Search Engine Positioning

Search Engine Providers

A guide to the most popular search engine providers and directories

In the search engine list below, Search Engine Positioning provides a guide to the major search engines of the web. Why are these considered to be “major” search engines? Because they are both well known and well used, both keys to driving tons of traffic to any site. Including yours.

Your Major Search Engine Listing Is Automatic Credibility

For searchers, well known, commercially-backed search engines generally mean more dependable results. These search engines are more likely to be well maintained and upgraded when necessary, to keep pace with the growing web.

On this page, you will see reference to “crawlers” and “crawler-based results” versus “directories” and “human-powered results.” These describe the two major ways that search engines get editorial listings. See the How Search Engines Work page to understand more about the difference between crawlers and directories.

Tips On Major Search Engine Providers

If you are interested in being listed in these search engines, see Search Engine Watch’s Search Engine Submission Tips section for free, step-by-step help regarding the essentials of submitting to search engines. Improve your chances of ranking well!

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Top Search Engine ChoicesSearch Engines to Strongly Consider
Search Engine ProvidersOther Search Engine Choices

Top Search Engine Choices

The search engines below are all excellent choices to start with when searching for information.


Voted three times Most Outstanding Search Engine by Search Engine Watch readers, Google has a well deserved reputation as the top choice for those searching the web. The crawler-based service provides both comprehensive coverage along with great relevancy. It’s highly recommended as a first stop in your hunt for whatever you are looking for.

Google provides the option to find more than web pages, however. Using the “tabs” on the top of the search box on the Google home page, you can easily seek out images from across the web, discussions that are taking place on Usenet newsgroups, and scan through human compiled information provided from the Open Directory

Google is also know for the wide range of features it offers, such as cached links that let you “resurrect” dead pages or see older versions of recently changed ones. It offers excellent spell checking, easy access to dictionary definitions, integration of stock quotes, street maps, telephone numbers and more. See Google’s help page for an entire rundown on some of these features. The Google Toolbar has also won a popular following for the easy access it provides to Google and its features directly from the Internet Explorer browser.

In addition to Google’s unpaid editorial results, the company also operates its own advertising programs. The cost-per-click AdWords program places ads on Google as well as some of Google’s partners. Similarly, Google is also a provider of unpaid editorial results to some other search engines. For a list of major partnerships, see the Search Providers Chart.

Google was originally a Stanford University project by students Larry Page and Sergey Brin called BackRub. By 1998, the name had been changed to Google, and the project jumped off campus and became the private company Google. It remains privately held today.

An excellent crawler-based search engine, All The Web provides both comprehensive coverage of the web and outstanding relevancy. If you tried Google and didn’t find it, All The Web should probably be next on your list. Indeed, it’s a first stop search engine for some. In addition to web page results, provides the ability to search for news stories, pictures, video clips, MP3s and FTP files.

Until recently, was owned by a company called FAST and was used as a showcase for that company’s web search technology. That’s why you may sometimes hear also referred to as FAST or FAST Search. However, the search engine was purchased by search provider Overture (see below) in late April 2003. It no longer has any connection with FAST.


Launched in 1994, Yahoo is the web’s oldest “directory,” a place where human editors organize web sites into categories. However, in October 2002, Yahoo made a giant shift to using Google’s crawler-based listings for its main results.

If Yahoo is now powered by Google, then why bother using it? For one thing, you might find that the way Yahoo “enhances” Google’s listings with information from its own directory may make search results more readable. See the Yahoo Renews With Google, Changes Results article from Search Engine Watch for more about this.

In addition, Yahoo’s search results pages still show Categories links. When offered, these will take you to a list of web sites that have been reviewed and approved by a human editor.

It’s also possible to do a pure search of just the human-compiled Yahoo Directory, which is how the old or “classic” Yahoo used to work. To do this, search from the Yahoo Directory home page, as opposed to the regular home page. Then you’ll get both directory category links (“Related Directory Categories”) and “Directory Results,” which are the top web site matches drawn from all categories of the Yahoo Directory.

Sites pay a fee to be included in the Yahoo Directory’s commercial listings, though they must meet editor approval before being accepted. Non-commercial content is accepted for free.

Consider Yahoo any time you think you might be well served by having a list of human-reviewed web sites. It’s also a good choice for popular queries, since the category listings it provides may help you narrow in and refine your query. Doing a pure Yahoo Directory search also provides an unique human view of the web.

Finally, expect further changes at Yahoo throughout 2003, such as those that happened in April 2003, as described in the Yahoo Moves To Revitalize Search article from Search Engine Watch. The company completed its purchase of Inktomi in March 2003, a crawler-based rival to Google. More about the acquisition can be found in the Yahoo To Buy Inktomi article from Search Engine Watch. Thus, Inktomi results may appear at Yahoo in the near future.

Microsoft is known for constantly reworking its software products until they get them right, and bing Search is a shining example of the company putting that same effort into an online product. In particular, the company has its own team of editors that monitors the most popular searches being performed and then hand-picks sites that are believed to be the most relevant. After performing a search, “Popular Topics” shown below the search box on the results page are also suggestions built largely by editors to guide you into making a more refined search. When appropriate, search results may also feature links to encyclopedia content from Microsoft Encarta or news headlines, at the top of the page.

