About The Update
The Search Engine Update is a twice-monthly update of search engine news. It is available only to Search Engine Watch members. Please note that long URLs may break into two lines in some mail readers. Cut and paste, should this occur.
In This Issue
+ Site News
+ Search Engine Strategies Coming To Dallas
+ Disaster Search Resources
+ Ask Jeeves Acquires Teoma
+ Inktomi Spam Database Left Open To Public
-- (full story online, link provided)
+ Yahoo Increases Submission Price
+ GoTo Makes Overture To New Name
+ SearchDay Articles
+ Search Engine Articles
+ List Info (Subscribing/Unsubscribing)
As I'm sure is the case with many of you, I find it difficult to try and get back to work after the terrible tragedy that occurred in the United States last week. I hope that you, your families and those you know have come through unscathed. My sincere condolences to those who may have not.
Within the site, the Search Engine Alliances page has been updated. It shows how search engines get their editorial listings or give these to others. Also updated was the Buying Your Way In page. It shows how search engines get their paid listings. Both pages can be found via the What's New page, below.
Search Engine Strategies Conference Coming To Dallas
Did you miss the Search Engine Strategies conferences held earlier this year in Boston and San Francisco? Don't worry -- you've got one more chance in 2001. On November 14 & 15, Search Engine Strategies will be coming to Dallas, Texas.
The conference features two entire days devoted to marketing your site on search engines. Sessions are designed to bring beginners up to speed on promotion issues, while there are also in-depth panels designed for more advanced marketers.
Those interested in sponsoring or exhibiting should contact Frank Fazio Jr, [email protected], for more information. Those interested in attending can find a conference agenda and more information via the URL below:
Search Engine Strategies
Disaster Search Resources
Following the horrific attacks on New York and Washington DC, I did an article about how search engines reacted to the catastrophe and the best way to locate disaster information using them. That article is below, along with several others that also related to search engines and disaster information. I've also listed some resource pages compiled by the various search engines, which you may find useful.
Lycos also has sent me the latest Top 50 search terms at its service. Of all the new entries into the Top 50, only one -- Whitney Houston -- has nothing to do with last week's tragedy. Here's the list of new terms, along with where they rank in the Top 50. More coverage of why people are searching for these particular terms can be found at the Lycos Top 50 site, also listed below.
Top 50 Rank - Search Term
1 - Nostradamus
2 - World Trade Center
3 - Osama Bin Laden
4 - New York
5 - Terrorism
6 - American Flag
7 - Afghanistan
10 - Whitney Houston
11 - Pentagon
12 - Red Cross
13 - Taliban
16 - FBI
18 - Islam
26 - September 11
27 - World War III
28 - FAA
31 - Camp David
32 - Gordon Sinclair
35 - Pearl Harbor
36 - White House
39 - Middle East
40 - Palestinians
45 - Cantor Fitzgerald
46 - Flightview
49 - Pakistan
Finding Disaster Coverage At Search Engines
SearchEngineWatch.com, Sept. 11, 2001
After the attacks on the United States, web users turned en masse to search engines for information. It took those services some time to adjust to the demand, but as the day progressed, many came up to speed. Both an analysis and tips on locating information.
Attack on America: Coping with Information Overload
SearchDay, Sept. 17, 2001
Links to trusted sources to help us cope with the information overload caused by the attack on America.
ResearchBuzz 911 Coverage
A huge list of resources ranging from places to donate to reference information.
The Attack How We Searched
About.com Web Search Guide, Sept. 14, 2001
Covers how survivor lists were created and the problems with inaccuracies on them.
LookSmart: American Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001
Compiled with large help from LookSmart's Zeal volunteer guides, you'll find links to coverage, message boards, relief efforts, victim information and more.
AltaVista/Moreover News Search
Get news stories from around the web, updated every 15 minutes.
Yahoo: World Trade Center and Pentagon Attack
Links to survivor lists, personal experience sites and Yahoo's "Full Coverage" news area about the attacks.
Google: News links and support information regarding attacks
Links and resources about the attacks, assembled by the staff of Google. All links below are similar resource compilations at other search engines and portals.
AOL: America in Crisis
Ask Jeeves WTC Resource Page
Lycos: What You Can Do
MSN: Disaster Response, How You Can Help
Details of some of the top search terms mentioned above at Lycos can be found here.
Yahoo Full Coverage: Emergency & Relief Information
Comprehensive list of relief organizations seeking assistance and more.
