How does Google store content in different storage types?

How does Google store content in different storage types?

For the first time ever, Google has publicly discussed how it indexes content on different types of storages. This information was shared by Google’s Gary Illyes on his podcast, Search Off the Record.

Here is the information that Google shared regarding different storage solutions they have.

Three types of storage solutions

According to Gary Illyes, Google has three different types of storage for indexing content. It chooses the type of storage based on how likely the content is to be searched for. 

The three types of storage that Google uses for indexing content are:

  • HDD or Hard Disk Drive
  • SSD or Solid State Drive
  • RAM or Random Access Memory


HDDs, SSDs, and RAM

Here is a brief summary of each of these three storage solutions:

As you may already know that HDD or Hard Disk Drive is the slowest of the bunch. It is also the least costly. An SSD is slightly more expensive but also up to many times faster than an HDD. Random Access Memory or RAM is the fastest of the lot and, therefore, the most expensive storage solution.

How does Google decide which storage solution to use?

Although Google has three different storage solutions, a document or web page can only be stored in one storage — and not all of them. So how does Google decide which storage solution to use for indexing and storing a particular web page?

The choice of storage solution depends on how frequently a document is likely to be triggered.

“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,” says Gary Illyes.

Content type and storage solutions

The type of content may also play a key role in determining which storage solution it is directed to.

Gary also shared examples of how Google decides in which type of storage solution a web page or document should reside. He said:

“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.”

The ‘floppy disks’ is obviously a joke here, as it is no longer a practical or applicable storage solution.

The takeaway

Although this information does not directly affect most SEO professionals and webmasters, it nevertheless gives important insights into how Google focuses on user experience.

Maintaining super expensive storage solutions like RAM or an SSD isn’t cost-effective. But Google bears the cost to make sure searchers get what they want as quickly as possible. This proves how important user experience is. It also shows the direction in which the search engine is evolving.

The importance of user experience and faster response time

This information should make you rethink how fast and responsive your website is. Moreover, how good of a user experience does it provide overall.

Although website speed plays a crucial role in the overall user experience, it goes beyond that. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How is your website navigation?
  • How is your content structured?
  • Can a first-time website visitor easily find any piece of content with three or fewer clicks?
  • Does your website have intrusive interstitials and ads?


Lastly, this information shared by Gary Illyes also shares an interesting fact. It is that “the bulk of the index” resides on HDDs — which means most of us are almost always competing on level-playing fields.

The rest of the SEO practices you follow — high-quality content, high engagement,  better user experience, etc. — play a far crucial role in determining which website goes on top of the SERPs.

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Luke Harniman

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