Over the past few months, 90% of the search engine and Internet news has been revolving around Google, and with due reason. Google has become the major source of referrals for all web sites and the main target of every search engine optimization campaign. While this is true, it is never a good thing to have all of your eggs in one basket. Throughout this article we will discuss what other search engines and directories are important to target with an SEO campaign, how to target them effectively, and what ranking variables and criteria they look for.


There are still large amounts of people that say referrals from MSN are the top on their referrals chart. Nielsen/NetRatings reported that MSN is still in the top 3 for Internet traffic market share, along with Yahoo and Google. Targeting MSN is still very important for every search engine optimization campaign, as there is a large amount of traffic that can be driven to your site through the search portal.

Currently, MSN uses a mixture of results. It uses Overture at the top for its Sponsored Listings, Looksmart results for its directory and within the search results, and lastly Inktomi results for the remainder of the search results.

Having a web site rank well is MSN is not as easy as some other search engines or portals. MSN's algorithm and mixture of results makes keyword research and selection, as well as competitor and market research a very important part of the optimization process when targeting the search portal. In many cases, it is highly difficult to climb the search results pages as there are certain web sites that have been "grand fathered" into the search results, and usually don't tend to budge from their position. This usually occurs with the more general, competitive keyword searches. For other keyword searches that are competitive MSN will use Looksmart results, which are now PPC, and then use Inktomi. Inktomi results are used for the searches that are 2 to 4 words in length or that are not highly competitive. To maximize ROI and receive the best results possible it is necessary to perform extensive keyword research and selection for MSN.

Another huge source of referrals for web sites and a main target within search engine optimization campaigns is Yahoo!. The Yahoo portal remains to be within the top three owners of the Internet traffic market share, and while Yahoo! requires a $299 annual inclusion fee, a return on investment is not hard to yield if your site is optimized properly, adheres to the Yahoo! guidelines, and has set web site goals for profitability.

Obtaining a Yahoo! ranking is not going to be the hardest endeavor of your search engine optimization campaign, but it is also sometimes difficult to predict as your fate is in the hands of a particular Yahoo! editor. There are a number of different things to remember when submitting to Yahoo!, with most being expressed in it's Terms of Service. Yahoo! continues to use Google search results to power their "Web Pages" search option within the portal. Some of the variables used in Yahoo! ranking are:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Google PR and ranking (for Yahoo! "Web Pages" search)

The last portal that is on the list of major targets and major referral sources is AOL.com, the portal owned and operated by the world's largest ISP. AOL has been in the past almost identical to MSN in the way that they display results and in process that it takes to rank within their search results. Just as with MSN, AOL uses Overture for their "Sponsored Listings" at the top of the search results, which are PPC results. AOL then uses Inktomi as its main source for search results, with the Open Directory Project as its directory. While the ODP results were used for search results in the past, as of January 2002 this is no longer the case.

It wasn't until May 1, 2002, that AOL announced in the near future (this summer) they would cease use of Inktomi and Overture and instead use Google's search results and Google Adwords for their PPC listings. This is a huge step in the right direction for the search engine industry and the SEO industry, as Google remains to be one of the last standing non-PPI or PPC engines.

For the time being, obtaining a good ranking in AOL can be done by targeting Inktomi. Once AOL makes the switch from Inktomi and Overture results to all Google results, targeting Google effectively will become even more important than it is now.


One of the remaining search engines that still manage to drive traffic throughout the Internet is Inktomi. As of May 2002, Inktomi search results are currently featured on AOL, HotBot, MSN, Overture, and many others. To be included in the Inktomi index it is not mandatory to utilize their paid submission as many have had their pages indexed in the database without paying, but this is dying off and not something to rely on. Inktomi's paid spidering costs are $39.00 for the first URL, and $25.00 for each additional URL up to 1,000.

