Search Engine – Definition

Cite this article as:"Search Engine – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated April 12, 2019, last accessed October 26, 2020,


Search Engine Definition

Search engine refers to a software or a system that enables internet users to access content on the website. Users search for web contents through World Wide Web (www). Internet users search contents by entering keywords or phrases into the search engine, the results of the search appear on the web page. Search engine filter indexed content using algorithms, the results are then displayed on the web page.The result of the search return to the internet user as SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

A Little More on What is a Search Engine

Search Directories help web surfers find related websites for the topics they search before the search engine was introduced. Search directories are curated lists compiled by people who also visit the net for contents. The directories contain web addresses or URLs and content descriptions.

Due to the voluminous nature of search directories, an internet user would have to look through the diverse segments of the directory until they get the desired content or websites. Although, directories offer a list of websites and content results to web users, the list was limited, it does not include all contents and sites since it was compiled manually.

Search engines search the internet for contents and webpages using web crawling bots or web crawlers. Web crawlers search the internet for contents and webpages. Webcrawler was launched in 1993, after AltaVista and yahoo were created, with the first webcrawler called spider.

Crawling bots copy web pages, URLs and contents and add them to search engine index. Search engines then organize these contents, the organization determines the contents or web pages that pop up when web users type keywords.

The results that are displayed on Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for users are not only organic results but also paid-search advertisements.

References for Search Engine

Academic Research on Search Engine Marketing

•    Optimal search engine marketing strategy, Sen, R. (2005). International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 10(1), 9-25. Search engine marketing is an effective strategy that websites use to increase their visibility and promote their business. This paper examines the optimal search engine marketing strategy popularly referred to as SEO. Despite that SEO is an effective marketing strategy, many on-line sellers and website owners prefer using the pay-per-view placement. This is because SEO is more expensive to run than paid placements and its rankings are inconsistent.  This paper examines SEO and issues around it. It however finds out that there is a high tendency for more people to use SEO if its high-rankings are consistent and inexpensive. It also compares the usage of paid placements with SEO.

•    Brand positioning strategy using search engine marketing, Dou, W., Lim, K. H., Su, C., Zhou, N., & Cui, N. (2010). Mis Quarterly, 261-279. Be it an emerging or a grown business, people want to increase their visibility on internet and also have high rankings. High rankings on search engine results pages enable businesses to be distinct from competitors, it puts them ahead of others in the same cycle. However, the ability of firms to use high rankings to their advantage remains a issue in e-commerce research.  This paper aims to identify factors that can enhance positive brand positioning using search engine marketing. Presented in this paper are two experiments on how firms can create brand positioning using SERPs. It presents findings of these experiments that will increase the understanding of search engine marketing techniques.

•    The dynamics of search engine marketing for tourist destinations, Pan, B., Xiang, Z., Law, R., & Fesenmaier, D. R. (2011). Journal of Travel Research, 50(4), 365-377. The importance of search engine marketing (SEM) across different kinds of industry cannot be undermined. SEM offers fantastic results for internet users looking for any sort of service of goods, even to tourists that want to navigates their ways easily. Tousrists are regarded as information searchers, hence, they tend to use the search engine often, especially visiting online tourism domains. The authors of this paper however  contend that a new and dynamic model must evolve to capture the interaction between tourists, search engines and online tourism domains. It examines SEM in tourism, new model in SEM and the impacts of the model for tourism marketing.

•    Search engine marketing: Transforming search engines into hotel distribution channels, Paraskevas, A., Katsogridakis, I., Law, R., & Buhalis, D. (2011). Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 52(2), 200-208. Marketers across diverse sectors use search engine marketing to enhance their visibility and growth in business. A vital strategy that these marketers use is to optimize their webpages on search engines. This implies that once keywords relating to the webpages is entered on a search engine, there is a logical arrangement of web pages with that keyword. This paper presents a discussion on search engine marketing which includes the transformation of search engines into hotel distribution channels. The study explores different factors that play out in SEM, it explores the four-stage framework for SEM strategy development. These are analysis, planning, implementation, and control. It discusses how these variables can offer a marketing strategy for hotel managers.

•    An analysis of the importance of the long tail in search engine marketing, Skiera, B., Eckert, J., & Hinz, O. (2010). Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, 9(6), 488-494. There is a popular belief among advertisers, web owners and bloggers that SEM achieves success through the ‘long tail.’ According to the popular belief, long-tail keywords drive more organic traffic to a website. Long tail refer to keywords that are specific and less popular as employed by internet users, these keywords are often longer than ordinary keywords. This paper conducts an analysis of the importance of the long tail in search engine marketing using data from three search engine marketing campaigns in two countries. The analysis reveal the success of a total of 4908 keywords over 36 weeks. The overall findings based on the data is presented in this paper.