Of course, humans editors can’t do everything, so  also relies on search providers for answers to many of its queries. Usually, it will be human-powered results from the LookSmart directory that dominate the page. Unlike when Bing editors are involved, these human-powered results are not hand-picked to match a query. Instead, MSN uses its own search algorithm to sift through all the listings from LookSmart to automatically find answers that are believed to be best. More about LookSmart is described below.

For more obscure queries, it is crawler-based results from Inktomi that are provided. More about Inktomi is described below. By the way, if you’d prefer to get “pure” Inktomi results via you’ll need to use the

Overall, Bing Search provides a blend of human-powered directory information and crawler coverage different from any of the other top choices listed above. It’s a high quality resource that provides its own unique view of the web and one worth checking.

Search Engines to Strongly Consider

The search engines below are other good choices to consider when searching the web.

AOL Search (internal)

AOL Search provides users with editorial listings that come Google’s crawler-based index. Indeed, the same search on Google and AOL Search will come up with very similar matches. So, why would you use AOL Search? Primarily because you are an AOL user. The “internal” version of AOL Search provides links to content only available within the AOL online service. In this way, you can search AOL and the entire web at the same time. The “external” version lacks these links. Why wouldn’t you use AOL Search? If you like Google, many of Google’s features such as “cached” pages are not offered by AOL Search.

Ask Jeeves

Ask Jeeves initially gained fame in 1998 and 1999 as being the “natural language” search engine that let you search by asking questions and responded with what seemed to be the right answer to everything.

In reality, technology wasn’t what made Ask Jeeves perform so well. Behind the scenes, the company at one point had about 100 editors who monitored search logs. They then went out onto the web and located what seemed to be the best sites to match the most popular queries.

Today, Ask Jeeves instead depends on crawler-based technology to provide results to its users. These results come from the Teoma search engine.

Ask Jeeves also owns the Direct Hit service, but results from Direct Hit are no longer offered to the public directly through the Direct Hit site.


HotBot provides easy access to the web’s four major crawler-based search engines:, Google, Inktomi and Teoma, all of which are described elsewhere on this page. Unlike a meta search engine, it cannot blend the results from all of these crawlers together. Nevertheless, it’s a fast, easy way to get different web search “opinions” in one place.

The “4-in-1” option at HotBot was introduced in December 2002. However, HotBot has a long history as a search brand before this date.

HotBot debuted in May 1996, it gained a strong following among serious searchers for the quality and comprehensiveness of its crawler-based results, which were provided by Inktomi at the time. It also caught the attention of experienced web users and techies, especially for the unusual colors and interface it continues to sport today.

HotBot gained more notoriety when it switched over to using Direct Hit’s “clickthrough” results for its main listings in 1999. Direct Hit was then one of the “hot” search engines that had recently appeared. Unfortunately, the quality of Direct Hit’s results couldn’t match those of another “hot” player that had debuted at the same time, Google. HotBot’s popularity began to drop.

Even worse, HotBot also suffered by being owned by Lycos (now Terra Lycos). Lycos had acquired HotBot when it purchased Wired Digital in October 1998. Lycos failed to make search a priority on its flagship Lycos site as well as HotBot through much of 1999 and 2000, as it focused instead on adding “portal” features. The company refocused on search in late 2001, making significant improvements to the Lycos site and, as noted, reworked the HotBot site at the end of 2002.


Lycos is one of the oldest search engines on the web, launched in 1994. It ceased crawling the web for its own listings in April 1999 and instead uses crawler-based results provided by AllTheWeb. So why bother with Lycos rather than using the site? You might like some of the features that Lycos provides.

Fast Forward” lets you see search results in one side of your screen and the actual pages listed in another. Relevant categories of human-compiled information from the Open Directory appear at the bottom of the search results page. At the top of the page, Lycos will suggest other searches related to your original topic right under the search box. Perhaps you might even like the look and feel better! Whatever the reason, under the hood, Lycos provides all the same relevancy and comprehensiveness you’ll find at


Teoma is a crawler-based search engine owned by Ask Jeeves. It has a smaller index of the web than its rival crawler-competitors Google,, Inktomi and AltaVista. However, being large doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to popular queries, and Teoma’s won praise for its relevancy since it appeared in 2000. Some people also like its “Refine” feature, which offers suggested topics to explore after you do a search. The “Resources” section of results is also unique, pointing users to page that specifically serve as link resources about various topics. Teoma was purchased by Ask Jeeves in September 2001 and also provides some results to that web site.

Search Engine Providers

The companies below are really in the business of providing search results to other people, rather than hoping you’ll visit their own sites to search. They are listed here primarily to provide further explanation of how they partner with some of the search engines listed above.


Among the major search engines, Inktomi is the second-oldest crawler. It briefly operated as an experimental search engine at UC Berkeley. However, the creators then formed their own company in 1996 with the same name and gained their first customer, HotBot, in the middle of that year. The company then pursued a strategy of “powering” other search engines, rather than running its own branded service for the public.

