Search Engines: The Basics


Anyone who has used the Internet has also likely used a search engine. Search engines are the way to find information on the web. All the websites that are available on the Internet are cataloged. Whenever someone wants information on a particular topic, they type in what they are looking for; the search engine looks through the relevant sites and displays a listing of potential matches. You can then click on these results and browse to the sites listed.

Search Engine Terms and Definitions

Before discussing the ins and outs of search engines there are some common terms you should become familiar with:

  • Density – The percentage a keyword occurs within a particular site. Divide the number of occurrences of the keyword by the total word count for the density

  • Hit – When a file or graphic is accessed. If you click on a website and get to the home page you will cause a hit to that file

  • Inbound Link – A link to your site that exists on another site. People click on the link from someone else’s site to reach your site, increasing your traffic. This is also a factor in determining search engine placement

  • Index – A listing of web sites ordered based on a particular formula or the act of compiling the websites into a list. “I am looking at the index,” “The software will index the site tomorrow”

  • Keyword/Key Phrase – A word or phrase that makes up a search. For example if someone is looking for car parts the key phrase may be “car parts” or “car parts in Seattle”

  • Meta Tag – A part of the coding of a website that gives information but is not visible to browsers. The most popular are keywords that list the relevant keywords for the site and description that summarizes the page content

  • PPC – Pay Per Click, a means of paying for advertising to move your site listing to the top of the search list. Payment for the advertising is based on clicks. Each time someone clicks on the link you are billed. The amount of the payment is based on the popularity of the keyword

  • Relevancy – How well your site matches the particular information the user is looking for

  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization, a means of improving the website’s position within the ranking to increase traffic. This is done by following the current best practices based on search engine matrices. Many businesses hire SEO experts and consultants to change their site accordingly

  • Spider – The part of search engine that scours the web to find links and keywords in order to index the sites appropriately

  • Stuffing – The practice of repeatedly using keywords to attempt to build search engine ranking. This can actually work against a site if it is deemed the keywords are not appropriately used

What Search Engines are Popular?

You cannot discuss search engines without mentioning the clear leader in the industry, Google. Google is the search engine that dictates how much of the information on the web is delivered in order to increase hits to a site. Their matrices are used as the industry standard when optimizing a site for search results.

However, Google is not the only search engine that is available and if optimizing a site the others should not be ignored. Yahoo has consistently held the number two spot, Bing is steadily growing and increasing in popularity and there are a few others worth mentioning.

As you can clearly see outlined below, Google remains the clear leader. The top 10 search engines in late 2009 according to Nielsen MegaView Search are:

  • Google – 64.6%

  • Yahoo – 16%

  • Bing – 10.7%

  • AOL – 3.1%

  • Ask.com – 1.7%

  • My Web – 1.2%

  • Comcast – 0.5%

  • Yellow Pages – 0.4%

  • NexTag – 0.3%

  • Local.com – 0.2%

How are Search Engines Important to your Site?

Networking and direct advertising are viable and valuable means of letting the general public know you exist. However, for those people who do not know who you are a search engine will bring them to your site when they are looking for the information, product or service you provide.

If, for example, you own a used car lot in Dallas if someone enters “used cars in Dallas” in the search engine your site will come up as relevant if you have a high ranking. You can garner additional exposure to your site even if the potential customer does not know your site directly. The higher your site appears in a search engine ranking, the more likely you are of getting new people to come to your site. The more people come to your site the more potential you have of converting them to sales.

Making the Most of Search Engines

In order to take advantage of all a search engine can do for your website you need to ensure you optimize your site. You should ensure there are relevant keywords throughout your site, that you have continual new content and that you have incoming links to your site. The key is to be clear as to what your site is about and to show that it is popular. You can do this through working on the SEO of your site or you can pay for PPC advertising. If this is done well, you will reach a high ranking and get more traffic to your site.

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