1MC: One Million Contributors
A list of places seeking or needing contributions.
Ask Jeeves Acquires Teoma
Ask Jeeves has purchased the Teoma search engine, which has attracted interest over recent months as a potential relevancy challenger to Google. Ask Jeeves hopes that the Sept. 9 acquisition will help the company both reenter the search results syndication market and make its own search site more appealing to consumers.
"Our search experience isn't good enough, and this makes it a whole lot better," said Skip Battle, CEO of Ask Jeeves.
Ask Jeeves does not plan to immediately close the Teoma site. It will be allowed to run alongside the company's existing Ask Jeeves or Direct Hit web sites.
"We're going to continue Teoma as its own site for quite some time and perhaps forever," Battle said.
However, Ask Jeeves will be working over the next two months to integrate Teoma's technology into its existing Direct Hit system, in order to enhance its search results.
This is the second major search acquisition that Ask Jeeves has made. In January 2000, the company purchased Direct Hit, in a stock deal valued at US $500 million. Ask Jeeves did not disclose a value to the Teoma deal to the press, but a recent SEC filing puts it at about $4 million. That's $1.7 million in cash and 2.5 million shares of stock, which is currently valued at about $1 per share.
Direct Hit was launched in 1998 and quickly gained popularity because of its then new method of measuring clickthrough to improve search results. The company signed a deal with HotBot that was expanded the next year, making Direct Hit the primary provider or HotBot's search results. In 1999, the company also gained some distribution with Lycos and MSN Search. All three deals continue today.
When Ask Jeeves purchased Direct Hit, it failed to capitalize on the company, as even Ask Jeeves admits. No new deals with major search partners were established, nor was an investment made to improve Direct Hit's coverage of the web and relevancy technology.
"We bought Direct Hit and left it fallow. We didn't invest in it or put money behind it," said Battle. "We were way too much sizzle and way too little steak."
Ask Jeeves had planned to make needed improvements to Direct Hit later this year, in order to go after new search partnership deals. It wants these deals because it believes it can make money off of paid placement listings within its results, as well as new paid inclusion listings it hopes to roll out later this year.
The planned improvements were hoped to be good enough for Ask Jeeves to cut deals with more vertical web sites, such as the one the company has with Dictionary.com. However, it now feels that the addition of Teoma's technology will make it strong enough to also compete for major partners, such as those powered by Google, Inktomi and FAST Search.
"We think we'll have a search capability that is very, very strong, together with a monetization ability that is very, very strong," Battle said. "Then we think we have a shot at tier one customers"
In addition, search improvements are seen as important to keep the flagship Ask Jeeves site as an attractive search destination. The site regularly draws about 11 percent of the potential web audience, according to Jupiter Media Metrix figures. Ask Jeeves has rolled out a variety of new ad products recently designed to go beyond banners, to help it monetize its search results.
The Teoma acquisition gives Ask Jeeves some impressive link analysis technology that can be integrated into the Direct Hit improvements that it already had underway. In addition, Teoma is enjoying some rising popularity as the new "hot" thing in search. Both factors offer an important boost to Ask Jeeves.
Google has been the "hot" search engine since about mid-1999. That was when it signed a deal to power some results with Netscape Search, and it shortly after dropped the "beta" moniker off its own web site. Since then, positive reviews and praise over the quality of results at Google have continued to roll in.
Google's accolades all well-deserved, because the company has maintained its exceptionally good search results while simultaneously building the largest collection of documents on the web. Google's only weakness is simply that it is no longer new. Reviewers and reporters in general are always looking for the latest new thing to write about, and Teoma's launch earlier this year stepped neatly into that gap.
Like Google, Teoma makes heavy use of link analysis to produce its results. However, Teoma's system measures links only within collections of documents deemed relevant to a particular search, rather than those on pages from across the entire web, as Google does.
Teoma has pitched this more narrow focus as meaning that it will produce better results than Google, but that spin glosses over the fact that Google has techniques that also let it focus on only relevant links. Nevertheless, the idea of Teoma somehow being better than Google has caused a variety of positive articles to appear, since I first wrote about the search engine back in July.
Teoma certainly offers potential to Ask Jeeves. It simply remains to be seen whether the company can make more use of this potential than it did with Direct Hit.
How will the integration happen? Let's review how Ask Jeeves and Direct Hit currently work, to see how they will go forward.
