THE SEARCH ENGINE REPORT
January 3, 2001 - Number 50
By Danny Sullivan
Editor, Search Engine Watch
Copyright (c) 2000 internet.com corporation
About The Report
The Search Engine Report is a monthly newsletter that covers developments with search engines and changes to the Search Engine Watch web site, http://searchenginewatch.com/.
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In This Issue
+ Site & Conference News
+ Paid Submission & Other Changes At NBCi
+ Go Gains Paid Inclusion System
+ HotBot Launches In Europe
+ LookSmart Ups Basic Submit Price
+ 12 Minutes To Search Rage
+ Iconocast Poll Sheds Light On Search Engine Optimization Issues
+ Survey Finds Search Engine Referrals Low
+ Search Engine Resources
+ Interesting Search Engine Articles
+ List Info (Subscribing/Unsubscribing)
Happy New Year to you all! And thanks to the thousands of you who cast your votes for the first Search Engine Watch awards. I'm still looking through all the suggestions, and I expect to announce the winners later this month. Watch the What's New page to know when.
The next Search Engine Strategies conference is coming to London on February 15. I'll be presenting and moderating sessions at the conference that features experts on search engine marketing issues and panelists from the various major search engines themselves. Services participating so far include GoTo, Inktomi and Lycos Europe.
There will be a special presentation on regional and language issues, of interest to those based in Europe or who need to be listed with European search engines. We will also be having roundtable sessions where European search engine marketing experts will answer questions about advanced issues. More information can be found via the URL below:
Search Engine Strategies 2001 - London
We now also have the dates for our first two day event, which features a day for searcher issues, in addition to the topics aimed at web marketers. It will be March 20 and 21, in Boston, at the Marriott Copley hotel. An agenda and more details for the session should be available later this month. To be notified when it is ready, just leave your email address at the form below:
Search Engine Conferences
Paid Submission & Other Changes At NBCi
NBCi has rolled out a paid submission service that allows faster review of sites for inclusion into its main directory. In addition, the service, formerly known as Snap, has also made some changes to how sites are listed in its results.
In line with express submission pricing from Yahoo and LookSmart, NBCi is charging $199 for those who want an answer within five business days about being included in its directory. However, the price is only $99 as an introductory offer until Feb. 15.
Sites can still be listed for free at NBCi, due to its two-tier listing structure. When someone searches at NBCi, most queries are answered by the main NBCi Directory, a listing of sites that have all been reviewed and approved by editors. This is also called the "Top Sites" directory. However, any NBCi user can submit a site to a secondary "LiveDirectory" set of listings. These unreviewed sites serve as a backup for when there are no matching sites from the main directory.
For example, do a search for "used telescopes," and you'll see that most of the results page is filled with "Top Sites" listings that come out of the Top Sites directory. However, toward the bottom of the page are two "Member-Submitted Sites" that come from the LiveDirectory.
Sites can be added to the LiveDirectory free of charge and typically show up within an hour or less after submission. Moreover, if NBCi's tracking systems determine that they seem to be satisfying queries, sites in the LiveDirectory can then get "promoted" to the Top Sites directory. For site owners, such promotion can mean an increase in traffic, since its usually the main directory listings that people see. The new program allows sites to pay a free to speed up this promotion process.
"Sites normally need to be in the LiveDirectory for about three to four months, so we can see how well they rise to the top, said NBCi's Robert Christiansen, managing producer of the directory. "With the guaranteed review program, if it's worth promoting, we'll do it within days."
To promote a site, you first have to submit it to the LiveDirectory, and the links below provide more advice about this. Once a site is added to the LiveDirectory, you'll receive an email from NBCi with promotion instructions. Any that can be promoted will have a little "Promote" icon next to them.
Also at NBCi, you'll find new "More Like This" and "Site Details" links appearing at the bottom of each site listed. In addition, the existing "Listed in NBCi Category" and "Find more sites about" links remain for each listing. Here's a rundown on how you might take advantage of these options.
Let's say you searched for "Mir," the ageing Russian space station. The second listing that comes up is "Mir Space Station," a page from NASA. After the page's description, you'll see a link that says "Listed in NBCi Category: Mir." Selecting this category link brings up other sites that NBCi has classified about Mir, helpful if you want a human-edited list of sites about the station. By default, you'll only be shown editor reviewed sites, but by choosing the "Member-Submitted Sites" link at the top of the category, you can see other sites on the topic that have been added by NBCi users and which may be of interest.
Under the NASA "Mir Space Station" listing is also a line that says "Find more sites about: space station | international space station | space colonies." Each topic is a link, and selecting one reruns your search using those words. Behind the scenes, what's happening is that NBCi can track that some sites selected by people who search for Mir are also chosen by people who search for other topics, such as "space station." From this, NBCi can suggest that these other searches might be of interest to those who search for Mir. So, the "Find more sites" option provides a useful way to take your search in a new but related direction from your original search topic.
