Search engine toolbar tutorial. Learn how to use the Google and Alexa toolbar tools to help you promote your site! 

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Search engine toolbar guide

| by David Callan

Search engines, do you use them? Of course you do! Most if not all internet users use them at some stage or another, and why not, they are very easy to use, simply go to the address of the engine be it, or any other engine and enter keywords relating to what you want to find and viola!

However many engines now provide an even easier, more direct way to access their databases through the use of small applications known as toolbars. These search engine toolbars provide extra search facilities and surfing facilities usually from within Internet Explorer but some toolbars now have Netscape alternatives lest with limited capabilities.

These extra search facilities will allow you to conduct a search from your browser without actually having to visit the search engines site itself. The toolbar will automatically bring you to the engines results page and you can take it from there. When I speak of extra surf facilities I'm mainly speaking of certain features which aid web surfing such as the Google toolbars latest feature, a pop-up ad blocker. I like most people find pop-up ads very very annoying, so this is really good feature.

These features of toolbars are very handy for the ordinary surfer, but what about us guys and gals - the webmasters that make the web happen. Do any of these so called toolbars have elements within them that will help us get more visitors, more profit and hence more success? Yes, they do.

This article is your guide to using the two main toolbars available on the net from Alexa and Google to your advantage while promoting and running your site. A note before we start, the Alexa toolbar search feature is powered by Google and not by Alexa as one might expect, Alexa simply provides extra information in such a way that webmasters will find very useful and helpful.

Alexa toolbar

Continuing with the order mentioned above I'll start with Alexa. With over 10 million downloads the Alexa toolbar is very popular with surfers. The big attraction to webmasters however of using the Alexa toolbar is its ability to provide you with information about the site which you're currently visiting.

This comes in the form of Alexa's ranking figure, which in turn comes from the information that each Alexa toolbar installed on a users machine sends back to Alexas server when the user is surfing such as the URL they are currently visiting.

Admittedly when I first downloaded the Alexa toolbar, I was confused over this ranking figure which is displayed on the center of the toolbar. The confusion stemmed from the fact that I was unsure whether a better and more popular site would have a larger ranking number representing it in the Alexa site database or indeed a smaller one. The former seemed more right initially as I presumed this was related to the number of page views Alexa users had given a particular site over a certain time span, so the bigger the better.

However in my quest for the truth I hit Google and Yahoo to search for a definitive guide on Alexas toolbar, while scanning the results on Yahoo I noticed that its Alexa ranking figure was one, intrigued I continued to the site where I seen a ranking of five. I knew that these two sites where immensely popular so obviously the lower the figure the better. The figure relates to a sites popularity with Alexa users. Yahoo's figure meant that it was currently the most popular internet destination with Alexa users and hence Google was currently the fifth most popular site with Alexa users.

This provides webmasters with a great insight to the popularity of a website, which can be used to determine sites that are worthwhile link exchange partners or worthwhile to spend your advertising dollars on.

If you've read my articles on reciprocal linking you will remember me saying that it's better to 'link up' with a more popular site rather than 'link down' with a less popular site. Alexa can help you to always 'link up', simply visit your own site and check your ranking and then search for sites related to yours but with a better ranking.

Using Alexa over the Google toolbar pagerank feature to locate good link partners has the advantage of not being search engine based. That is Alexa provides a ranking based on the popularity of a site based on actual visits and not incoming links like the pagerank system is based. I prefer to use Alexa myself because I know the benefits of the free long term traffic that can come from reciprocal links alone, discarding the fact that they can help your ranking on Google and other engines.

Other tools included on the Alexa toolbar include the ability to view contact information for a site so you can contact them directly for a link exchange proposal and backwards links pointing to a site, so you can see who your competitors exchange links with and hence ask them to exchange with your site too. The Alexa toolbar is available free of charge from Currently however no Netscape or Opera versions are available.

