Looking for information isn't a new idea, obviously. People have been using books and libraries for centuries to locate the exact piece of information they want. The nice thing about a library is that all the books are sorted into sections already, so, if you want information on The English Civil War, you can wander straight over to the History section and see if there are any suitable books there. If you draw a blank or you're not sure which section you should be looking in, there are nice, human, librarians who will help you in your quest.
Now many people think that the Internet is similar to a huge library. In some ways, it is. There is certainly plenty of information "out there" on all sorts of subjects - from breeding exotic birds to stock market reports. However, in this electronic library, not only are the books piled all over the place in no order whatsoever but most of the information isn't even in a book. It's on random sheets of paper. And there are millions of these bits of paper everywhere!
So, how, amongst all this apparent chaos, do you ensure that your potential customers find your website? You use search engines!
What Is A Search Engine?
Basically, a search engine is a piece of software that resides on a remote computer. It is designed to search through millions of websites in a matter of seconds. All you need to do is to tap in a few keywords, or a phrase, relating to the information that you want, and the search engine will return a list of web pages that match your criteria.
Google is an example of a well-known search engine.
What A Search Engine Is Not
A search engine is not the same as a Web Directory. A Web Directory is similar to an electronic phone book in that it is sub-divided into categories and it can only search through the entries within its "book".
The most well known example of a Web Directory is Yahoo!
Which Is The Best Search Engine?
A difficult question to answer precisely. That is because using a specific search engine is partly a matter of taste and partly dependant on what the searcher is looking for. Certainly the engines listed above are considered to rank amongst the "top" search engines and, for that reason, are the most commonly used. Also many of the larger search engines have country-specific sections which allow searchers to restrict the results to a given country (the UK, for example) - which is useful for locating a shop or service geographically close at hand.
Search Engine Submission
In order for a search engine to include a particular website in any of its lists, it has to "know" that this particular web site exists and what exactly the site contains in the way of information. It achieves this by visiting a website, cataloguing every page it can find and then storing the information until it's required. It is this stored information that the search engine uses when it is asked to conduct a search.
Suppose you ask a search engine to search for "Ford Sierra". First, it checks through it's own catalogue looking for any web page that it has associated with the words "Ford Sierra". Then it displays a list of its findings - showing the address of every web page it has found. The position of any given web page in this final list depends on how much of that web page (and the rest of the site) is devoted to Ford Sierras. The more relevant the page appears to be, the closer it is placed to the top of the result list.
If you create a web site and do not submit it to any search engines, it is still possible that your site will be found, and catalogued, by the various engines - eventually. But, given the sheer number of websites now available, it could take months or, more likely, years and may still be catalogued incorrectly.
Search engine submission is a method of:
Ensuring that each of the major search engines is made aware of a new website's existence and location. This will result in the website being catalogued within weeks rather than months.
Ensuring that the correct information is available to the search engines to reduce the possibility of incorrect cataloguing and raise the website's position in any future, relevant, search result lists.
If you want a website to promote your business effectively, then it is essential that it is designed with search engine technology in mind and is submitted to the major search engines correctly. However, be aware that, even with good overall design and correct search engine submission, it may still take up to three months before the search engines begin to list your website.
Web Directory Submission
Web Directory submission is similar to search engine submission with the exception that it is often a human editor who will review the submitted website. He (or she) has the task of deciding whether a given website has been submitted correctly and, if it has, entering information (provided in the submission form) into the directory catalogue. If a website has been submitted incorrectly or is badly designed, it will simply not be entered into the catalogue.
For this reason, a web directory submission is a far more detailed and complex procedure than a search engine submission but, again, to ensure maximum visibility for your website, it is advisable to submit the site to at least one web directory. Also, because of the human editorial method used, it may take many months after the initial submission before you are finally notified that your website has been included in the relevant directory.