Have you heard of Spamdexing yet? Anyone who's tried to find a taxi truck in the yellow pages will recognise it instantly - it's the Internet equivalent of AAAAAAArdvark.
It's the process of loading your Internet home page or index with a repetition of the word you think people will want to find. So for instance, if you're selling Monty Python memorabilia on the Net you might repeat the words "Monty Python" twenty times on your home page. The text can even be invisible, as the search engine will still find it and register that your document has a high python count. Then for those search engines which present their findings according to a formula which includes the number of hits, your page goes to the top of the list.
And when that list contains over 100,000 hits, believe me, you won't want to be very far from the top. Of course, with some of the search engines you can specify exact hits on exact phrases, and thereby avoid these spamdexed pages. But most people just use the same, dumb search engines and default methods all the time.
The other way to get on the index of these search engines is to submit your details to them via e-mail. That way you don't have to wait for them to find you, and you get more control over what sort of hits your site will get. Even that is becoming the subject of entrepreneurial activity. There are companies on the Net who will help you not only design a good-looking page, but ensure that it gets a good hit rate. Some of these charge for their services, but others give a free method of getting your message out. One of these is Submission Wizard, (www.exploit.com/wizard). I haven't tried it, but they claim to allow you to prepare your index submissions off-line and submit them free.
Desperately seeking Monty
And in case you're more interested in finding sites than being one, just how good are these search engines? There are a few sites that rate the performance of the beasties. Two Web sites have evaluated the best search engines and have published the results of testing each utility for relevance. Nicholas Tomaiuolo's site (http://neal.ctstateu.edu:2001/htdocs/websearch.html) shows that the engines AltaVista, InfoSeek, and Lycos produced the most relevant matches during 200 searches. Danny Sullivan's Maximised Online Web site (http://www.maxonline.com/searchstudy/) goes even further with an analysis of every major engine's searching habits. You can also try (www.dis.strath.ac.uk.business.search.html).
Oh, and one last clue for becoming the AAAAAArdvark of your neighbourhood. There are lots of ASCII characters that come before "A", such as the good old exclamation mark. Remember that when you want your entry at the top of a sorted list.