Nearly everyone knows that Google is the top search engine in the world, but it isn’t the only engine in the race.
Why is this important to you as a web editor? If you are planning SEO (search engine optimization), you need to be aware of where your readers will be looking for you. If they use a search engine, very likely they will find you on Google. But there are dozens of others, and readers are fickle – sometimes people use different search engines for different reasons. It pays to plan around readers finding you on other search engines, too.
Identifying Other Search Engines
The Search Engine List* is a great resource for both identifying and understanding the top search engines. You should take into consideration that while Google currently accounts for approximately 66 percent (in round numbers) of search traffic, Bing and Yahoo account for about 16 and 13 percent respectively. The traffic falls off sharply from there. You should also take heed of a recent rumor that Yahoo may soon drop out of the search race altogether.
So readers may Google but they may also use Bing or they may use Alta Vista. They may have a family computer at home and for family security reasons search on a family-friendly engine like go.com. They may be more tech-savvy and like hotbot.com. Or, they may use AOL and prefer to use the AOL search feature, powered by Google. (Note: Some “off brands” like Alta Vista and Go.com are powered by Yahoo.com, and Yahoo.com is powered by Bing.) The thing is to watch your analytics for referral traffic and note where your readers are finding you and make sure you aren’t setting up roadblocks.
Preparing a Smart SEO Plan
How do you set up an SEO plan that prepares you for all these search engines (and, technically, for some, directories)? They all have rules to follow, and you can’t follow them all simultaneously. However, you can try to maximize your page across the search engines most important to you by identifying common rules that allow you to fit the engines of most interest to you.
There are word and character limits to elements like the page titles and meta descriptions. I consolidated from the various guidelines so that when I prepare a site for SEO, I plan for six to 10 words in the page title (but as many as 12 if absolutely necessary) and no more than 150 characters, including spaces and punctuation, in the meta description. Those will fit almost any search engine, and certainly Google and Bing, my main targets.
Consult a search engine’s Webmaster Tools section for information on how to optimize for that specific search engine.
Start with Google and Bing Webmaster Tools
Consult Google’s Webmaster Tools for their rules. They also offer a Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide that is extremely helpful. They have a very helpful Webmaster FAQ, too. And for a quick-scan overview, you can check the Webmaster Guidelines. Here is a page on writing quality page titles and meta descriptions, key to effective SEO.
Consult Bing’s Webmaster Tools for their rules, and here’s a helpful site map of Bing Webmaster Tools. Bing offers Guidelines for Successful Indexing here. Bing also maintains a helpful blog, forums, and technical support. Note: Yahoo uses Bing Webmaster Tools.
*Search Engine List is a great list, but it isn’t 100 percent current. For instance, it lists cuil.com, which is no longer available. I recommend it because it is mostly current.
Next Up – A Diversion and then Pandas and Penguins
After a slight diversion to address graduates, my next SEO topic will be about Pandas and Penguins and Google’s attempt to rein in spammers. Join me for both!