searching, in general, the more relevant Google will think that page is for you.

[00:09:13] Back when Google started, over 20 years ago now, people use to fill websites up with supposedly relevant words just to trick Google into putting them higher up in the search rankings. 

[00:09:29] But now at least Google has got a lot smarter and lots of these tricks don't work anymore.  

[00:09:37] Our second factor that Google takes into consideration when deciding what results to show you is something that Google calls quality.

[00:09:48] Now, what does this actually mean? 

[00:09:51] Well, we know that quality is a scale of how good something is. 

[00:09:56] But what does good mean in this context? 

[00:10:01] Well, by good quality, Google means webpages, websites that are trustworthy, ones that will provide accurate information. 

[00:10:11] And going back to our example of searching for 'London Paris ', Google will show you results from websites like eurostar.com or tripadvisor.com, websites that you probably know and trust. 

[00:10:27] All good so far. 

[00:10:28] But Google isn't a person, how does it know if a website is good quality or not? 

[00:10:35] Again, this is simplifying it, but the main way in which it does this is through the other websites that link to it. 

[00:10:44] If a website has links from other websites that are also considered good quality or good authority, then Google will be more likely to consider that website to be a good quality one.

[00:10:58] Likewise, if a website doesn't have any links from good quality websites or it has lots of links from websites that Google considers spam or low quality, well then Google is going to decide that this website isn't very high quality. 

[00:11:18] And the final factor of are three important factors is user experience.

[00:11:27] By this we mean is the website easy for people to use and do people seem to like using it? 

[00:11:35] Does it load quickly? 

[00:11:37] Does it not have those annoying popups that ask you to put in your email address or to send you notifications? 

[00:11:45] Do people tend to continue to stay on it when they arrive or do they immediately leave?

[00:11:51] Our friend, the Google Spider, can help with this as not only does it make copies of every website out there, but it also tries to figure out how easy a website is to use. 

[00:12:03] So we have these three factors, relevance, quality, and user experience. 

[00:12:13] With every single search term, Google takes these things along with about 200 others into consideration and shows you relevant search terms in milliseconds.

[00:12:26] Pretty cool, huh? 

[00:12:27] And all for free, right? 

[00:12:29] You don't pay Google anything for this service. 

[00:12:34] But note the use of the pronoun you. 

[00:12:37] You don't pay Google anything. 

[00:12:40] Advertisers, of course, do, and they pay Google huge amounts of money. 

[00:12:47] Google is just incredibly good at making money. 

[00:12:52] In fact, in the last quarter of 2019, the last three months of 2019, it made almost $6,000 every second.

[00:13:04] So if we're about 10 minutes into the podcast, let's say, Google has probably made about $4 million in the time that you've been listening. 

[00:13:13] And one big thing that we haven't talked about yet in any detail is ads, adverts.

[00:13:23] Again, another pretty complicated subject, but let's try and keep it as simple as possible. 

[00:13:29] Google is a huge corporation and its objective is to make as much money as possible. 

[00:13:36] It does this through showing adverts and like any advert-supported media platform, it has the tradeoff, the consideration, of wanting as many people as possible to click on their ads without people getting too annoyed about there being too many ads.

[00:13:57] Obviously it would be super annoying if it was just ads, but if there were no ads at all, Google wouldn't make any money. 

[00:14:05] So it's a delicate balance to get right, and as you probably have noticed over the past 10 years or so, Google has gradually been showing more ads and the ads that it has been showing have become less and less distinctive from the normal search results.

[00:14:25] You don't have to be a genius to figure out what's going on here. 

[00:14:29] Google is obviously hoping that the changes it's made will mean that more people click on ads.

[00:14:34] Google Ads is obviously a huge business, and agencies that help other companies with Google Ads is also a multibillion dollar industry. 

[00:14:44] So I'm going to simplify things a little bit with the explanation of how it works.

[00:14:50] But the principles are pretty simple and similar in some respects to how Google chooses to order, to rank, its normal search results. 

[00:15:01] So how does Google Ads work? 

[00:15:05] Advertisers decide that they want their adverts to be shown for certain searches, then every time that there is a search, Google shows adverts based on things like how relevant that ad is for the search, what is the experience on the website that the advertiser has, but also, and here's where it gets interesting, how much money that advertiser is willing to pay. 

[00:15:33] And as it's an auction, the more an advertiser offers to pay, the more another advertiser needs to offer to pay to compete with them.

[00:15:44] For some searches, because the amount of money that the advertiser is likely to make from someone clicking on their advert is quite small, they would bid, they would offer, a relatively small amount of money. 

[00:15:58] For example, someone searching for 'cheap bread', an advertiser isn't likely to make much money from that sale.

[00:16:07] And for some searches there aren't any ads at all, no adverts at all, because those searches are from people looking for information. 

[00:16:17] For example, someone's searching, how old is the queen? 

[00:16:22] That's obviously a search for information, it doesn't indicate that that person wants to buy something. 

[00:16:28] The answer is 93 by the way. 

[00:16:31] But if someone searches for "buy expensive diamond ring now", well, companies that sell expensive diamond rings would probably be interested in showing adverts to that person and would probably offer to pay lots of money to appear in that search. 

[00:16:49] So that person would see adverts from advertisers selling diamond rings, and if that person clicks on one of the adverts, then the advertiser would have to pay Google.

[00:17:04] In fact, the cost that advertisers pay for each click can be very large. 

[00:17:09] The most expensive search term last year was "best mesothelioma lawyer" for which the average amount paid for each click was $935, $935 just for a click. 

[00:17:27] I guess you probably don't know what mesothelioma is. 

[00:17:31] I didn't either, and I'm sure I'm pronouncing it in a terrible way.

[00:17:34] It's a kind of disease caused by exposure to asbestos

[00:17:39] So the advertisers who are bidding on this particular search are law firms who are hoping that each click is going to bring them more than a thousand dollars in new business on average. 

[00:17:53] Mad, right?

[00:17:56] And so if you are wondering how Google manages to make quite so much money, well that's how. 

[00:18:02] There are a load of things that we haven't covered in here that I know are pretty interesting, such as how Google uses our data, the implications of this and all of the other stuff that Google does.

[00:18:17] So I hope you'll excuse me for not covering that. 

[00:18:21] I just want to share with you a few more strange facts about Google that I guess you probably didn't know. 

[00:18:29] Firstly, about 20% of queries of searches that are asked every day have never been asked before. 

[00:18:38] So Google is constantly having to figure out answers to new questions.

[00:18:43] Secondly, every search has to travel on average 1,500 miles to a data centre and back to return the answer to the person who searched for it. 

[00:18:57] So that question you've just asked, it has traveled 3000 miles, it's done a round trip of 3000 miles and returned to you in under a second. 

[00:19:07] And finally, a single Google search uses a thousand computers in 0.2 seconds to find an answer.

[00:19:18] Okay, I hope that this has been an interesting introduction to how Google works. 

[00:19:25] It's a fascinating company and we have only just scratched the surface today. 

[00:19:32] As always, if you have questions, feedback, thoughts, or more, I'd love to hear from you. 

[00:19:38] You can get in touch on Facebook, Instagram, or of course by email.

[00:19:42] That's hi hi@leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:19:47] And as I said at the start of the podcast, if you are interested in becoming a member of Leonardo English, getting access to all of the transcripts, key vocabulary, bonus episodes, and supporting the podcast, then you can find out more at leonardoenglish.com/subscribe. 

[00:20:04] We've also just launched weekly and annual membership options, so go and check that out if you haven't done so already. 

[00:20:12] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:20:17] I'm Alastair Budge and I'll catch you in the next episode.