At the core of Ask Jeeves are human-compiled answers. There is a staff of about 20 editors that review popular queries and hand-pick sites to appear in the top results at the service. It is this human selection that gave Ask Jeeves the relevance that made it popular with users.
In contrast, Ask Jeeves is sometimes mistaken as the only major "natural language" search engine. This is because the service promoted the fact that users could enter questions in a sentence format and get relevant answers back. However, those answers were relevant because humans had been involved. In addition, you can enter natural language questions into any major search engine and get back answers. If they aren't relevant, that has more to do with the search engines not reviewing their query logs, as Ask Jeeves, does, then being unable to parse your query.
The editor count used to be over 100, by the way. Editors are expensive, so Ask Jeeves has scaled back on them. The goal now is to move forward with editors adding listings for only the most popular queries. The company recently told me that 93 percent of the questions it answers come out of only 20 percent of the knowledge base it has compiled.
In other words, Ask Jeeves argues that it doesn't need an extremely broad knowledge base to stay relevant. Instead, it needs editors to stay on top of the most pressing questions.
As backup to what the editors may miss are the listings from Direct Hit. These listings are gathered in two ways. First, Direct Hit monitors what people are clicking on in the results it provides to other sites, such as HotBot, MSN Search and Lycos. This clickstream, along with clicks at the Direct Hit site itself, are routed into a database that forms the Direct Hit search engine. Sites that attract good clicks for particular searches then rise to the top of listings.
Direct Hit also crawls the web, but it is not much of a crawler, so many pages on the web may be missed. Pages that it does find are added to the Direct Hit database. They may then become popular, if they attract clicks.
Direct Hit listings also appear beyond the Ask Jeeves site. You'll find them as the main results at the Direct Hit web site itself. In addition, they are the main listings that generally appear at HotBot. They may appear in the Lycos "Popular" section, and they come up if you select the "Top 10" link at MSN Search. Direct Hit listings are also distributed to some smaller web sites.
Just to confuse you, Ask Jeeves refers to its Direct Hit listings that are distributed to others as being from the "Jeeves Search Engine."
Before the Teoma announcement, the company had embarked on its "Hammerhead" project that intended to improve the Direct Hit results. Hammerhead is designed to increase the crawling capacity of Direct Hit. In addition, an essential component of Hammerhead is to allow for paid inclusion listings. Ask Jeeves sees this as an important new revenue source, though whether webmasters will agree that paid inclusion listings will remain to be seen.
Now enter Teoma into all of this. Teoma has some sophisticated link analysis mechanisms, but what the site has lacked is a large database. Teoma's index size is about 100 million pages. The company was already planning to improve this, and now Ask Jeeves says Teoma will be able to take advantage of the work already done in its Hammerhead project.
"We'll have Teoma farther along than they would have been themselves, with our work," Battle said.
Some of this feels like spin, however. Teoma already said it was easily scalable, so it doesn't seem like Ask Jeeves is providing it with anything technologically that is extremely helpful -- except, perhaps, for the rapid insertion of paid inclusion listings.
Of course, there's no doubt that funding and distribution from Ask Jeeves potentially means a big boost for Teoma. But this also depends on the company not making the same mistake it did after the Direct Hit acquisition, as well as Ask Jeeves surviving the current economic slowdown. Battle is positive, on that front.
"We have $88 million in cash. We've got money and time to make this combination to work," he said.
Ultimately, technology from the existing Direct Hit service, the Hammerhead project and Teoma should all be combined and made available in a new search engine scheduled to appear at the end of October. That new service, which will be distributed through all the Ask Jeeves web sites and partner sites, is what Ask Jeeves hopes will be the Google-killer, in terms of both relevancy and coverage.
How Ask Jeeves Works
Updated, this provides information on how Ask Jeeves compiles its results and, in particular, how to appear in the knowledge base.
How Direct Hit Works
Updated, this explains how Direct Hit currently works and provides some overview tips on how to prepare for the Teoma integration.
Make Room For Teoma
The Search Engine Update, July 2, 2001
Background and details about Teoma.
Ask Jeeves Announces New Models of Its Signature Ad Product
Ask Jeeves Press Release, Sept. 10, 2001
The "Branded Response" program at Ask Jeeves puts image-oriented ads right within the main search results. New enhancements let advertisers add options so that users can leave email addresses or registration information from within the ads or display animation, sound and video.
Ask Jeeves Advertising Information
More information about Ask Jeeves advertising products.