Today, Inktomi continues to crawl the web. The company had been left behind by rivals Google and in terms of comprehensiveness, but changes made in the summer of 2002 made it much more competitive. It was purchased by Yahoo in March 2003. Nevertheless, Yahoo-owned Inktomi still continues to provide results to Yahoo-rival MSN Search (listed above).


LookSmart is a human-compiled directory of web sites. The company does operate its own web site, but this really isn’t intended for the public to use. Instead, similar to Inktomi, LookSmart provides its results to other search engines that need listings.

LookSmart gathers its listings in two ways. Commercial sites pay to be listed in its commercial categories, making the service very much like an electronic “Yellow Pages.” However, volunteer editors at the LookSmart-owned Zeal directory also catalog sites into non-commercial categories for free. Though Zeal is a separate web site, its listings are integrated into LookSmart’s results.

LookSmart launched independently in October 1996, was backed by Reader’s Digest for about a year, and then company executives bought back control of the service.

LookSmart also bought the WiseNut crawler-based search engine in April 2002 (see below). It is expected that sometime in 2003, WiseNut’s results may become offered through the LookSmart web site, in addition to LookSmart’s traditional human-compiled listings.

Open Directory

The Open Directory uses volunteer editors to catalog the web. Formerly known as NewHoo, it was launched in June 1998. It was acquired by AOL Time Warner-owned Netscape in November 1998, and the company pledged that anyone would be able to use information from the directory through an open license arrangement.

While you can search at the Open Directory site itself, this is not recommended. The site has no “backup” results that kick in should there not be a match in the human-compiled database. In addition, the ranking of sites during keyword searching is poor, while alphabetical ordering is used when you choose to “browse” categories by topic.

Instead, to scan the valuable information compiled by the Open Directory, consider using the version offered by Google, the Google Directory. Here, keyword searching uses Google’s refined relevancy algorithms and makes use of link analysis to better propel good pages from the human database to the top. In addition, when viewing sites by category, they will be listed in PageRank order, which means the most popular sites based on analyzing links from across the web will be listed first.


Formerly called GoTo until late 2001, Overture is an extremely popular paid placement search engine that provides ads to many of the search engines listed above. More about it can be found on the Paid Listings Search Engines page.

While Overture has traditionally been a paid listings provider, the company is expanding into offering crawler-based editorial results. To do this, it purchased AllTheWeb (see above) in March 2003 and expects to complete its acquisition of AltaVista (see below) by the end of April 2003.

Other Search Engine Choices

The sites below are “major” in the sense that they either still receive significant amounts of traffic or they’ve earned a reputation in the past. Try them, they could turn out to be top choices for you.


AltaVista is the oldest crawler-based search engine on the web. It opened in December 1995 and for several years was the “Google” of its day, in terms of providing relevant results and having a loyal group of users that loved the service.

Sadly, an attempt to turn AltaVista into a portal site in 1998 saw the company lose track of the importance of search. Over time, relevancy dropped, as did the freshness of AltaVista’s listings and the crawler’s coverage of the web.

Today, AltaVista is once again focused on search. Improvements have been made, but crawlers such as Google and AllTheWeb provide more comprehensive results. Because of this, AltaVista is probably a third-choice crawler, one to try if you haven’t found what you are looking for at one of its competitors.

AltaVista does remains strong is in terms of some of the specialty searching it offers. It provides a good image search service, and you can look for video and audio clips, as well. It also has an outstanding news search service.

AltaVista was originally owned by Digital, then taken over by Compaq, when that company purchased Digital in 1998. AltaVista was later spun off into a private company, controlled by CMGI. Overture (see above) is now purchasing the search engine, with the acquisition expected to complete by the end of April 2003.

Netscape Search

Owned by AOL Time Warner, Netscape Search uses Google for its main listings, just as does AOL’s other major search site, AOL Search. So why use Netscape Search rather than Google? Unlike with AOL Search, there’s no compelling reason to consider it. The main difference between Netscape Search and Google is that Netscape Search will list some of Netscape’s own content at the top of its results. Netscape also has a completely different look and feel than Google. If you like either of these reasons, then try Netscape Search. Otherwise, you’re probably better off just searching at Google. – The B2B Search Engine is the Premier B2B Search Engine. All of your business search needs in one place. Everything is designed around helping users find what they need when they need it. Whether it is a company name, product, service or other information, it can be found at the Business Directory.


Like Teoma, WiseNut is a crawler-based search engine that attracted attention when it appeared on the scene in 2001. Like Teoma, WiseNut features good relevancy. Unlike Teoma, WiseNut has a large database, making it nearly as comprehensive as Google, AllTheWeb and Inktomi. However, the WiseNut database has consistently been months out of date. The search engine is supposed to be regularly updated sometime in 2003, when WiseNut’s owner LookSmart is promising to revamp the engine. LookSmart bought WiseNut in April 2002. If the revamp happens, then WiseNut may deliver on its initial promise.

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