Search Engines from a Webmaster Perspective
by Mel Strocen

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 ( - 46
3. AltaVista ( - 62
4. About ( - 86
5. Open Directory ( - 156
6. AlltheWeb ( - 213
7. ExactSeek ( - 1,994
8. ScrubTheWeb ( - 2,457
9. What U Seek ( - 2,819
10. SearchHippo ( - 2,896

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

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