Search Engine SiteSEO, Web Page Copy Writing

What is a Search Engine?


Search Engines

A wise person once said that the dumbest questions are the ones that are never asked. Most people probably think they know what a search engine is, considering how often the word is tossed about these days. At the same time, however, this sense of over-confidence has resulted in thousands of excellent websites getting passed over every single day! Many, otherwise excellent, web designers fail to grasp some basic facts about how search engines work; that is, how search engines both “see” web pages and allow them to be seen by others.

Let us, then, start from the beginning. The Internet is basically information; lots of information. More is being added to it everyday, much like a library that always gets bigger, and adds new books every single day. What is most unusual about the interenet, however, is that no one is really in charge. There is no central “librarian” who can always make sure the new information is carefully sorted and added to single catalogue that anyone can search through.

This is where the search engines come in. Search engines are basically “free-agent” librarians who each create their own catalogues and have their own methods of keeping track of the new information that is added to the Internet each day. While each search engine has its own way of “looking” for information, each of them only has access to a certain slice of everything available. There is no single search engine that knows about all of the information that exists on the Internet at any given time.

Some search engines, like Google (a play on the word “googol” meaning an extraordinarily large number, or specifically, the figure 1 followed by 100 zeros) aspire to obtain access to absolutely as much of that information as it can. These search engines allow sites to “submit” to the engine (there's usually not much point in having a website if no one can find you!) and, in addition, find websites on their own by “crawling” through the web using a computer program called a Spider. (More on that later.) Search engines like this can have anywhere from 1.5 - 4 billion pages in their “index.”

Other search engines operate more like “directories.” They make no claims to know everything there is out there. Instead, they place their value in making only the “good” sites availalble to searchers, and often organize the web pages into thousands of categories that can usually be sorted through rather comfortably. Websites that appear in these directories sometimes pay to appear in the results. Depending on the company, websites may pay more to appear higher in the results (much like the Yellow Pages) or even on a “pay-per-click” (PPC) basis. In other words, the websites pay the directory a set amount for every instance in which someone visits their site, after finding it in the listings.

Why should a web designer be interested in all of this? Well, no matter what sort of information, product or service you are offering, you want people to be able to find you right? Simply being “listed” in a search engine is not nearly enough. Imagine you are a potential customer who wants to find a “web designer.” Well, “web designer” entered into Google returns over 5 million results! Well that may be great from a buyer's perspective: plenty of competition to choose from! But the reality is that a very small percentage of searchers look past the first ten results and most people find what they are looking for, or try a different set of words, after looking at the first 5!

Now place yourselves in the shoes of someone trying to offer information, a product or service on the Internet. If you are already there, that is probably why you are here! If you want to make sure people can find your website, you need to learn enough about the workings of a search engine to get your site listed as highly in the results as possible. This is what is all about: providing you all the knowledge, and leading you to all the tools you need to get your site ranked higher in the search engines in the shortest possible time.

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