Finding What You Need

August 2010

The World Wide Web is big.  Really, super big.  In May of 2009, the Domain Counts & Internet Statistics site reported that there were over 109.5 million websites in operation.  That’s a lot of websites.

So how do customers find yours?  Over the past months, we’ve looked at using the World Wide Web from a business point of view – using the web to find customers.  Now we’re going to explain the web from a customer point of view.  One of the biggest tools customers have at their disposal to find information on the web is Search Engines.

A web Search Engine is a computer application that is a search tool, which finds and returns information such as web pages, files, images and other types of data, from sites on the World Wide Web.  Search engines are programmed to do this with two steps. First, Search Engines ‘crawl’ through the many websites on the web and analyze their content.  Next, the Search Engines ‘index’ each page, so that they can be located more quickly during a search.  Then when web users or customers perform searches, the engines look through the information on their indices (the pages they’ve indexed previously) for the terms or key words that were entered by the customers.  Then the Search Engine lists the web pages that match the requested search terms.  Note that this indexing process can take 3-9 months to get established.  So sometimes it can take ‘a while’ for customers to find newer websites.

There are many Search Engines; the largest and most popular being Google, Bing, and Yahoo! Search.  There are also specialized Search Engines, like Google News, which is specifically for news searches; Bloglines, which searches blogs; and WebMD, which is specifically for medical information.   Consumers tend to favor certain engines, but that shouldn’t affect their searches, since all engines index in a similar fashion.

Now that you know how Search Engines work, realize that your business can take advantage of them organically (Search Engine Optimization/SEO) or through advertising (Search Engine Marketing/SEM).

We already explained back in March, how you can optimize your website’s design for Search Engines.  Next we’ll look at Search Advertising to help you highlight your site with advertising that’s relevant to your target customers.

In my mind, designing a Search Engine requires a combination of patience, fastidiousness, and organization, much like producing the first Oxford English Dictionary.  If you’d like to find out how this was done, look up The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of Oxford English Dictionary by Esther Lombardi.  It’s a great story!

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