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Search Engines vs. Search Indexes

Search engines and indexes are tools that help people find web pages. The user enters a search term, and the engine or index does its best to provide a list of pages that are as relevant to the search term as possible. If an average user wants to find something on the web, they'll usually turn to pages like these. If you want people to find your page, you should get listed with these search pages as soon as possible.

What's The Difference?

The major difference between an index and a search engine is that an index is compiled by humans, while the listings on search engine pages are created by programs (referred to as spiders, because their job is to crawl around the web). Each type of page has its pros and cons. Indexes are built by humans, who work relatively slowly. As a result, indexes don't grow quickly. Search engines compile lists of websites by using computer programs to retrieve and classify web pages. Since they are automated, they can work constantly, but the quality of their work sometimes comes up short.

Search Engines

Some of the most popular search engines include Altavista, Excite, and Google. Each of these pages will allow you to add your page to their (rapidly growing and already huge) list of pages. To do this, go to their search page and look for a link that says "Add URL" or "Submit URL". If you follow this link, you will be presented with a form where you may enter your page's name, URL and your email address. If you submit this data, your page will be evaluated by the search engine.

Many web designers are disappointed to find that their pages don't show up in the search engine after submission. What they don't realize is that search engines are constantly "crawling the web" to find the best pages. When you submit your page for consideration, it goes on the list of pages to be crawled. Your page will be crawled eventually, but you must be patient, as some engines crawl every few days, while others may take months between crawls.

Search Indexes

The best-known index page on the web is Yahoo. Another index which is growing quickly is DMoz. Since these pages are compiled by humans, who must individually evaluate each page as it is submitted, the time required to get a page listed is usually greater than for a search engine. Yahoo only lists what thay consider to be the best pages in each of their many categories. Many people start building a page, half-finish it, submit it to Yahoo, and wonder why it never gets listed. Smart web designers road-test their pages for a while, ensuring that they work perfectly, contain great content, and look their best before submitting to Yahoo.

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