Search Engine Basics - Part One, What Search Engines Are Important?

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I get a lot of questions about search engine optimization (SEO), and with good reason. A recent competitive analysis found that over 50% of prospective students conducted an internet search during the course of their evaluation of different MBA programs. Not only that, but this method of research was the largest percentage of any other communications channel. Let me repeat this by yelling on the internet: THE LARGEST PERCENTAGE OF ANY OTHER COMMUNICATIONS CHANNEL.

Sorry about that.

Because of this, I plan to make my next collection of posts on the topic of search engine basics. We’ll start at the beginning, a very good place to start: What search engines are important?

Taking a peek at the statistics for October 2006, the search engines that drive traffic to break down as follows:

Google: ~88% Yahoo!: ~9% MSN: ~2% AOL: ~.4% Ask Jeeves: ~0.3%

For this reason, we’ll focus mainly on Google for optimization. It should be noted, however, that these results are skewed since we use Google’s public service search for our internal site search.

Here’s your homework: go to and install the Google toolbar (if you haven’t already). Visit some pages and make note of the green bar titled “PageRank.”


Hover over the bar with your mouse, it should pop a little yellow box that reads something like: “PageRank is Google’s measure of the importance of this page (X/10).

This is a logarithmic scale that Google uses to assign importance to pages. (Sidenote: the Richter scale that’s used to measure earthquakes is also logarithmic, so the difference between a 2 and a 3 is much less than the difference between an 8 and a 9…it’s a math thing). Check the page rank of big sites like,, etc. How do they compare to the page rank of your site?

Wouldn’t it be nice to get a hunk of that PageRank? We’ll talk about that another time.

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