SEO The Secret Life of Search Engines

Practical SEO for Every Blogger

Search Engines, Directories, Topical Search Engines

Ask what a search engine is and you’ll probably hear “It’s the way you find things on the Internet.” That’s true enough, but I like to know a little more than that.

Most people know there are lots of search engines and lots of directories. It’s common knowledge that search engines index information and directories list sites and locations. Everyone seems to know the big three search engines: Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Fewer folks have heard of the Open Directory Project aka the DMOZ or, another large directory.

Some Basic Definitions

  • Search engines are computer programs that use “spiders” (crawlers, bots) to crawl from link to link across the web indexing information. Each search engine sets up its own criteria for what and how much gets indexed from each location.
  • Directories are run by human beings who collect the information, review, and index it. In place of criteria for spiders, they write guidelines for those who wish to submit their blog or website to be listed in the directory.
  • Topical Search Engines are also called Vertical Search Engines or Internal Search Engines. These are really search engines, directories, or databases of listings about one topic or specific discipline compiled by humans who know something about that topic or discipline.

The Secret Life of Search Engines–Hybrids
Hybrids Search Engines are partnerships, alliances made between searchers with different competencies. A tradtionial search engine might form an alliance with a human-powered directory to refine its index further to be sure what looks relevant truly is.

Don’t like Google and the results it gives you? Going to AOL instead? How about Ask Jeeves? Guess what? Yep, you’ll probably find Google working for you still. Most search engines and directories have partnership agreements working behind the scenes.

This chart from, about halfway down the page, is dated 2004, but still gives you an idea of how many alliances there are and how they connect. You’ll find a similar layout, from 2002, at . Again I point out the problem with SEO information changing faster than it’s being updated.

So now we not only have each body’s algorithm, but the layered tests of more than one core group reviewing the information. Talk about six degrees of separation. Has everyone worked with everyone–except Kevin Bacon?

How does that saying go? You can’t tell the players without a program? To think I didn’t know that some of these searchers were even dating.

ME “Liz” Strauss


  1. says

    Yeah, these alliances are getting closer every year.

    I always have success with my websites over the years by getting into only 3 places: Google, Yahoo, and DMOZ.

    Those three are the main ones and lots of other smller search engines/directories feed off them.

    Google is a breeze to get into, a little harder with Yahoo (not much though) and DMOZ is the one that takes patience.

  2. says

    Hi Martin,
    How are you?
    Yeah. I’ve not cracked DMOZ yet with my personal blog. But I got into which was no picnic, let me tell you.
    Have some champagne for the new design–or would you rather something else?

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