By selecting the "More Like This" link, you'll see other sites similar to the NASA site about Mir. Unlike using the "Listing in NBCi Category" link, More Like This will bring back sites beyond those just listed in the Mir category. You'll also see any related searches and related categories that may be of interest.
Finally, the "Site Details" link is probably of most interest to webmasters and site promoters. It shows you how a particular site ranks for major search terms. For example, the NASA Mir site is ranked number 2 for "mir" and number 5 for "space station."
(A longer version of this article is available to Search Engine Watch "site subscribers." Learn more about becoming a site subscriber at http://searchenginewatch.com/about/subscribe.html?source=0101ser-nbci)
LiveDirectory Home Page
Learn more about submitting to the LiveDirectory here. Once you've done that, you'll then be able to promote your submitted sites to the Top Sites directory.
NBCi Promote a Site Help Center
More specific help from NBCi about its promotion program, including guidelines about what is and isn't eligible for promotion.
NBCi E-mail Us Page
Use this page to get in contact about changes to sites in the Top Sites directory that were added before the promotion program began.
NBCi (Snap) Unveils LiveDirectory
The Search Engine Report, Dec. 6, 1999
Past article about the LiveDirectory system.
NBCi Faces Struggle to Become Major Portal
Bloomberg, Dec. 29, 2000
Unlike AltaVista, which pulled back from the portal game late last year, NBCi is taking aim at the likes of AOL, Yahoo and MSN. But NBCi has US $380 million in free advertising on US network NBC to use in its fight. Be aware that this article may only be free for a short period of time.
Go Gains Paid Inclusion System
Go.com has become the second major crawler-based search engine to roll out a paid inclusion program. Its new US $199 "Premium Service" will add any URL submitted to its crawler-based results within 48 hours and revisit that URL on a weekly basis, for one year.
The price is much more expensive than Inktomi's paid inclusion program. Rolled out in November 2000, it charges $20 for the first URL, $10 for each URL after that and offers a further discount if more than 100 URLs are submitted.
However, Go is almost certainly going to include a separate submission to its Go Guides directory as part of the $199 price, in the near future. In addition, should such a bundled submit service emerge, then it's entirely possible that a separate service with a lower price may be offered for those who just want to be included in Go's crawler-based results. How low? More in line with Inktomi, Go expects.
"Ten dollars a page, if that's what's Inktomi's charging, then that's what we'll want to be competitive on," said Bernt Wahl, Go's senior product manager of search.
As with Inktomi, Go says that its paid submission service is a complement to its regular crawling, not a replacement. In other words, web pages will continue to be added to its index for free, but the paid program gives webmasters a guaranteed way to ensure they get in.
(A longer version of this article is available to Search Engine Watch "site subscribers." Learn more about becoming a site subscriber at http://searchenginewatch.com/about/subscribe.html?source=0101ser-go)
Premium Service Add URL page
Free Add URL page
Go's free Add URL system also remains, but pages submitted via this may not get added for up to 10 weeks -- if at all. To improve the odds of a free listing, a site should be listed in the Go Guides directory, Go says. That should put it on the priority list for Go's spider.
Sign-up to become a Go Guide and submit your site here.
Inktomi Debuts Self-Serve Paid Inclusion
The Search Engine Report, Nov. 3, 2000
More about Inktomi's paid inclusion program can be found here.
HotBot Launches In Europe
Lycos Europe has quietly launched its new HotBot UK, France and German sites in December (other European HotBot's may also be out there, but I haven't had a chance to check). An official rollout of these is planned for after the New Year, but you can access the Inktomi-powered sites now. I may be taking a closer look at them soon, as part of a planned review of the series of Lycos search and portal sites that serve various European countries.
The launch also means that those in the UK trying to reach the US version of HotBot at http://www.hotbot.com may find themselves automatically redirected to the UK version (the same is probably true in France and Germany). That's unfortunate. Lycos has employed the same type of redirection over the past two years to force those trying to access its US site into its European versions. As a result, it's not an uncommon experience to discover that search pages may not load correctly, broken links occasionally occur and other unexpected problems crop up.
Perhaps the redirection with HotBot will fare better, but I'd prefer to see the type of system that AltaVista and others employ. If AltaVista detects you are accessing its US site from the UK, it pops up a separate window to remind you that a UK version exists, rather than forcing you to the UK site.
If you want to reach HotBot US from abroad, enter the URL above rather than http://www.hotbot.com, and you can access the service.
HotBot US Mail
Should you have mail through HotBot US, the URL above will continue to provide you access.
LookSmart Ups Basic Submit Price
The price of LookSmart's "Basic Submit" service has been increased from $79 to $99. Basic Submit guarantees that a site will be reviewed within eight weeks for possible inclusion into the directory.
