Search engines are databases of web pages which have been indexed (listed) by automatic tools which crawl the web looking for new pages to index. These tools are called spiders, crawlers or robots. In theory, any web page will be found, providing it has at least one link to it from other page. But the process may be speeded up by submitting your site to be indexed, or by having a good sitemap on your site. If you change your web pages, crawler-based search engines eventually find these changes, and that can affect how you are listed. Page titles, page text, inbound links, social media engagement and great content all play a role in ranking.
Google has come to dominate the Search Engine market since its inception. In December 2013 Google had approximately 67% of all desktop Internet searches (not mobile), followed by Microsoft’s Bing with 18.1% and growing. Yahoo, powered by Bing had 11.2%. Ask was at 2.6% (dropping)
Directories are lists of sites which have been reviewed and catalogued into a hierarchical structure by human editors. The only way to have a site reviewed for inclusion in a directory is to submit the site to them. Quality sites with good content are more likely to get listed than poor sites. Things that are useful for improving a listing with a search engine have nothing to do with improving a listing in a directory.
Paid Inclusion Programmes
In hte past, some engines & directories (eg Yahoo) had programmes that guaranteed to add your pages to their listings more quickly. Google declared this bad and everyone pretty much dropped paid inclusion schemes.
In 2011/2012 Google re-introduced a form of paid inclusion with its Hotel Finder and Flight Search schemes. And Google is moving towards fully paid inclusion in its Shopping search engine (previously called Froogle). The next move may be to introduce pay for inclusion for many News publishers as well.
Pay for Inclusion is different to Paid Placement (Pay Per Click) programmes.
Paid Placement Programmes (Pay Per Click)
Some engines charge according to how you want your site to rank for a particular search phrase. You bid for a search term and position and then pay everytime a user ‘clicks through’ to your site – sometimes called a “pay-per-click” (PPC) or a “cost-per-click” (CPC) programme. The more you are prepared to pay (bid), the higher position you will have in the ads.
These programmes may be worthwhile if your site is not ranking in the organic search engine results as you would like. This form of search engine advertising means that you can be guaranteed to appear in the top results for the terms you are interested in within a day or less. Given this, paid listings are an option that should be explored by site owners who wish to quickly build visibility. They may also be a long-term advertising option for some. They will work best if you manage them closely on a regular basis. The cost per click can be high and it can require a lot of time to manage a campaign well.
The search engine and directory situation changes almost daily. The information here is up to date as of March 2014. Following is information and links to some of the major search engines and directories.
Major Search Engines
The most important search engine is Google, with around 67% of the search market. Has a highly successful paid advertising option (AdWords). Offers many other free services to users such as Gmail. Google+ is their social media platform. See also About Google.
- Microsoft Bing
The second most important of the “mainstream engines”. Previously was called Microsoft “Live Search” until 2009. Has paid listings in results as well as organic results. 16% of the market in December 2013. See also About Bing.
Used to be a major player but has lost ground over the last few years. Now uses results from other places (eg Bing). 11.2% of the market in December 2013.
Previously called Ask Jeeves, uses crawler-based technology to provide results to its users. Has sponsored listings on the site also. Only has 2.6% of the search market.
Not strictly a “mainstream” engine, but YouTube is the actually the second most used search site and therefore very important for marketing your business. Upload your business videos here.
The main Chinese search engine (about 75% of Chinese searches) but combines paid inclusion listings with organic (unpaid) results.
The main competitor to Google in the Russian market and with good market share. Has its’ own browser and mobile app to compete with Google.