Google’s Gary Illyes uncovers the search index uses a layered system where the most popular content is indexed on quicker, more costly storage.
This point is discussed in the most recent episode of Google’s Search Off the Record podcast which manages language complexities in search index selection.
In clarifying how Google fabricates its search index, Illyes says content is indexed on three sorts of storage:
Google saves the quickest storage for documents that are probably going to be served in search results consistently.
“And then, when we build our index, and we use all those signals that we have. Let’s pick one, say, page rank, then we try to estimate how much we would serve those documents that we indexed.
So will it be like every second? Will we have a query that triggers those docs? Or will it be once a week or will it be once a year?
And based on that, we might use different kinds of storages to build the index.”
Illyes proceeds to give instances of what might be stored on RAM, what might be stored on SSDs, and what might be stored on HDDs.
Content that is accessed consistently will wind up being stored on RAM or SSDs. This represents a limited quantity of Google’s whole index.
The greater part of Google’s index is stored on hard drives because, in Illyes’ words, hard drives are cheap, available, and easy to replace.
“So for example, for documents that we know that might be surfaced every second, for example, they will end up on something super fast. And the super fast would be the RAM. Like part of our serving index is on RAM.
Then we’ll have another tier, for example, for solid state drives because they are fast and not as expensive as RAM. But still not– the bulk of the index wouldn’t be on that.
The bulk of the index would be on something that’s cheap, accessible, easily replaceable, and doesn’t break the bank. And that would be hard drives or floppy disks.”
Obviously Illyes is joking about floppy disks that are the sort of dry humor you get from him on the podcast.
To my knowledge this is the first time Google has let the public in on information about its search index storage tiers. It’s interesting to realize the most looked for content is stored on RAM and SSDs.
The expense of storing even a percentage of Google’s index on RAM and SSDs should be excessive. Though it’s possible the expense of quicker storage is justified by how significant the documents inside are to people.
The demand for the content should be high to such an extent that Google would not like to risk a delay in getting it out to searchers.
As it identifies with SEO there’s no way to optimize for one sort of storage over the other. And there is no way to tell which of the storage levels your site is indexed on.
My guess is a distinctly small percentage of site pages are indexed on RAM or SSDs. Taking it back to SEO, this is something to be thankful for as it means most of websites are competing on a level battleground when it comes to index storage speed.
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