Search Engine Watch began with a complaining client of mine, back at the end of 1995. He kept grumbling that he couldn't find his site in WebCrawler, and he wanted to know why.
I didn't have any good answers for him, a situation I don't like. Like many web designers and developers, I assumed that you created a site, submitted it to the search engines, and eventually all your pages would be listed. Why a site might come up first for search terms was a mystery. Some people were saying it all had to do with meta tags, but there was nothing definitive to guide web developers.
The Search Engine Study
I undertook a study to get the answers I wanted. I made changes to one of the sites I maintained and tracked how it performed over the course of three months in the major search engines. By the end, I'd learned a lot. I learned more than just things to do to help a web page. I'd come to understand that not all the search engines worked the same. In fact, I discovered that for many reasons, they might not index web pages at all.
The web is about sharing information, so I placed the results of my study online. But coming from a journalism background, I also compiled a comprehensive chart of major search engine features. I also created an alliance chart, so that I could determine which search engines were worth worrying about, from a traffic point of view.
A Webmaster's Guide To Search Engines Is Born
The whole thing went online in April 1996 as "A Webmaster's Guide To Search Engines." This was the first time information of this type was available to web designers, way before the many "search engine secrets" guides that have now seemed to have sprung up. People were grateful. I got nice email. It encouraged me to keep maintaining the information.
I kept the site updated, and I also began issuing a summary of search engine news via the site's associated email list, the Search Engine Report.
As time passed, I added to the site, to cover the ever expanding issues relating to how search engines work, how they index web pages, and issues that designers need to take into account. It seemed important, because many of these issues were poorly covered, if at all, by online news resources. Awards, nice mentions and positive comments encouraged me that the site was fulfilling a need.
I also realized that the site was being used by people other than webmasters, web designers and online PR people. Search engine users were coming to visit, including librarians, researchers or anyone who wanted to know more about search engines.
It made sense, when I thought about it. Search engines and search services are among the most popular sites on the web. People want to know what's out there, and they want to know more about the tools they use for searching.
Search Engine Watch Launched
In June 1997, I launched Search Engine Watch. It contained all that "A Webmaster's Guide to Search Engines" had, plus it was more accessible to search engine users. The site remained grounded in the technical. How do these things work, or more specifically, how well do these things work. It also remained committed to tracking search engine news, important changes, and providing quality information about these important tools.
In Nov. 1997, Mecklermedia acquired Search Engine Watch. I continue to maintain the site and am now able to concentrate entirely on the editorial content.