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Dissecting Search Engine Result Pages

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Reader question: I have never paid for a listing in any search engine and want to know why my site appears in both LookSmart and Mamma. I have also never submitted to AOL and MSN but notice it is also included? My question is how come?

Answer: The answer to this reader question is two-fold. First is the issue of the type of search engine. Most search engine results pages (SERPs) present information from a variety of search engine resources, usually a human-based search engine, a crawler-based search engine, and a pay-per-click search engine.

The next issue is how crawler-based search engines, such as Google, work. If a site is naturally search-engine friendly, then a crawler-based search engine will find your Web pages naturally.

Multiple results from a single search engine

As I stated previously, the results from a search engine results page come from a variety of resources. You can read details about the anatomy of a search engine results page (SERP) from one of my previous articles entitled Understanding Search Engine Results Pages.

The reader specifically mentions LookSmart, AOL Search, MSN Search, and Mamma.com. I will go over the SERP for each of these.

First, let’s look at LookSmart. I performed a search for “classified travel specials” (without the quotes) because that is the service that the reader offers on his Web site. At the top of the page is the label that states:

Results for “classified travel specials” from our Sponsors

That listings underneath these search results are advertisements. Any time you see the word “sponsor” or “sponsorships,” think advertising. Someone had to pay for that listing. Currently, sponsored results come from LookSmart customers who are willing to pay for the advertising space. Currently, only four listings at a time appear in this area.

The next section of the LookSmart SERP has a label that states:

Results for “classified travel specials” from the Directory

The Web pages listed underneath this heading are results that come from the LookSmart directory. In order to get in the directory, a Web site owner must select a category, write a title and a description (not the same as the HTML title tag and meta-tag description), pay the submission fee, and wait for a LookSmart editor to evaluate the site and add it to the directory.

The next section of the LookSmart SERP has a label that states:

Results for “classified travel specials” from the Web

The Web pages listed underneath this heading are results that come from the crawler-based search engine, WiseNut. The reader’s site is not appearing in the ads or the directory results. The site is appearing because the crawler-based search engine, WiseNut, was able to find the site due to other sites linking to his site.

So think:

Sponsors = ads
Directory = human editors
Web (pages) = crawler

If we look at the current MSN Search, we know that:

Sponsor = Overture
Directory = LookSmart
Web (pages) = Inktomi

Since the reader’s site does not use a paid advertisement (Overture) or a directory listing (LookSmart), we know that the listing comes from the crawler-based search engine, Inktomi.

If we look at the current AOL Search, we know that:

Sponsor = Google AdWords
Directory = Open Directory
Web (pages) = Google

Since the reader’s site does not use a paid advertisement (AdWords) or a directory listing (Open Directory), we know that the listing comes from the crawler-based search engine, Google.

Meta search engines

Mamma.com is an example of a meta search engine. With a meta search, after you type a specific keyword phrase in a search box, and the search query is transmitted simultaneously to several individual sources (search engines) and their databases of Web pages. According to Mamma.com, a meta search engine that queries other sources and then combines their results in the search engine results page (SERP).

For example, on Mamma.com if you type in the keyword phrase “classified travel deals,” the search is transmitted to Google, Lycos, MSN Search, Teoma, LookSmart, and others.

Therefore, the reason the reader’s site appears on Mamma.com is that Google, WiseNut, Teoma, Inktomi, and FAST Search were able to spider the site. The reader did not have to submit to Mamma.com to appear in the search results.

How crawler-based search engines work

Simply put, all crawler-based search engines index text and follow links. So if other sites link to your site, the crawlers should be able to find your site without you having to submit.

I performed multiple searches to see if other sites link to your site. Sure enough, Google found 12 links to your site. FAST Search found 132 links to your site. Inktomi found 57 links.

So that is why your site is appearing in SERPs without submission. The crawlers are able to find your site.

Related articles

Submissions vs. Automated Submissions
Submitting All Pages vs. The Main Page”>

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Shari Thurow is Marketing Director at Grantastic Designs, Inc., a full-service search engine marketing, web and graphic design firm. This article is excerpted from her book, Search Engine Visibility (http://www.searchenginesbook.com) published in January 2003 by New Riders Publishing Co. Shari can be reached at shari@grantasticdesigns.com.

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