LookSmart Answers To Ask Jeeves
SiliconValley.internet.com, Sept. 4, 2001
There was a time when the meta search result at Ask Jeeves were more than ads. That's long gone. LookSmart joins players such as GoTo and About.com that are distributing their paid listings via the Ask Jeeves "meta search" area.
AskJeeves & Teoma SEC Filing
Covers the price Ask Jeeves paid for Teoma.
Wisenut, the Google Killer? Nah...
SearchDay, Sept. 5, 2001
Like Teoma, Wisenut has also been heralded as a scrappy underdog that's supposedly going to topple Google from its "throne" as the king of web search. Not likely, says Search Engine Watch associate editor Chris Sherman.
Inktomi Spam Database Left Open To Public
Inktomi suffered an embarrassing lack of security last week, when it was discovered that a copy of its database of spam and porn sites was left open to the public. The full and lengthy story can be found via the URL below:
Inktomi Spam Database Left Open To Public
The Search Engine Update, Sept. 18, 2001
Following LookSmart's lead in August, Yahoo has increased the price of its Yahoo Express submission service to $299.
Nothing else has changed other than the price. In exchange for payment, Yahoo agrees to review your site within seven working days and give you a yes or no answer as to whether you will be listed. Most sites are generally accepted.
Payment is mandatory for any commercial category in Yahoo.
How Yahoo Works
Very detailed guide to the process of submitting successfully to Yahoo.
Goodbye GoTo; Hello Overture. That's to be the new name for GoTo, come October 8.
It was nearly a year ago that GoTo announced it was going to change its name. The company wanted something that reflected its new business of distributing search results to others, rather than trying to attract customers to its site.
"Overture is an introduction, and we feel that's what we do as a company," said GoTo's chief operating officer Jaynie Studenmund. "We also felt it was a sophisticated enough name, in case our products expand."
The move to the name in October will also mean a new stock ticker symbol, GOTO being replaced by OVER.
Don't worry -- entering goto.com into your browser will still bring you to the right place, even after the name change. GoTo plans to maintain the goto.com domain for at least though next March 15.
See the logo, at this placeholder for the future new site of GoTo.
GoTo gambles with new name
News.com, Sept. 10, 2001
A bit more about the name change and GoTo's earnings.
GoTo.com May No Longer Be a Go-To Stock
Wall St. Journal, Sept. 5, 2001
Longer look at GoTo's business model and finances. Its stock has been down, due in part to insider selling.
Here are some recent articles that may be of interest, from Search Engine Watch's daily SearchDay newsletter:
To Cloak or Not to Cloak?
SearchDay, Sept. 13, 2001
Love it or hate it, cloaking is the most controversial topic in the world of search engine marketing today.
Designing Search Engine Friendly Sites
SearchDay, Sept. 11, 2001
Advice from experts on how to create search engine friendly sites that generate more traffic from search engines and directories.
Meet the Search Engines!
SearchDay, Sept. 6, 2001
Key executives from AltaVista, FAST, Google and Inktomi open their kimonos and share facts, tips and secrets about their respective search engines.
Wisenut, the Google Killer? Nah...
SearchDay, Sept. 5, 2001
The media is heralding Wisenut as the scrappy underdog that's supposedly going to topple Google from its "throne" as the king of web search. Not likely -- here's why.
On the archive page below, you'll find more articles like those above, plus have the ability to sign-up for the free newsletter.
Search Engine Articles
Companies Lack Sound Search Engine Strategies
CyberAtlas, Sept. 13, 2001
A new report from iProspect found that 97 out of 100 Fortune 500 companies had some type of site architecture problem that might give them problems being found by search engines. It also touches on the report that I and Search Engine Watch associate editor Chris Sherman authored about general search engine strategies followed by companies, including that nearly half those surveyed said they allocate less than 0.5 percent of their annual marketing budgets on search engine optimization services. I'm planning to give you a better summary of that report in the next issue, time allowing.
A Site to Take Issue With
Business 2.0, Sept. 6, 2001
Short review of BackIssueFinder.com which lets you find....back issues of magazines. Perhaps now's the time for me to offload all those back issues of Starlog from the 1970s!
Do Search Engines Expedite the Theft of Digital Images?
New York Times, Sept. 6, 2001
In-depth article on the issue of the upcoming image search lawsuit that I covered in an earlier newsletter. Quotes from the parties involved and analysts.
Atomz Powers Along the S-curve
ASPNews, Sept. 5, 2001
Profile of how Atomz has built a business by providing remote site search services.
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