Search Engines: An Introduction

Search Engine Buster: Search Engines - An Introduction.

What are search engines, what are the main types of search engine and why you should bother about your search engine rankings?

What is a Search Engine and What are the Main Types of Search Engines?

The term 'search engine' is often used as an umbrella term for both true search engines and also directories. These are not the same however.

Search Engines

Search engines create their listings automatically, they crawl the web, gathering information about sites and pages and compile this in their databases. People, you and me, can then search through what they have found and hopefully find what we are looking for.


Directories, for instance Yahoo, depend on people for their listings. Generally you submit a brief description of your site to the directory to be reviewed and catalogued as deemed appropriate. A search looks for matches in the descriptions submitted.

Tactics employed to improve a listing with a search engine will have no impact on your listing in a directory. The only exception is that a 'good' site with 'good' content may stand a better chance of being reviewed than a 'poor' site. (Note, what is 'good' and what is 'poor' is defined by the directory's reviewers!)

Hybrid Search Engines

Some search engines have their own directory associated with them.

The Components of a Search Engine

There are generally three different aspects to search engines:
  • the spider or crawler – this visits web pages, reads them, and then follows the links that each of the read pages contains. In theory the spider returns to your site at regular intervals, i.e. every couple of months, to record any changes.
  • the index or catalogue – the results of the spider's meanderings find their way into the search engine's index which is effectively a catalogue of all the pages the spider has visited. The way spiders work means that if your page has not been visited by the spider you will not be listed in its index. Also, if your pages have changed since the last time the spider visited your site the index details will not yet reflect this change. You should also bear in mind that there is a time delay between being 'spidered' and being 'indexed' and in some cases this can be of the order of months!
  • the search engine software - is the final piece in the puzzle and is the part of the search engine that you and I deal with when searching. This program sifts through the details of the millions of pages stored in the index to find matches to the search you entered and then it ranks them according to what it believes is most relevant.

    Like different cars, different search engines all operate using the same basic principles but they each have subtle differences in how they look, work and what they are good at. This is why entering the same search in different search engines can produce wildly differing results!

  • Why Should I Bother About My Web Site's Ranking With the Major Search Engines?

    Search engines are crucially important if your business plans to build a customer base or tap into new markets by virtue of its web site. The reason for this is that search engines are the primary way that web users find web sites presenting the products and services they are looking for.

    Just having a web site is not enough – you need to make sure it is registered with the search engines and also that you have a high ranking if you want your site to experience a dramatic increase in traffic. While there are no guarantees when it comes to search engine rankings (well, apart from our special offer…) there are a number of subtle changes you can make to your web site that will often have profound effects on how you are ranked by the search engines... [read more]

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