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Release the Hounds With search engine competition on the rise, entrepreneurs stand to benefit, as both users and advertisers.

By Mike Hogan

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Who knew back in 1995 how important the Web would become to our personal and professional lives? Who could even see last year how important Web search engines would become?

Search had been a low priority-even a loss leader-for big Web portals like AOL, Microsoft MSN and Yahoo! Now search engines are bubbling over with new functionality and assuming a central role in Web life. They're attracting surfers in droves, making them a promising source of Web sales for entrepreneurs-even entrepreneurs without Web pages (more on that later).

Relative newcomer Googledeserves total credit. We've had search engines from the get-go-lots of them. But Google found a way to actually return relevant results-at least, in the first few of the 32,000 page hits any search generates. Google added a little populist secret sauce to the usual battery of search technologies. Its PageRank takes a page's popularity into account, countering some of the placement games played by less-relevant Web sites.

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