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Search Engines--Who Feeds Results to Whom?

Google, Yahoo!, Inktomi, LookSmart, DMOZ, Overture - Learn about the shifting relationships between these search engines, how they feed results to each other, and how you can use those connections to increase the visibility of your Web sites.

The search engine scene can be quite confusing at times. Which search engines feed results to which others? What kind of results? What are all these relationships?

First, understand that the relationships change from time to time, and we are expecting more of them, since Yahoo has acquired Overture and Looksmart. The partner relationships tend to shift around over time.

Fortunately for all of us, Bruce Clay keeps track of all these things, and publishes them in a great color chart of search engine relationships. It's in color, and looks nice if you print it. It also shows all of the relationships that people in my business need to consider.

You can pick up his chart at:


It's a good idea to print the chart, and refer to it as you read the rest of this article.

Yahoo does not occupy a very important position on Bruce's chart--it gets its Web search results from Google and it's paid search from Overture. However, Yahoo also has its own pay for presence directory, which still figures importantly in delivering paying customers to Web businesses. You need to pay them the $300 a year that they're charging now just to be in their directory.

You'll see that there are several different kinds of results passed back and forth. The Open Directory Project, called DMOZ, supplies the basic directory to a number of search engines. That's why, if you're my client, I've told you that it's important for you to be listed in DMOZ. Once you're in DMOZ you tend to stay there forever--I've had only one client who was listed in DMOZ lose that listing. However, sometimes it can take a long time to get that DMOZ listing. A couple of my clients (you know who you are!) got very frustrated that I would request the listing again and again and not get in, while we depended on a volunteer editor to give us a listing! But persistence does pay off, and it's important to have that DMOZ listing, as you can see on the chart.

You can also see on the chart that two search engines, Overture and Google, provide their top paid listings (generally the top three to five, depending on various factors) to other search engines. Overture started that business, but lately Google has begun to eclipse them, and you'll see that Google is now providing paid results to far more search engines than Overture.

Looksmart was an important search engine in the early days, but has been fading lately with their ineffective campaigns. They have switched to pay per click, and they have not delivered good results. They now have few partnerships. In my opinion, there's no need to pay any money to Looksmart any more.

Inktomi maintains a pay for presence approach, and you can see that they have some important relationships. A reasonable presence in Inktomi is still a good idea, and I recommend it.

The final comment that I'd make is the growing dominance of Google in the search business. Lately they've been changing their ranking algorithm, and some companies that counted on Google's free search referrals have been hurt. Of course, I keep up with what's going on with Google, as much as possible, but it's also important that you not make Google free search referrals your only source of leads. Go after links from other sites, use some paid presence and use some pay per click.

The Bottom Line: Diversify your Web marketing, to protect yourself somewhat from the growing dominance of Google and the continuous shifting of these relationships.


Dave Roberts provides expert Web marketing services to help you meet your business goals. Visit his Web site at: DaveDoesItAll.com

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