Google toolbar

We have touched upon the Google toolbar above, briefly. Now onto the full details of the Google toolbar and its features for webmasters. The Google toolbar is currently the most popular toolbar available for download on the net. Thousands of webmasters use it, as it is an excellent competitive intelligence tool, it even has its own forum dedicated to it at the highly popular discussion forums site.

First of all I will mention the different elements of the Google toolbar and then describe how webmasters can use them to their advantage. The Google toolbar includes most notably the Pagerank scale, cache version tool, highlight button, backwards links tool, category button, search site button and a similar pages tool.

The Pagerank scale is likely to be the most popular feature of the Google toolbar, it allows webmasters to check the importance of a certain website within the Google index. The Pagerank™ scale goes from 1 to 10 on the toolbar. A less important site is a site with a PR of 1 and a very very important site is a site with a PR of 10.

To get the Pagerank figure you have to hold the mouse over the Pagerank scale which is a green horizontal bar located usually in the center of the toolbar, however this depends on your personal configuration of the toolbar. This information is very useful to webmasters wishing to swap links not just for extra traffic from other sites but also for better rankings in Google as it allows you to see how important Google views a potential link partner to be. Remember Google says:

"Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important." "

To use this tool, you should in conjunction with the Alexa ranking figure search for sites related to yours with a good ranking figure in Alexa and a medium to high ranking on the Pagerank scale on the Google toolbar. Both toolbars can be visible at the same time so this is very easy to do.

The cache version tool although not as important as the Pagerank scale is quite useful when used with the highlight button. Let me explain. When you click through to a site from a results page in Google you are taken to that site's current page, you are not necessarily taken to the page that Google examined to determine its ranking, that page could have been updated weeks or even months ago.

This presents a problem if like many webmasters out there you like to examine your competitors pages to try and determine why Google liked them so much and hence gave them a good ranking. However Google being Google has this very neat feature, called page caching, whereby the Googlebot will take a snapshot of the page which it last examined to determine ranking so you can see the way the page was then.

While on the cached version of the page you should enter your keywords or keyphrases into the search box (don't press enter) and press the highlight button tool. This will highlight all the occurrences of your search terms with different colors. The highlight tool will allow you to get a quick overview of the keyword distribution of a competing page, the bigger the highlight, the more weight that section of page had in determining that pages position in the results of a search. The highlight tool is also useful for finding hidden text if you suspect your competitors might be using such a method.

Like Alexa, Googles toolbar also has a backward links tool, whereby you can see all sites which link to a particular site. Useful for siphoning traffic away from your competitors by finding who links to them and then emailing them webmasters to link to you too.

The category button allows users to quickly locate the category that a website is listed within in the Google directory, if indeed it is listed at all. This allows webmasters to search for quality sites to link with, as a listing in the ODP (Google gets its directory results from the ODP) usually indicates a site of high quality, it also allows them to visit that category page and quickly find sites to link with that have a high ranking on the pagerank scale. This is because results in the Google directory are automatically returned in order of descending pagerank, the best and most popular being at the top of the page.

Finally we come to the site search button and the similar pages tool which I will only briefly touch on. The site search button allows webmasters to see immediately how many pages of their site Google has indexed. They simply visit their homepage and press the site search button and enter something generic that will always occur on every page, like the letter 'a' or 'e', the engine will then return results with all indexed pages.

The similar pages tool will provide you with, not surprisingly links to pages which Google deems similar, these links are prime candidates for link exchanges as Google already knows they are related to your industry. The Google toolbar for Internet Explorer is available free of charge from A less sophisticated feature limited Netscape version is available free of charge from

Well here we are at the end of another article, you have just learned the 'ins' and 'outs' of using two very popular and very free tools in your quest for success. However Alexa and Google are not the only two providers of free toolbars on the net, many engines are now offering them as an added incentive to use their systems. I suggest you tryout and examine others before settling on the two mentioned in this article, in saying that though my mind is made up. The Google and Alexa toolbars rock!