THE SEARCH ENGINE UPDATE
June 22, 1998 - Number 31
About The Update
The Search Engine Update is a twice-monthly update of search engine news. It is available only to those people who have subscribed to Search Engine Watch, http://searchenginewatch.com/.
Please note that long URLs may break into two lines in some mail readers. Cut and paste, should this occur.
In This Issue
+ General Notes
+ The Mid-Month Summary
+ GnuHoo: Yahoo Built By The Masses
+ SelfPromotion.com: Submissions, Shareware-Style
+ Search Engine Notes
+ Search Engine Articles
+ Subscribing/Unsubscribing Info
I'm in the midst of doing a massive amount of updating to the site, including organizing articles from past newsletters by search engine, which should make it easier to locate the latest news or to read up on past developments.
Within the public site, these pages have been updated:
+ Search Engine EKGs
+ SpiderSpotting Chart
+ Search Engine Sizes
+ Media Metrix Search Engine Ratings
+ RelevantKnowledge Search Engine Ratings
+ Search Engine Alliances
+ What People Search For
This page is completely new:
+ MetaCrawler Top Search Terms
Links to all the pages above can be found on the site's What's New page.
Within the Subscribers-Only Area, the More SpiderSpotting page has been updated, and a new More About What People Search For page has been added. Links can be found on the Subscriber-Only home page.
Search Engine News
Things have slowed down a bit in Search Engine Land in comparison to the past months, though it is far from quiet. Below are some quick hits on major stories that will be covered in more depth in the next newsletter:
+ Disney is to acquire a 43 percent stake in Infoseek, in an agreement announced June 18. In return, Infoseek is acquiring Starwave, which runs ABCnews.com and ESPN.com as a joint venture with Disney. A new portal service featuring content from all these players is promised for later this year.
+ NBC has agreed to purchase a 19 percent stake in Cnet's Snap search service, with an option to increase its share to 60 percent. The move gives NBC a toehold in the current portal mania sweeping the web; it also turns Snap from a Cnet liability into a new crown jewel. The announcement came on June 9.
+ Yahoo announced June 8 that it would acquire Viaweb, a prominent commerce web site hosting service.
+ Netscape unveiled a beta version of its new portal offering.
Links and articles providing some more details about all these developments are below:
Disney Buys into Infoseek
Wired, June 18, 1998
NBC Buys Into Cnet's Web Hub, Snap
Internet World, June 15, 1998
Yahoo Is Treading Gently In Buyout of Mall Operator
Internet World, June 15, 1998
Netscape Netcenter Beta Site
An interesting new directory was launched on June 5 that is produced by a staff of volunteer editors.
Called GnuHoo, the idea is that by enlisting people from across the web to serve as editors, the service will better be able to keep up with listing requests and changes that produce backlogs and dead links at services such as Yahoo.
The service is a pet project created and supported by two California-based computer programmers, Rich Skrenta and Bob Truel. Its name and inspiration is derived from the GNU project, the long-standing volunteer effort to produce a free, UNIX-like operating system.
Building a directory requires a category framework, and for that, GnuHoo turned to Usenet.
"We toyed with the Dewey Decimal System, but it didn't really seem to fit well with the content on the web. Eventually we hit on the idea of using a list of Usenet groups as an outline for our category structure. That would provide representative breadth for what people talked about on the Internet. I took a long list of groups and hand-edited them into a hierarchy," Skrenta said.
The next challenge was filling this framework, but converts have been signing up in droves. The site now boasts 350 editors, who have categorized 30,000 sites into 3,700 categories. In contrast, Yahoo's surfer staff is in the 80-person range, with over 750,000 sites categorized. Skrenta said they hope to scale the system so that it can handle between 10,000-100,000 editors.
Much of GnuHoo definitely feels empty, as could be expected. But there are a few pockets where the listings have more depth than at Yahoo.
For example, Yahoo's Thyroid Disorders category lists 19 links, while GnuHoo's Thyroid Disorders page, run by an enterprising editor, lists 148 resources.
GnuHoo hopes that these pockets will become the norm, as a large staff means that each editor has more time to spend covering a particular category. It also helps that many volunteers already have an interest or an expertise in the areas they cover, Skrenta said.
Some may also think that GnuHoo sounds familiar to the Mining Company model, which is a network of over 500 specialty sites maintained by independent specialists.
The main difference is that the Mining Company is not a search service, though it is often seen in that light. Actual content resides within its sites, and link lists are only a part of that. In contrast, GnuHoo is an attempt to categorize the web, not to provide topical content.
With a staff of volunteers, there's always the fear that editors could enlist to promote their own sites. This has already happened, Skrenta said, but the volunteer community is policing itself.
"We have had some instances of editors signing up just so they could list their own site and put a 'cool' icon next to it. Other editors complain when they notice such abuses, so the peer-review system seems to be working so far," Skrenta explained.
Want to become an editor? Applying is easy. Search for an existing category that you'd like to edit, and if it has no editor, apply using the "Become an Editor" link at the top of the category page. You can tell if an editor exists by looking at the bottom right-hand corner of the page, where the editor's screen name is displayed.
In fact, this is one of my favorite features of GnuHoo. Clicking on the screen name brings up the name and email address of the person responsible for the particular area. This makes it easy to get in contact with them, and because there are so many, they are not as likely to be as overwhelmed by mail as would be the case for Yahoo editors.
