The Engines and Directories That Count

There are hundreds of legitimate search indexes in cyberspace, but does it pay to submit to all? You get better results and more targeted traffic when you know and use those that count. Most people know there’s a difference between search engines and directories, but they may not be aware of the differences in the registration process.

Directories vs. Engines

Yahoo is a directory, AltaVista an engine. When it comes to submitting, registering, and positioning your web site, directories and engines are two completely different animals.

A directory will require more specific information during the registration process. Instead of reading the content of your pages like a search engine does, directories require that you enter specific information about your site and that you select an appropriate category. A human editor will then review your site based on your submission request and other factors to decide whether to include you in the directory, and, if so, where.

You will have to select a category from the choices offered and follow specific instructions regarding the number of words in your title and description. Since these directories can have over 100,000 categories to choose from categories, moreover, that are changing constantly I highly recommend submitting to directories manually. Remember, though, that submitting to a directory does not guarantee you will be registered; only when you verify that you are listed in the directory do you know that you are actually registered.

Generally, you cannot position your web site in a directory unless you pay a fee to move you up the ladder. In other words, the HTML on your home page or sub-pages have little or no influence on your ranking in directories. However, Yahoo has two separate results databases: Yahoo Directory, which is the Yahoo by category database, and Yahoo Web Sites, powered by Inktomi, which is used as a secondary group of results. Inktomi ranks pages like an engine, evaluating the pages’ HTML.

Submitting to an engine is usually a much simpler process. Typically, you will have to submit your URL and email address, and that’s it! However, engines tend to read your pages and rank accordingly, hence the need to be search engine friendly.

Engines will sometimes ask for keywords, but most of the time they have spiders that will visit (crawl) your web site after you are registered in their database. The spider reads the HTML in your home page and may dig deeper into your sub-pages. Some spiders read meta-tags (hidden code only visible to the spider), some do not. Spiders are designed differently by the various search engine engineers. Therefore, all engines have somewhat different criteria for ranking pages.

So where do we want to submit? Shown below are my picks for directory databases and engines, along with a list of the leading engines and directories.

Top Four Directory Databases

  1. Open Directory
    Netscape draws its results from Open Directory first, then uses Google.
    AOL searchs Open Directory listings first, then uses Inktomi.

  2. Snap
    I like Snap because it’s on TV.

  3. Yahoo Directory
    I like Yahoo because it’s rated number one.

  4. LookSmart
    MSN searches LookSmart first, then uses AltaVista.

Normally, you will hand-submit to these directories one time for an entire web site, one domain name registration. It is extremely important that you submit to them correctly the first time and choose the most appropriate category. Be aware that it’s often difficult to get a directory to change your listing later.

Key Engines

  1. HotBot
    Submitting to HotBot gets you listed in all engines powered by Inktomi.

  2. Google
    Submitting to Google gets you listed in Netscape.

  3. Excite
    Submitting to Excite gets you listed in Magellan.

  4. AltaVista
    Submitting to AltaVista gets you listed in MSN.

  5. Other Popular Engines

By submitting to the 12 directories and engines listed above, you will have seeded several dozen databases because many other engines use Inktomi and other primary databases for their results.

Confused yet? You should be. There is absolutely no standardization, which leaves the landscape difficult to understand and navigate.

Therefore, it is my recommendation you hand-register to the list below rather than trying to squeeze everything into a Top Ten or blitzing 150+ miscellaneous, limited-traffic engines and directories. (N.B. The search engine and directory rankings in this article are based on current popularity, thus subject to change without notice. Stay tuned to this column for the latest search engine optimization information.)

List of Engines and Directories That Count

2. AOLNetfind
3. Alta Vista
4. Infoseek
5. SearchMSN
6. Lycos
7. Excite
8. Magellan
9. Webcrawler
10. HotBot
11. Google
12. Snap
13. WhatsNu
14. Northern Light
15. Netscape
16. Looksmart
17. Yahoo (Inktomi)
18. Open Directory

Here are a few more tips to keep in mind as you move through the registration process.

Information on Industry-Specific Engines: The Search Engine Guide is an excellent resource. Appropriate listings with industry-specific engines can be beneficial to your overall campaign.

Dynamically Served Web Pages: The use of active server pages (.asp) or cold fusion (.cf) is problematic with all engines, and when using dynamically served web pages it is very important to provide an alternate plan to capture search engine traffic. This is a separate issue to be discussed in the near future.

And a final note: Not all the directories and engines allow more than one document from the same domain name to be submitted each day. Not all the engines produce fast registration results. It can’t be guaranteed that these engines are operational at the time of submission, hence the need for monthly monitoring, evaluation, and possible re-submission. Maintenance is crucial.

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