In setting up this web site we learned something esoteric and invaluable, that search engines never mention:
Search engines only search the database of sites that have come and given them their names.
And here we all thought they were sorting through some central index, or had people out combing the Web for relevant stuff. Not hardly!
That means that the perfect information site for you may never have registered with the search engine you are using, so that while it is out there, your searcher will have no way of knowing that. So it pays to have as many search engines as possible, on the hopes that one will have that elusive site. For example, !Register It! will register any site for free with sixteen indexes: Alta Vista, Excite, Hotbot, Jumper, Lycos, Magellan, Metroscope, Open Text, RBSE Spider, The URL Tree, Web Crawler, and WWW Worm. For a fee, they send the site to 100 directories. As you might guess, the 16 have lots more sites as a result. Yahoo! makes registering a site a ten-minute job, worthwhile for such a popular search engine. On the other hand, InfoSeek is extremely difficult for a multi-page, multi-subject site to enter, so that their db consists mainly of commercial sites, to whom the trouble is worth money. For this reason, Historical Novelists Center is still not listed yet with InfoSeek.
Remember this not only when you are hunting information, but when you go to set up your home page as an author. You can bet on spending a few work days on the Internet, hunting search engines and filling in their forms, or else paying one of several services to register you. That cost seems to run from $40 to a few hundred, so you should make sure that their list is primarily general search engines, and not lots of malls, business directories, realtors' listings and regional engines (like Canadian only for a US author) that would not take your site. If there are lots of unsuitable engines, then your cost climbs from, say, $1 per site to $2 or $4.
So: do you have more time or more money? The one advantage to doing it all yourself (if you have unlimited time for a set fee like a sensible web researcher) is that you will locate all the good engines that you should be using for your own searches. On the other hand, consider how few hours at minimum wage the smaller fees cover and how much better your time would be spent writing or researching.
Realise also that because of a backlog of submissions, the search engine people may take a couple or three months in posting your page. They do go through all the submissions making certain they are as described, and don't contain unacceptable content.
Just remember: don't figure any one search engine has it all. Right now we would recommend Yahoo!, which has catagorical trees you can run down to just the temporal, regional or subject group of sites that may help you, and Alta Vista and Lycos, where you have to type in positive and negative keywords, but which have some of the larger bases of non-commercial sites.