•    Search engine marketing: Why it benefits us all, Green, D. C. (2003). Business Information Review, 20(4), 195-202. Given the significant roles that search engine marketing play in enhancing the success and visibility of businesses in diverse industries, this paper aims to study the benefits of SEM to businesses. It gives a highlight on why search engine marketing benefits everyone. This paper explains the effort of Yahoo in competing with Google that made yahoo acquire other search technology providers with almost $2 billion just to compete with Google. It also presents study on the world-wide search market forecast of increasing from a $2.1 billion profit in 2003 to $7 billion in 2007. This paper presents an overall overview of how and why search engine marketing benefits us all.

•    The role of search engine optimization in search marketing, Berman, R., & Katona, Z. (2013). Marketing Science, 32(4), 644-651. There is often a competition between search engine marketers using organic results and those using sponsored search or paid advertisement results. In order to shed light on this competition, this paper investigates the role of search engine optimization in search marketing. It studies whether a good SEO can improve the ranking quality of a business and the satisfaction visitors derive from the page.The results of the investigation reveal that organic ranking can be improved by SEO based on the quality provided by a website and its valuation for consumers. Other results from the investigation of the role of SEO in search marketing are also discussed.

•    Return on quality improvements in search engine marketing, Nabout, N. A., & Skiera, B. (2012). Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26(3), 141-154. There are lots of benefits that advertisers and businesses can derive from improving their advertisement quality as well as their valuation for consumers. This paper examines the benefits or returns on improved advertisement quality in SEM. This paper empirically studies how quality improvements have effects on returns or profits. This paper finds out that the complex effects of quality improvements on returns remain unclear. This paper also examines the effects of quality improvements on high rankings of advertisements, search engine marketing costs and also its profits. The result of this study reveals that advertisers can benefit from quality improvement if their lower their bids.

•    Search engine marketing, Boughton, S. B. (2005). Perspectives in business, 2(1), 29-33. Search engine marketing techniques have been proven to be effective for audience acquisition by many firms. This paper presents search engine perspectives in business as to how SEM can generate steady traffic levels and also have positive effects of return on investments (ROI). It also discusses the selection of an appropriate marketing strategy that will provide the greatest ROI. It examines how firms gain from search engine advertisements and how SEM also increase or promote their brands. The paper also conducts a detailed cost-benefit analyses of SEM and also suggests realistic business models that will yield tremendous rewards.

•    An analysis of the profitability of fee-based compensation plans for search engine marketing, Nabout, N. A., Skiera, B., Stepanchuk, T., & Gerstmeier, E. (2012). International Journal of Research in Marketing, 29(1), 68-80. This article analyses the profitability of fee-based compensation plans for Search engine marketing (SEM). Quite a lot of advertisers hire external persons or agencies to run their search engine campaigns at an agreed price. The hired agencies are paid based on the number of customers derived from each campaign while the agencies are required to pay search engine costs. Problems that advertisers and hired agencies face on compensation decision plans are addressed in this article. This article also examines the impacts of fee-based compensation plans on the advertiser’s profit rate. It offers insights ion how advertisers can drive profit changes.

•    Advertisers’ perceptions of search engine marketing, Karjaluoto, H., & Leinonen, H. (2008). International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising, 5(1-2), 95-112. The paper presents the advertisers’ perceptions of the search engine marketing, this is however different from business perspective on SEM. The paper uses both qualitative and theoretical approach in examining the advertiser perceptions of SEM. The theoretical aspect assesses advertising and optimisation which are the two major aspects of search engine marketing. Using a survey on prominent search engine marketers in Finland, this paper further study advertisers’ perceptions. The qualitative study was also conducted using a study of small-sized dot-com companies operating in the Business-to-Business (B2B) sector who use SEM and traditional brick-and-mortars with plans of using SEM.

•    Search engine marketing: Does the knowledge discovery process help Online retailers?, Panda, T. K. (2013). IUP Journal of Knowledge Management, 11(3), 56. Many consumers search and find important information from a large database of information using the knowledge discovery process. This paper aims to find out whether the knowledge discovery process helps online retailers who use search engine marketing or not. This study discovers that many internet users find their desired information using search engines like google and Yahoo, This paper examines the impacts of user-generated knowledge discovery process through search engine applications on the profitability of search engine marketers or advertisers. It also studies search engine marketing as a self-search knowledge discovery process and how this will help retailers  to regard SEM as an effective market tool.


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