Inktomi's ranking algorithm is not highly complex, and one can gain ground by applying the SEO basics:

  • Titles
  • Descriptions
  • Meta Tags (one of the few search engines to still use them!)
  • On page text
  • Link popularity

Overall, Inktomi is a good way to drive quick, cheap traffic to your web site while waiting for Google to crawl and index your site. Inktomi offers a 48-hour spider refresh of your web site so you can reach your visitors quickly with fresh content.

If you would like to check your Inktomi ranking, you can search their database.

Fast claims to have the "freshest" index and backs this with the claim that it refreshes its database almost every 10 days. Fast powers the search results for AllTheWeb and Lycos's search results pages.

Fast/AllTheWeb still offers a free submission to their database, although they also offer a paid-spidering option. While their engine may be the freshest, it is by no means the largest or the most used. Referrals from Fast/AllTheWeb are not known to pour in as they would from other portals or search engines. This search engine is very widely used in Europe, and respectively is good for international SEO.

Ranking in Fast/AllTheWeb is based on numerous factors, but mostly SEO basics:

  • Link Popularity
  • Meta Tags (another one that uses them!)
  • Title Tags
  • Optimized HTML tags
  • Keyword density
  • An ODP listing

While AltaVista is not one of the main search engines to target, we need to make note of them as they have everything in place to potentially grab some of the market share back. AltaVista does not currently own a fair portion of the market share, to say the least, but their large index and their recent high rate of spidering lends one to have some hopes for the "sleeping giant" as it has been known to be called.

In the past months to a year, AltaVista had been for the most part ignoring the web sites that were submitted via their free submission option, which all but forced SEOs and webmasters to utilize their paid spidering program through InfoSpider. This paid spidering program is almost the same as Inktomi's, except AltaVista does not refer enough traffic for there to be a return on investment or for the payment to be justifiable. Recently it has been noticed that AltaVista has been spidering web sites a lot heavier and have been including web sites submitted through their free submission in 2 weeks to one month's time. Let's hope there is something good in the works here!

AltaVista's ranking algorithm is, like others, for the majority just SEO basics, comprised of:

  • Title Tags
  • Keyword density and placement
  • Link popularity
  • Link text
  • Description

The fairly new search engines on the scene are Teoma and WiseNut, who have all the right things in place to become contenders in the search engine race. Teoma, who is owned by AskJeeves, has a steady ranking algorithm and an increasing database. Although many hoped they would remain to be a non-monetary search engine, Teoma required a paid submission similar to Inktomi's right out of the gate.

WiseNut, who is owned by Looksmart, is another search engine that shows promise. WiseNut is one of the remaining search engines to offer free submission, although with Looksmart's recent greediness it is anyone's guess how long it will be until they change this format to a PPI. Let's keep our fingers crossed for these two to make it!


While many have become frustrated with the notoriously long inclusion times that the Open Directory Project has been known for, obtaining a good listing within the ODP can be beneficial to your web site and search engine optimization on a number of fronts. While the ODP does not command an extremely high level of traffic to its directory when compared to Google or MSN, the directory does maintain a decent share of the market.

Aside from the direct traffic that comes directly from the ODP and your listing within the directory, the ODP listing will have an impact on your ranking within Google and Fast/AllTheWeb. In addition, Google, Netscape, AOL, Lycos, HotBot, and many others use ODP data for their directory and in some instances their search results.

Yahoo is another directory to target, but was discussed in the Internet portals section.

So, do we have all of our eggs in one basket? While Google does produce the highest amount of referrals for most search engine optimization campaigns, there are a number of other search engines, directories, and portals that can and should play an integral role in your campaign.
May 24, 2002

Andrew is the Director of Search Engine Optimization Operations for a market leading company. Since the Fall of 2001, Andrew has served as the moderator of the Search Engine Promotion forum within Webmasterworld.com - a leading online community of web professionals. Andrew's articles appear regularly on informative sites including Search Engine Guide, SEO Today, SitePoint and others.

Search Engine Guide > Andrew Gerhart > Besides Google, Where Do We Focus Our SEO Attention?