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So Long Direct Hit, Hello Teoma

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Say your goodbyes to the Direct Hit search engine. Direct Hit is no longer the favored child of parent company Ask Jeeves, now that the company's new baby, Teoma, is growing up.

Ask Jeeves has begun using Teoma results in place of information that previously came from Direct Hit. In addition, Ask Jeeves said this month that while the Teoma site would continue to operate on its own, the Direct Hit web site would be closed later this year.

Teoma launched to the public early last year and drew positive reviews for its relevancy. Ask Jeeves took notice and acquired the service in September 2001. Since then, Ask Jeeves has been upgrading Teoma, so that it could take over from Direct Hit.

Direct Hit is the "popularity" search engine that, along with Google, was one of the "hot" search properties of 1999. Ask Jeeves acquired Direct Hit in early 2000 but failed to develop the search engine properly. Consequently, while Google's popularity continued to grow, Direct Hit's fame wore off.

Direct Hit's results are available in several major ways. They continue to power many of the main results you'll find at HotBot. They remain an option available to users at MSN Search and Lycos. They are also "syndicated" to a variety of web sites looking for a search solution, such as About.com and AT&T. Ask Jeeves makes money off this syndication by sharing in ads sold on the results pages or from licensing fees.

Users can also get Direct Hit results by visiting the Direct Hit site itself, but that option is soon to expire. The Teoma web site is expected to come out of its "beta" status sometime between April and June of this year. When that happens, the Direct Hit site will be merged with Teoma.com. DirectHit results are likely to be offered as another search option on Teoma.com, in the form of a link or button, Ask Jeeves says.

"Direct Hit as a site will not stay," said Steve Berkowitz, president of web properties at Ask Jeeves. "Teoma is going to be the replacement for that site."

Teoma search results will not automatically replace Direct Hit results as an option for current Ask Jeeves partners to use. The Direct Hit database will be maintained exclusively for the use of Ask Jeeves partners. However, Teoma will also be offered as a new option to those partners.

This means that syndication partners currently taking Direct Hit results might choose Teoma results, when they are offered. It could also mean that Teoma results could be picked up by major partners such as MSN or HotBot.

I think you're likely to see partners go this route. Teoma's results are still getting considerable press buzz, so I think you can expect Ask Jeeves partners wanting them as a way to gain some attention to their own sites.

As a site owner, this means Teoma is rapidly moving up the priority list, in terms of traffic potential. To do well with it, think Google. Like Google, Teoma makes heavy use of link analysis in calculating its results. The systems are not identical, but the underlying theme that getting good links will help you remains the same. Be sure to read the link building article listed below, as that will help you with Teoma, as well as Google.

Unlike Google, Teoma has an extremely small database, only about 150 million indexed web pages, compared to Google's 1.5 billion. This means Teoma's coverage of your site will be far less than Google's. You might not even be listed at all.

The most important thing you can do to help yourself is -- yes -- build good links to your site. The more good links that are pointing to you, the more likely Teoma's crawler is going to find you and consider your page important enough to retain.

Teoma is going to continue expanding its database going forward, so your coverage in the service is likely to increase naturally.

Looking for an Add URL option? Teoma doesn't have one, nor is one planned for the immediate future. However, a paid inclusion option is expected to launch by the third quarter of this year, Teoma says.

Another change at Teoma is that clickthroughs are now being measured. These measurements are not yet being used to influence rankings at Teoma, but that will probably happen, in the future, the company said.

"Click popularity, we look at that as another tool we can use to enhance the relevancy of Teoma," said Paul Gardi, vice president of search for Ask Jeeves.

Contentwise, Teoma says it indexes the full-text of a web page, with no stop words omitted. It also uses the meta description tag. I'm also planning to bring an update on other important elements indexed shortly.

The Teoma web page index was last refreshed in mid-December, and the company aims to reindex every month, with the next refresh planned for next week. Identified news sources may get revisited more often, as will paid inclusion partners, when that program launches.

Currently, Teoma uses a different index than Ask Jeeves. They are nearly identical in content, but the ranking of results may be much different. Teoma.com has the master index, where new ranking algorithms may be tested. However, Ask Jeeves is expected to use the same index as Teoma, in the near future.

Even when this happens, you may find some differences between results at Ask Jeeves and Teoma. For one thing, Ask Jeeves will have a family-filter in place, designed so that porn pages won't rank as well. Other filters will also be made available to partners. For example, a partner might decide to weight country-specific pages more heavily.

By the way, the Direct Hit spider is no longer operating, Ask Jeeves says. Direct Hit used to spider the web in order to provide "backup" results, if it didn't have any popularity-based answers. These were primarily needed at the Direct Hit site, where Direct Hit needed backup, if popularity-results weren't available.

Since the Direct Hit site is going away, the backup results are no longer needed. This also means that the Direct Hit Add URL page, while still open, is doing nothing. Don't waste your time on it.

Finally, it shouldn't be forgotten that Ask Jeeves still has one other database for its results: human compiled answers that show up at the top of the Ask Jeeves site itself.

In its heyday, Ask Jeeves had over 100 editors compiling these answers. These days, that's down to a handful of about 10 editors, concentrating especially on news-related questions. However, Ask Jeeves says they still do respond to requests to be listed, and the database is maintained with new answers. In all, about 10 million questions are covered.

Ask Jeeves Assimilates Teoma
SearchDay, Jan. 10, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0110-aj.html

More about how Ask Jeeves has integrated Teoma results into the flagship Ask Jeeves search site.

Ask Jeeves Wraps Its Arms Around Octopus
SiliconVallay.internet.com, Jan. 14, 2002
http://siliconvalley.internet.com/news/article/0,2198,3531_954091,00.html

Ask Jeeves has acquired Octopus and plans to use the technology from that former site and company in its enterprise software solutions.

How Ask Jeeves Works
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/askjeeves.html

Explains how to submit to the Ask Jeeves human-compiled knowledge base. The page has not yet been updated to reflect that Teoma results now take the place of Direct Hit results.

Make Room For Teoma
The Search Engine Update, July 2, 2001
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/articles/0107-teoma.html

Previous article about Teoma that looks at how its link analysis system compares to Google.

More About Link Analysis
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/more/linkanalysis.html

Explains how search engines make use of links from across the web to find pages and rank them in relation to searches. Includes many tips on how to locate "important" sites and request links that can help you with search engine marketing efforts.


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