Characteristics of Search
Understanding how a search engine works helps you to understand how your pages are ranked in the
search engine, but how your pages are found is another story entirely. That’s where the human ele-
ment comes in. Search means different things to different people. For example, one of my colleagues
searches the Internet using the same words and phrases he would use to tell someone about a topic or
even the exact question that he’s trying to get answered. It’s called natural language. Another, however,
was trained in search using Boolean search techniques. She uses a very different syntax when she’s creat-
ing a search term. Each of them returns different search results, even when each is using the same
The characteristics of search refer to how users search the Internet. This can be everything from the
heuristics they use when creating a search term to the selection the user makes (and the way those
selections are made) once the search results are returned. One interesting fact is that more than half
of American adults search the Internet every time they go online. And in fact, more people search
the Internet than use the yellow pages when they’re looking for phone numbers or the locations of
This wealth of search engine users is fertile ground for SEO targeting. And the better you under-
stand how and why users use search engines, and exactly how search engines work, the easier it
will be to achieve the SEO you’re pursuing.
Classifications of Search Engines
With a decent understanding of how search engines work and how people use those search engines,
you can now concentrate on some more detailed information about these engines. For example, you
know that all search engines aren’t created equal, right? But did you know that there are different
types, or classifications, of search engines? There are.
Search engines can be broken down into three different types (in the broadest of terms): primary,
secondary, and targeted.
Primary search engines
A primary search engine is the type you think of most often when search engines come to mind. Some
index most or all sites on the Web. For example, Yahoo! Google, and MSN are primary (also called
major) search engines.
Primary search engines will generate the majority of the traffic to your web site, and as such will be
the primary focus of your SEO efforts. Each primary search engine differs slightly from the others.
Search Engine Basics
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