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SEARCH ENGINES - an overview

By Tony Murtagh
Posted Saturday, September 18, 2004

I could devote a whole site to search engines and on how to get good search engine placement, but for the purpose of this article, I will give a brief outline of what they are and what they do, the benefits of achieving a high placement with them and a few general tips.

Basically, there are two types of search engines, the first, such as Alta Vista and Excite, will use an automated programme to search your site (A "Robot" who will "Spider" your site). All Search Engines use slightly differing criteria and methods (algorithms), so if you set your site up for one engine, it will not necessarily follow that another engine will give it the same listing - or any listing at all!

Some engines will read your "Meta" tags - see the guest article below for more information - - and some will ignore them and read the actual text on your home page. Some will spider through your whole site, listing a large number of your pages and others will only list your home page. Over the years Webmasters have attempted to trick the engines into giving them higher rankings by various methods, but they have become wise to most of the tricks and now either ignore them or de-list a site altogether!

The second type of Search Engines are directories, the most important of all being Yahoo. With them once a url is submitted for consideration, the site will be looked at (eventually) and may, or may not be listed. They do offer an express listing service for $199 where they will look at your site within a week or so, but they still give no guarantee of actually listing it!

Generally speaking, for the average web site, particularly one that is not part of a major off-line company (e.g. Ford, General Motors, IBM) the majority of the traffic is going to come from a good search engine position - I have seen statistics showing it to be as high as 85%. It is not enough though, just to get listed - if you were in every search engine and directory in the world you would get no traffic unless people searching for you found your site in the top 20 or 30 in their search results.

The majority of surfers only look at the first ten or a dozen results and ones past number 30 are rarely visited.

So to obtain a good search engine position, you can do one of three things:-

Pay a good Search Engine Placement company to place your site - the good companies give you a guarantee as to the number of top ten places they will obtain for your chosen search words,

Study the Search Engine Placement articles in the archives on my site or on many of the excellent sites dealing with the subject and try and do the job yourself. My favourite site for articles and info on this is:


Get listed in a "pay to search" engine.

The choice between the first two options is that of between time and money. A good search engine placement is vital to really make your business grow and if you have the budget, spend some of it with a good placement company and spend your time on marketing your business.

If however, you are just starting the business and have very little capital, take the second route and at least spend some time on optimising your meta tags, keywords, keyword placement etc. If you are in a non-competitive area you may be able to achieve reasonable placings in some search engines yourself.

The majority of traffic will come from the top engines and while it does no harm to get your site listed on the hundreds of engines and directories that some auto-submission programmes will do for you, often free of charge, you will never get much traffic from them. The major sites to concentrate on are :


Alta Vista







Northern Light





Web Crawler

If you are going to attempt Search Engine Placement yourself, I can recommend that you download Web Position Gold Trial - this is a FREE thirty day, limited trial version of the programme that is widely accepted as the best web positioning programme available. Even if you do not go on to sign up for the full product, you will learn a great deal from this trial version to help you in the future. (

If you then wish to take your own Search Engine Placement one step further, check out the JER Group, Inc. who have been producing online courses since 1994 and whose latest course is specifically on Search Engine Placement using Web Position Gold. (

The final course of action is to try Pay Per Click Search Engine placement through the likes of, and The idea with these is that you bid on a certain keyword or phrase and dependant on where your bid is in terms of other bids for the same phrase, determines where in the search result your site comes. If you have the highest bid, your site comes out number one and so on. You only pay for the number of hits your site actually receives from someone searching for it.

Whilst Go To is by far the largest, it may prove less expensive to try one of the others. On Go To you are able to check out how often a particular phrase or word was searched for in the previous month and how much it costs to bid on it to achieve the required position in the search results. There may well be a large gap in the bidding between number one position and, say number three, and as both sites would be seen on the same page by the person doing the searching, it may well be more economical to set your bid to come third or fourth, without losing much impact.

Another trick on these pay per click search engines, is to bid for several keywords that are not searched upon very often, rather than the leading keyword. If, for example the most searched for keyword relevant to you cost $2, ten visitors to your site would cost you $20. If however you bid on ten keywords for only 10c each, your $20 dollars would bring you 200 hits! Whilst the top keyword applicable to you may receive 1,000 hits per month, you get the same hit rate by bidding for 10 keywords that each receive 100 hits per month. It takes a little longer, but is far more cost effective.

The last time I updated my bidding at GoTo, I found several phrases that had been searched on 30/40 times in the previous month, but had received no bids. I was therefore able to ensure coming out top for those key words for just $0.01 per click, so I am getting 100 hits per dollar!

By - Tony Murtagh

About the Author
Tony Murtagh has spent all his career involved in sales, sales management, marketing and PR. He was a UK National Sales Manger (Major Accounts) for a mobile communications company, had his own publishing company producing a monthly Business to Business magazine and has acted as a PR consultant for a number of small businesses. He is now sharing his wide experience of sales, marketing and promotion in his new web site: - ( and in a weekly e-ezine Aardvark Marketing, which you can subscribe to from the site, or


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