There is a messy war being waged in the Internet Search Tool arena. This is a war with many fighting parties and there are different philosophies at work. Each faction has their own ideas of the "right" way that things should work. There can be considerable conflict of interest here. At this point in the Evolution of the Internet, if you measure success by how well a faction's needs are being met, Search Tools are winning the war, followed by web site owners (with a wide spread), with the general surfing populace a distant third.
- Web site owners/managers want to drive traffic to their
web sites and some will pay a lot of money and/or use unethical
practices to gain high ranking in the popular search engines.
Others will provide rich, high-quality content and trust that the
search engines will represent them adequately without a lot of fuss.
Web site managers attempting to promote their web site can benefit from submitting to all of the search engines that offer free submission. The only cost is the time of submission.
The decision of whether or not to submit to any of the fee-based submissions is a harder one. The value of submitting to these is directly related to how popular these specific search tools are with the target audience of the web surfing public. This is analogous to deciding whether or not to place a paid advertisement in a third-party telephone directory. If that directory is not used frequently by the target audience, the money is wasted. Pay-per-click schemes attempt to balance this a little. In these, the fee you pay is proportional to the volume of visitors that is produced from that search tool. There are usually fixed costs that accompany the pay-per-click registrations.
- Search Tool providers have different agendas based upon
different business models. They can make money in a variety of
ways. As with many things, "Follow the money." Do
the finances provide incentives to serve your interests?
Here are some of the ways they can earn money.
- Provide a very popular web site and sell advertising space (banner ads) to third-party advertisers. (Revenue comes from third-party advertisers.)
- Generate an original searchable database of Internet content and charge to let other web site owners provide this search tool to their visitors. (Revenue comes from partner web site owners.)
- Generate an original searchable database of Internet content and charge to let other web site owners submit to the database. Sometimes this is a closed database and only paid submissions appear. In other cases free submissions are welcome but paid submissions will enter the database faster than unpaid ones (days instead of months). (Revenue comes from listed web site owners.)
- Providing an original search interface to a database of Internet content (either internally generated or using a a third-party database such as the Open Directory Project) and charging web site owners for a better ranking in search results. Usually this takes the form of buying or bidding on keywords. Bidding usually means that all keywords are always for sale and the more you pay, the better your rank will be. Buying usually means that a limited number of web sites will be associated with the keywords in a premium listing service. (Revenue comes from listed web site owners.)
- Providing an original search interface to a database of Internet content (internally generated or using a a third-party database such as the Open Directory Project) and charging in a Pay-Per-Click manner. Pay-Per-Click means that the site appearing in the search result will pay for each visitor (Click) who navigates to the web site using that search interface. (Revenue comes from listed web site owners.)
- For the conspiracy theorists: A company that sells a wide range of products might maintain a seemingly general Internet search tool that has an internally edited database designed to subtly direct traffic to that company's own product line or third party products serving its own self interest. Any large company that owns more than just that search engine is in a position to do this.
- Web Surfers want to have a search tool that provides quality, relevant results from a wide variety of sources. Many Web site promoters try to get their sites to appear in the search results even when the site is not a good match for the search. Search Tool owners would like to provide high quality results so that their Tool is popular with their visitors, but they also need to keep the money flowing and need to keep their financial interests alive. If, for example, the search database is composed only of web sites that paid $100 to be listed, then the results will be biased toward those web sites that enthusiastically promoted themselves.