If a category has an editor, you can still apply to edit a subcategory. Simply follow the same procedure, but on the application form, indicate a proposed name for the new subcategory.
How about submitting? Basic Yahoo guidelines work well at GnuHoo. Do a search for keywords related to your site, and that will bring up likely categories for you to submit to. The main problem here is that there are fewer categories, so you may have to submit to a broader area than you might expect, for the moment.
On each of the category pages, you'll find an Add URL link at the top of the page. Select this to submit your site. You'll need to enter a title, a description, a URL and an optional email address. Follow basic Yahoo guidelines to optimize your submission, and you'll be fine.
Unlike Yahoo, there is no limit to the length of a description you can submit. Each GnuHoo editor decides what's acceptable. Since most existing descriptions are in the 25-word range allowed by Yahoo, it makes sense to use this as a guide.
GnuHoo also differs from Yahoo in that you can't suggest an alternative category on the Add URL form. If you think your site is suitable for more than one category, you must go to each place and submit.
There is no limit to how many different categories you can submit to, but editors can tell if a site is listed in more than one area of GnuHoo. Thus, it makes sense not to go overboard. Pick your key categories, and leave it at that.
You can also submit a change request. Again, the appropriate link is at the top of the category pages, called "Update URL."
How Yahoo Works
Forgotten how to submit to Yahoo? Read this page in the Subscribers-Only area for a step-by-step guide on optimizing your submission, which will also help with GnuHoo.
Self Promotion.com is an up-and-coming web promotion resource that will be of interest to many web marketers, especially those on tight budgets.
It is primarily an automated site promotion service, similar to Submit It. The difference is that Submit It and other services like it usually only allow free submission to a limited number of sites. Self Promotion.com has a shareware site philosophy that lets you submit to a large number right from the beginning.
Of course, webmaster Robert Woodhead encourages those using the service to support it with a voluntary subscription, and those paying from $10 upward are rewarded with extra benefits. That should sound familiar to Search Engine Watch supporters :)
Among the benefits are "Secret Net Tools," which include some search engine specific programs.
"Rankulator" is a basic position checker. It can't hold its own against a more dedicated tool such as Position Agent or WebPosition, but as an extra benefit, it's not bad. It tells you what page you are listed on for AltaVista, Excite, Infoseek and Lycos.
The Rankulator form allows you to enter three search terms, and then it will search to see if you are listed for those exact terms and combinations of them.
For example, tell it to look for "ballooning," "blimps" and "zeppelins," and it will look for those terms plus a combination such as "ballooning blimps zeppelins." If you pick your terms carefully, these permutations can be helpful. However, I suspect they are probably confusing for most people, so it's probably best to ignore all but the exact terms.
"Espionage" allows you to enter a URL and be presented with a report highlighting elements of particular interest to search engines. Meta tags are displayed without the surrounding coding, as is link text. Obviously, you can eyeball code without a tool like Espionage, but some people might find it a useful way to isolate key elements.
"Link Finder" is a link popularity checker. It queries AltaVista and HotBot to find all the pages that they know link to your site. One big plus to Link Finder is that you get all the links listed on one single page, which is convenient. It doesn't filter your own internal links, however. Thus, your own pages will appear, as well as those from outside your site linking in.
"Keyword Diffuser" is the most useful search engine tool. It is a meta tag builder, with a twist.
It is usually best to make tags that reflect the copy of each individual page. However, this is a time consuming chore, so many people simply create one set of tags used across an entire site.
The problem with this is that by varying the tags, you may have a better chance of striking the right combination to increase relevancy. Also, with some search engines, short pages with the same tags might inadvertently be considered near-duplicates and automatically excluded.
The Keyword Diffuser is helpful in both cases. You enter a set of terms, along with a set of secondary terms, and the program generates up to 100 different meta keywords tags.
Aside from the search engine tools, there are also other goodies such as the ability to store your data for a year and automatic submission to Free For All pages.
The core submission service is also extremely well done. One nice feature is that when you submit, only the information required for a particular service is requested. As you add more directories, you're prompted for extra information, as needed.
The descriptions of individual directories are also well written and helpful. Just reading about the various places to submit provides plenty of value to those new to web promotion. The ability to actually submit is almost like an extra benefit.
Overall, if you've considered trying an automated submission service, SelfPromotion.com should be among your top choices.
I'm always asked about whether one should use automated services to submit to search engines, and my advice is always the same. For the major search engines, and any of the smaller topical directories that you feel are particularly important, manual submission is best. These places are most likely to bring you traffic, so it is well worth the minimal time effort to do it by hand.
As for the hundreds of minor places that list sites, it usually isn't worth the time to visit them individually, as they don't generate that much traffic. An automated tool is an efficient way to deal with these places.
Search Engine Articles
New York Post, June 12, 1998
Short story on Excite, mainly worthwhile for the color, such as employees getting gas money for sticking Excite magnets on their cars.
Web Search Services in 1998: Trends and Challenges
Searcher, June 1998
Researcher Susan Feldman summarizes the state of search engines in 1998, finding they have generally improved from last year. Lots of useful tips and a great chart of features, designed with the researcher in mind.
How to Do Field Searching in Web Search Engines
Online, May 1998
A summary of field searching on the major search engines, such as searching within hyperlink text or title text.
Inktomi Raises $36 Million in Strong IPO
Internet World, June 15, 1998
Details on behind-the-scenes search results provider Inktomi going public.
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