Continuing my documentation of the Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW) course, we move on to considering search engines. This may all seem to be very basic stuff, but search engines can be critical to growing traffic to your website or blog.
What are Search Engines?
A search engine is, at it’s most basic, a large database. This database contains information on hundreds of thousands of web pages. The level of information stored in this database depends very much on the search engine. The biggest and most popular search engines include: Google, Yahoo, AOL and MSN amongst others. These big search engines store data on the entire web page, including all of it’s content. Smaller search engines may only store the page title and the META description and keyword tags.
How do Search Engines Evolve?
Search Engines are constantly changing, constantly competing to be bigger and better and offer more accurate results than their rivals. The most often changing aspect of a search engine is in the algorithms it uses to return results and rank relevancy for a given search term.
Understanding Search Results
Each search engine will display results in it’s own style, but there are similarities between most of the big guns of search.
The following is a sample from a Google search for ‘ciw training’: NOTE: None of the links in this sample work, the following is just an image of a screen shot.
The first point to note is the prevalence of the words ‘ciw training’ in the title of the pages returned. Google places great emphasis on the page title, so a page with the keywords in the title is likely to be positioned higher than a page with these keywords in the body text only.
Below the title is a short descriptive text. This may be the meta description tag text, or it may be an extract from the body text. Below this description is the target URL. The site or page the result will direct you to if it is clicked. Next iis the size of the page in kilobytes. The next link is ‘cached’ which will display the page as stored by Google at it’s last pass of the site. This can be useful as it will give an indication of how recently Google indexed it and, therefore, how regularly maintained the page is. The more often a page is updated, in general, the more frequently Google will index it.
Submitting your site to a Search Engine
In order for your site to be indexed, the search engines must know it exists. If you have created a new site you need to tell the search engines of it’s presence. This can be done in one or both of two ways. Create a link from an existing indexed web site to the new site, or submit the site details to the search engine. Some search engines favour one method above the other. Google for example, allegedly, prefers to find sites via links. More and more this is becoming the only way for small non commercial sites, as many search engines now charge for submissions with no guarantee of inclusion.
The above image has been “borrowed” from Able Virtues and is back linked in recognition of that fact.
The Open Directory Project
There is another way of getting indexed but it takes time. Submitting your site to DMOZ.ORG is free and many search engines index this directory and will find new sites that have been included. DMOZ is the Open Directory Project which is an independent, volunteer-run directory project.
The Main Players
The biggest, and in my opinion the best, is Google. MSN (now Bing), run by Microsoft, is doing it’s best to catch up, but Yahoo is still, probably, number two. AOL and Wannadoo are amongst many smaller engines, but many of these rely on the big players for their search results.
Outline of Search Engines – Wikipedia Page
Search Engine Concepts – Able Virtues