Introducing Search Engines & Especially Google

The history of search engines and search engine marketing. You will have seen those convincing sales pitches which go something like this let us submit your website to 3,000 search engines every month for only $25.

Well there are really only half a dozen or so search engines so you can save your money.

A true search engine spiders the web it is some special kind of program that is able to find and follow URL links, hence the name spider. At the time of writing Google has spidered in excess of 8 billion web pages and is still going strong.

This process of spidering continues day in and day out. Not only do the spiders search for new URL info but are always on the look out for updated URLs or web pages.

These are the true search engines During the 2000’s

  • Google
  • Yahoo (actually the engine is Inktomi)
  • Ask Jeeves (the engine is called Teoma)
  • MSN (Microsoft recently brought online its own search engine it used to use Yahoo results)
  • Bing
  • Alta Vista (owned by Yahoo)
  • All The Web (also owned by Yahoo)

In essence all other so called search engines feed off these major ones and at any time the relationship between them can be seen in a diagrammatic form on Bruce Clays website here

Closer to home here in South Africa the major search engine is Ananzi. In fact it is not a search engine it is a searchable directory. Ananzi does not spider the web.

Early in 2005 Google set up its own South African search engine in direct competition with Ananzi. It is called Aardvark, owned by Telkom and is fed results from Google. So Aardvark returns the same results you would get by typing the same search query into

Those people specifically interested in South African websites can use the part of Google for direct search. Unfortunately the anaemic state of the South African web and paucity of good South African websites make it a rather poor search engine as judged by the results returned.

A South African website will only be available to be shown on SERPs if that website generally has either the suffix or is hosted in South Africa.

In general far better result will be achieved by using and adding South Africa to the search term e.g. solar heater South Africa.

To see the effect in action take a look at the 2 images following the first shows poor & limited results when searching for solar heater compared to far better and many more results for the same search term solar heater but with the appended words South Africa used on

Poor Quality SERPS

Searching for solar heater on returns 5,910 SERPs with poor quality results.

Good Quality SERPS

Searching for solar heater South Africa on returns 2,200,000 SERPs with quality results.

The search engines are truly dynamic and to keep up with improvements, changes, ranking variations and algorithms is an impossible task. Despite this the SEO industry does its best to interpret these changes and in turn modify SEO techniques to get those elusive top SERPs. A page 1 SERP today does not guarantee a page 1 SERP tomorrow for any situation.


Google is the best, (In our opinion) in the eyes of most SEO practitioners, all round search engine although this debate is always a hot one. There is no doubt that Yahoo and Teoma are becoming more and more relevant and competitive in terms of search results.

In August 2004 the 2 founders of Google became billionaires.

Sergey Brin and Larrie Page in less than 6 years had taken a 1995 to 1998 Stanford University project and converted this into a company worth $2.7 at the time of listing in August 2004. Today this value exceeds $5 billion.

The success of Google has been the result of word of mouth marketing (not brand advertising) based upon superior relevance of search engine results (SERPs). Google remains the dominant search engine by far and is responsible for around 50% of all search engine queries performed daily.

The search engine relevancy algorithms used by Google have enabled the company to transform advertising from the typical ad agency dominance using traditionally expensive TV, radio and print media campaigns to an owner managed in-house low cost relevant ad campaigns that can be switched on and off at will and which gives almost real-time ROI information.

This is what Google does and apparently in a split second too

A user types in a query normally between 2 and 4 words.

Google returns a list of relevance ranked (according to Googles measure of relevancy of course) URLs normally 10 to the page that are designed to give good information in answer to the search query. Good matching relevant content does not always appear to be the case but this is what Google strives hard to return.

It should be noted (although Im being a bit pedantic here) that Google has not searched the web it searched its own massive database. This is why it was able to return the results so quickly. This database is being continuously updated of course by the spidering activities taking place behind the scenes.

Perhaps of more importance to us is what the user or searcher does once presented with these SERPs

  • Most users click on the first few results
  • Few users go below the fold (i.e. whatever is visible without scrolling down)
  • Fewer still go to page 2, page 3 and so on

The practical implication is staggering to be seen by many users for important search terms relevant to your website (actually web page within a website) you have to show up on page 1 and preferably in spots 1 to 5. This is difficult since the rules and requirements are not published in fact they are closely guarded secrets.

Google does a publish a list of what NOT TO DO in its terms of conditions and aspiring SEOers and webmasters are encouraged to read these relevant Google pages.

Below is a direct extract from this site read it carefully

Quality Guidelines – Basic principles:

Make pages for users, not for search engines. Don’t deceive your users, or present different content to search engines than you display to users. Have a look at our keys to success in SEO and our SEO checklist here.

Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.

Don’t use unauthorized computer programs to submit pages, check rankings, etc. Such programs consume computing resources and violate our terms of service. Google does not recommend the use of products such as WebPosition Gold that send automatic or programmatic queries to Google.

Quality Guidelines – Specific recommendations:

Avoid hidden text or hidden links.

Don’t employ cloaking or sneaky redirects.

Don’t send automated queries to Google.

Don’t load pages with irrelevant words.

Don’t create multiple pages, sub domains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.

Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.

These quality guidelines cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behavior, but Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here, (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known websites). It’s not safe to assume that just because a specific deceptive technique isn’t included on this page, Google approves of it. Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles listed above will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.

The other major search engines publish similar warnings.


Yahoo is an Internet pioneer. At one stage in the not too distant past it was almost impossible for any website to be found if it was not in the Yahoo directory (cost $299 to get into the directory). This worked fantastically well for Yahoo for years and then Google came along.

Since then Yahoo has been playing a catch-up game. It took some time for Yahoo to realize the future was not in directories but in spidering the web to discover relevant content.

For a period Yahoo results in fact were supplied by Google.

In 2004 (maybe 2003) Yahoo bought the Inktomi search engine and started its own true search engine business. In addition to Inktomi it bought Overture the PPC property as well as Alta Vista search engine and AllTheWeb search engine.

Yahoo is now second to Google and in front of Microsoft (MSN). Yahoo produces high quality relevant SERPs albeit that more often than not they are distinctly different to those for the same search term returned by Google.

Take a look at this image below where the comparison between a search for solar heater on Google and Yahoo is shown graphically. Each dot represents a website returned by either of the 2 engines. The blue lines show the relative positions of the same URL (by hovering over dot you can see the URL) in this case the number 1 page 1 SERP for both Google and Yahoo was the same but for the rest the correlation was slight.

Google Vs Yahoo

To see this graph in practice

A brief study of information like that above will show you that it has got to the stage where it is almost impossible to get the same high rankings on both Google and Yahoo for the same search phrase. It should also convince anybody it is impossible to offer a guarantee to get a high ranking SERP position for a common search query.


MSN launched its own search engine in February 2005. It was a latecomer to the search space but does seem to have made a strategic decision to become a serious player and it has one major advantage . Most inexperienced web users only know of Microsoft and the MSN search page is the default search once the computer is started up.

The SERPs returned are different from the other major search engines and at this stage do seem nevertheless to be of acceptable relevance in most cases.

MSN has taken up a page layout that Google has shown to be highly successful as you will see below.

Choice of domain name may well be more important to MSN than other search engines. This factor considered later is probably a good way to approach domain name selection anyway for all search engines and search visitors.

MSN Search Results

Take note of the PPC (sponsored sites) on the right hand side also 3 sponsored results at the top of the page.

It appears in these early days that MSN pays close attention to the number of links pointing to a web page in deciding upon ranking positions. MSN also seems to value regularly updated pages. This may become a strategic advantage of MSN since the way Yahoo and Google address this matter is far from clear.

This makes sense to me since most websites can become stale very quickly.

A fresh website does not just mean the addition of new content it can just as well include removed pages, modified pages and so on its about website freshness.

Google recently submitted a patent application and part of this patent emphasizes the importance of time as a possible ranking component.


Many people believe from a technical, user friendly and relevancy viewpoint Teoma is the best search engine. Unfortunately in terms of users it is low down on the list number 4. About 5% of searches in total rely upon Teoma search engine.

The number of pages spidered and indexed by Teoma is significantly lower than for the other major engines about 2 billion compared to between 4 and 8 billion for the others.

Teoma drives the Ask Jeeves search property so searching Teoma and Ask Jeeves return the same results although in a different look and feel when the same search phrase is used. Ask Jeeves is well known for its ability to answer questions such as Who Is President of South Africa? Teoma does not give the specific answer like Ask Jeeves does.

Ask Teoma Search Engine

Jeeves gives correct answer to a direct question.

Ask Jeeves Teoma Search Engines

Search results using Ask Jeeves note right hand side which is a major help to user in terms of suggesting new searches and keep searchers on the Ask Jeeves page.

The image below show the layout of Teoma but the results are the same more often than not.

Teoma Search Engine

Teoma search results are the same as those from Ask Jeeves in most cases.

I would encourage you to try using the different search engines to see the differences and make your own mind up as to which returns the most relevant results because in time this is going to make a big difference as to which search engines dominate the space in the longer term.

Choice of domain name may well be important just as for MSN.

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