Market Research Library > Links > SEO and Search Engine Optimization

Search Engines from a Webmaster Perspective

by Mel Strocen (c) 2003

By now, virtually every webmaster has heard or read that the
major search engines are responsible for 80% or more of the
traffic received by most web sites and that most searchers
never look beyond the first 20 - 50 search results. Not
surprisingly, an entire industry devoted to search engine
ranking and search engine optimization (SEO) has sprung up
to capitalize on these well known facts.

Tens of thousands of web sites compete to achieve top ranking
for their chosen keywords and keyword phrases. We've published
numerous articles by various SEO experts on linking strategies,
optimizing meta tags and page content, and relevant page
content. And, undoubtedly, we'll publish many more. Achieving
a top ranking for a particular keyword or phrase is a major
accomplishment, but the sad fact is that most web sites will
never come close to reaching a top 10, a top 30, or even a top
100, listing in any major search engine.

Is it possible to be listed in the top 10 - 30 search results
of a major search engine? Yes, possible, just not very likely
for the average web site. It's a lot like playing the lottery
and with the same appeal. Get your site in the top 10 search
results and the payoffs are big - you just need to knock out a
few million competitors.


The difficulty in achieving a top ranking for a free site
listing has in recent years given rise to the pay-per-click
search engine phenomena. Overture's singular success with this
model has resulted in hundreds of search engines jumping on the
pay-per-click bandwagon. Pay-per-click is a great idea and taps
right into the frustrated webmaster/site owner market. Many site
owners simply do not want to be bothered with checking keyword
density, tweaking their page content, fiddling with their meta
tags and undertaking linking campaigns.

With pay-per-click, you get the site ranking you can afford. A
simple, understandable concept. If money isn't a problem, the
PPC system is hard to beat.

Most experts would probably recommend combining search engine
optimization with PPC for maximizing traffic. And, there you
have it - the two dominant methods for driving targeted visitors
to your web site. Dominant, but probably irrelevant to the vast
majority of site owners and webmasters who don't have the time
to learn the ever-changing art of SEO or the budget for PPC's
and SEO firms.

What should be relevant is how to get traffic to your site
without breaking the bank or having to earn a degree in SEO
techniques. Where it comes from should be secondary. Don't
limit your traffic building efforts to just a few of the
majors like Google, Yahoo, Inktomi and Overture. The top 8 or
10 search engines may be popular but that doesn't mean that
your site will reap the benefits.

Here are several reasons why:

1. Sometimes the numbers work against you. Another billion pages
added to Google or AlltheWeb are NOT going to help the average
site owner - they are just going to bury the needle - your
website - deeper in the haystack. And search traffic is only
important, if your website can be found.

2. The major search engines cater primarily to searchers
not webmasters. Why? Because more search traffic means more
revenue and there are far more searchers than webmasters.

3. Even PPC engines deliver more than top 50 search results.
That means unless you're a high bidder, your website may still
not be seen by many.

From a webmaster's perspective what you should be looking for
in a search engine is the right balance of search traffic and
understandable site listing/ranking options. Engines like
Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and Ask Jeeves have massive traffic,
but you need to evaluate your chances for having your web site
added and then ranked well. You also need to determine if a
search engine is more focused on revenue generation through
ads, paid inclusion and Sponsored listings than they are in
catering to your concerns about where your web site appears.

More specifically, when evaluating any engine regardless of size
or traffic, you should consider the following factors:

1. Free Site Listings
A few years ago, you could submit your site to almost any
search engine, small or large, for free. But times have
changed. Today, even many second tier engines have PPC or
paid inclusion programs, and free submissions, where offered,
are often given little attention. This ties right into the
second feature you should be looking for in a search engine.

2. Indexing Speed
The usual pitch is that free listings can take a month or more
to be added (with some SE's, never is more likely), but a paid
listing will be added within 48 hours to a week. Does this
make sense? Most search engines don't manually review site
submissions so whether a submission is free or paid shouldn't
affect indexing speed. Slow indexing for free site submissions
is most often nothing more than a deliberate ploy to get your

3. Ranking Options
Look for a search engine that offers some clues on how to
improve your site ranking, short of emptying your wallet.
Few engines reveal all the factors they use in ranking sites
but knowing where the emphasis is (content, link popularity,
meta tags, etc.) can be enough to point you in the right
direction. There are also a handful of engines and directories
that offer innovative listing options that give your website a
much better chance of being seen.

4. Quality Searches
Important to site owners and searchers alike. When quality
sites are buried in a sea of second rate listings, no one

5. Traffic
If you want your website seen, the traffic a search engine
attracts is important, but don't be too quick to write off
smaller, up and coming engines. Not too long ago both Google
and Overture were considered long shots in the search engine
wars. Also, keep in mind that top ranking in an engine that
receives a few million searches per month may be more important
to you than no ranking in an engine that receives millions
of searches per day.

6. Paid Listing Options
Look for paid listing options that offer more than fast
inclusion in a database. With PPC, you get what you pay
for, but with paid inclusion, you should receive more than
you would with a free listing.

If you're not familiar with any search engines other than
the big players, check out
( where you can find a list
of the 50 top search engines that still offer free site
listings. Engines are ranked by their Alexa rating which
indicates their user popularity. Here's a list of the top
10 from FWS with current Alexa rankings:

1. Google - 5

2. Lycos - 44

3. AltaVista - 64

4. About - 86

5. Open Directory - 157

6. AlltheWeb - 215

7. ExactSeek - 1,999

8. ScrubTheWeb - 2,483

9. What U Seek - 2,868

10. SearchHippo - 2,905

Some other engines and directories worth considering in your
promotion efforts are Gimpsy (,
SitesOnDisplay ( and
National Directory (

About the Author:
Mel Strocen is CEO of the Jayde Online Network of websites.
The Jayde network currently consists of 12 websites, including ( and

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