Search – Google Isn’t the Only Engine in the Race

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.

Example:
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!

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6 thoughts on “Search – Google Isn’t the Only Engine in the Race

  1. Excellent post Alan. Tons of useful info. People tend to discount other search engines. My analytics reports regularly show me organic searches from Yahoo, Bing and sometimes Baidu. I love Google’s Search Engine Optimizer Starter Guide and will often refer to it. I also like your section on Preparing a Smart Seo Plan. It would actually be nice to see an entire post on that topic.

    • Thanks Gazalla, glad you liked it. Yes, a lot of people rightly focus on the main couple of search engines, but like picking only from the biggest trees in the orchard they miss a lot of other fruit. There could be significant fruit or better fruit coming from another tree.

      Thanks for the idea on another separate posting. I’ll see what I can do.

      Alan

  2. To be fair, you do Google and then worry about the rest. I ran web author courses from 2001 to 2008 and one question I always asked the group was “Which search engine do you use”. In the early days I’d get several suggestions but by 2005 the entire class said “Google”.

    I find this slightly sad as I remember pre-Google days on the web but I suppose this is progress. Presumably Bing will get traction thanks to Microsofts power, but I dount anything will beat the leader.

    Note: I am refering to search used by the general public. Techie types and those with specialist needs will use other search engines, if only to be different.

    • Hi Phil, thanks for commenting. I went into this assuming readers were using Google and Bing and Yahoo. That’s a given provided their leadership positions. But that’s also why I wrote the article. A lot of people simply aren’t aware of the other search engines and, thus, don’t give them a thought when planning. Your course sample proves another point, which is, sadly, that most people will just go with Google because that’s the leader. However, Bing is making inroads. A year or two ago, Google was at 75 percent instead of 66 percent and Yahoo was at around 20 percent. Bing, which was MSN at the time, barely registered. I wouldn’t discount it just yet.

      More important to our readers, the core of them web editors, is that they learn about their readers and where they are coming to their sites from, and see how other search engines might fuel more traffic. Many people don’t use keyword lists because Google says not to, but Yahoo uses keyword lists and other search engines are powered by Yahoo (and Bing). I consulted for an association that built their site search from Yahoo search, and the use of keyword lists helped with that whereas it would have been a failure without it. In the same way, it helps with other search engines using Yahoo as a data set.

      Yes, use Google and Bing as your initial set ups, which is why I provided links to their Webcentral sections. But don’t ignore the search engines providing you traffic and which may provide you more traffic later.

      Alan

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