Help for Church Webmasters

I get asked about search engines quite frequently. Many of the questions show that there are A LOT of misconceptions about search engines.  Here are a few thoughts on the subject. This certainly does not completely cover this topic, but hopefully it will hit the highlights.

 

Misconception 1: Search Engines search the entire web
Yahoo! is one of the most well-known online directories in the world. Right alongside this powerhouse portal can be found sites like HotBot, Lycos and Infoseek. And, while these sites do offer a wide array of valuable Web sites, they are still proprietary directories. What is the difference between a proprietary directory and a search engine? Well, users query the search functions of the proprietary directory and access their results. This is not a search of the entire web.

Even the largest of online directories or search indexes contain listings and information pertaining to a mere fraction of the Internet's contents. Inktomi and AltaVista reportedly have found and indexed over 1.5 billion online documents, while their respective portals only allow you to search a high-end estimated 500 million of those documents. Point here? You are searching information within respective databases. You are not able to search the entire Web.

 

Misconception 2: The Search Engine Giant is Yahoo!
If you think that Yahoo! is a search engine, please read misconception 1 again. If you think that Yahoo! is the biggest. Think again. Yahoo! is well known, well marketed and well publicized. While Yahoo! would love for you to think that they are the biggest and best thing since sliced bread, you should be aware that Yahoo! is now largely a paid directory. The results you get from Yahoo! are, in most cases, Web sites who have paid their way to be listed. Again, you are not searching the entire Web, and many sites cannot afford to be listed in Yahoo! at all. Yahoo! is not the biggest -- but often it is the most used by a particular audience.

 

Please note that it is possible for well crafted non-profit sites to still be listed in Yahoo without paying. Also you should know that paying does not guarantee a spot in Yahoo!’s directory. Payment only guarantees they will consider adding your site within a specified time limit.

 

Misconception 3: A Search Engine is a search engine
Many of the most popular searching indexes and portals are similar, but they are not alike. Each engine will come through and spider, crawl or index a website based upon its own requirements.

Granted, directories such as GoTo.com and DMOZ.org do in fact supply listings to other search engines. But it is important to note that no two searches will be alike on any two engines. A number 1 rating on GoTo could be an 18th ranking on Excite. You simply never know.  

 

 

Misconception 4: No. 1 Today, No. 1 Forever!
Where in the list are you? No. 1? Great. Now wait until next month and try again. Chances are, you are no longer up at top, right? Rankings change periodically. If you find yourself at the top now, enjoy the fame. With thousands and thousands of documents being created and submitted daily, chances are the time of your stay on top will be short lived.

 

Misconception 5: Guarantees
Anyone who guarantees they can place you at the top of the search engine is either ignorant or lying to you. Search engines change, their algorithms change, and their business structures change. Yes, someone may have developed a great technique that acquires decent ranking results -- but times change and so do the technologies that power search engines. So do not be surprised when things end up some way other than expected. It happens.

 

Misconception 6: Search Engines See Everything
Search engines send out agents to review a Web site's documents for information. But they cannot look through an entire document's contents.

With the awesome amount of information available, search engines needed to establish limitations on the amount of content they can review. That is why information that is relevant to a page should be prioritized in the top of the page. If your homepage has 18K of CSS (stylesheets) and JavaScript going on before any relevant content is listed, you are shooting yourself in the foot.  Some of the best search engine agents will only review about 40K of data per page, including images and ALL coding. So prioritize your information, and know that not all content on the page will or can be seen and indexed.  

 

To summarize:

 

 

Watch for more on how to make your pages do well in the search engines in up coming issues.

 

By the way, my favorite search engine is Google.com. I seem to consistently get the best results from Google.

 

 

Three Quick Tips

Pressing Ctrl and N at the same time while your browser (either Netscape or IE) is active will launch a new browser window. This is very useful if you want to check something on another site without losing you current place. And it is much more convenient than hitting the back button a bunch of times.

 

Pressing the Windows Key (the one with the windows logo on it, usually between the Ctrl and Alt keys) and E at the same time will start a new Windows Explorer.  This is the greatest thing since sliced bread! No more hunting for where that Explorer Window went to, just fire up a new one!

 

Entering “AV” in your browser (where you usually type www.sitename.com), will take you directly to AltaVista. It’s a cool little time saver.

 

 

 

See ya next time,

 

Bill

 

 

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It would be way cool if you could mention this resource somewhere on your webpage! You can link to Help for Church Webmasters at http://www.downeychurch.com/HelpForChurchWebmasters.html