LIGO works by measuring the distance between two tracks set at right angles. A passing gravitational wave would momentarily change the length of one leg or the other, or both, in characteristic ways.
It measures the distance with a laser beam. It splits the beam, and sends them down the two tracks. They bounce off mirrors, and when they return, they interfere. Changes in the length will change the interference. That means that they can detect changes at distances on the order of a single wavelength of light.
That's an interferometer, the I in LIGO. At its core, it's the same thing that Michaelson and Morley used to look for aether, and failed to find it. The trick is that this has to be even more sensitive, because the expected changes are even smaller and the contraption itself is much bigger (4 km, versus a few meters). They have to exclude all kinds of potential interference, from passing trucks to earthquakes.
I suppose it may well go "ping" when it spots a gravitational wave, and they'll end up comparing it to other experiments. But they'll get more than a ping; they'll get a signal of the changing lengths that they can use to map the size of the wave, and even a hint of its direction.