LookSmart previously had raised the price of Basic Submit from $49 to $79 in September, saying the increase was needed to cover its costs and share revenue with others offering the service.
"The $49 was a problematic price point, but at the $79, that's where we can share something with our partners," said Kristin Morse, LookSmart's director of ecommerce, at the time.
Despite that rise, Morse now says that LookSmart determined it needed to raise the price further, and another increase could happen. "We still don't feel that we've gotten the pricing right," she said.
As for the "partners" that Morse referred to, these are search engines like AltaVista, Excite, iWon and MSN Search. They all use LookSmart's information in some way for their results. They also allow their users to submit to LookSmart from within their own sites. In return, they receive some of the LookSmart submission fee. Until now, these partners have only offered the more expensive "Express Submit" service. Now, Morse says several should soon begin to also offer Basic Submit.
Registered non-profit sites can still continue to submit for free. LookSmart won't message you if accepted or rejected, Morse said, but the service does now guarantee that all non-profit submissions will be reviewed within eight weeks. In other words, if you submit, your site should either get in within eight weeks. If not, it was rejected (and then you are free to resubmit).
LookSmart Submit A Site
Information from LookSmart about its various submission options.
Pay For Placement?
You'll find past articles about the LookSmart program and similar paid submit systems on this page.
Iconocast Poll Sheds Light On Search Engine Optimization Issues
In November, the respected Iconocast newsletter surveyed its readers on search engine optimization issues. Here's a summary of key findings, based on 404 responses:
+ Manual submission was found more popular than automated submission (71 percent vs. 52 percent), but the gap between the two was much smaller than that found by a different poll conducted among I-Search readers earlier this year (84 percent vs. 16 percent).
Why such a big difference? Iconocast readers clearly could choose any choice that applied, while I-Search readers had to choose one or the other. Result? The Iconocast survey implies that many people will use both methods but manual submission is used by most. And the I-Search survey hints at why: 86 percent of those who submit manually did so because they either thought or knew it was more effective.
+ Only 20 percent said they "Paid for faster submission." However, another 20 percent also said they "Paid for directory listing," and there's the possibility that those surveyed could have been confused between the two. The faster submission option refers to using programs such as Yahoo and LookSmart's express submission services, which promise that a site will be reviewed in a short period of time, in exchange for a fee. The directory listing option refers to paid placement services such as GoTo.com, where top listings are sold. Short examples where provided with both options but Iconocast said it wasn't entirely clear that respondents understood the difference between the two.
+ Sadly, the Iconocast survey pointed out that only just over half the respondents (53 percent) actively measure traffic from search engines, with log file analysis being the leading method (49 percent), followed by rank checking (42 percent).
+ Meta tags remain the weapon of choice in improving rankings (61 percent), while the far more important element of page titles comes in second (44 percent). Link building is also a crucial activity, but it came in a distant third (32 percent). After these came tactics more often (but not always) associated with spamming: purchasing multiple domains (28 percent), maintaining multiple home pages (21 percent) and hidden text (18 percent).
The survey also listed most popular submission firms or companies, with Microsoft's bCentral topping the list (41 percent).
Iconocast Search Engine Optimization Poll
Iconocast, Dec. 7, 2000
Full results of the Iconocast poll can be found here.
Search Engine Marketers Prefer Manual Submission to Auto-Submit Tools
SearchEngineWatch.com, March 20, 2000
Results of the I-Search submission survey mentioned above.
Survey Finds Search Engine Referrals Low
New statistics from WebSideStory's StatMarket service show that search engines generate only 7 percent of traffic to web sites, far below the leading methods of direct navigation or following links. The low figure is very surprising, because other surveys have consistently found that people report search engines as one of the top ways they find web sites.
The StatMarket survey found that either direct navigation or using bookmarks was the most popular way of reaching web sites, generating 47 percent of traffic. Following links was the second most popular, generating 46 percent of traffic. Included in the links total were clicks on banner ads.
The statistics are gathered by measuring traffic to 200,000 sites that use WebSideStory's HitBox tracking service. These sites include everything from large businesses, to hobbyists, to porn sites. The statistics are as measured on Dec. 17, 2000.
Only pages actually tagged with the HitBox tracker get counted, which could have a big impact on the search engine representation. For example, if many people only tag their home pages, then search engine referrals to inside pages (which are common) would be missed entirely.
My suspicion is that the true average of visits generated by search engines is higher, perhaps considerably so, especially when you consider how popular search services are as rated by user measurement companies such as Media Metrix and Nielsen//NetRatings.
(A longer version of this article is available to Search Engine Watch "site subscribers." Learn more about becoming a site subscriber at http://searchenginewatch.com/about/subscribe.html?source=0101ser-smkt)
Search Engines Refer Only A Small Percentage Of Traffic To Web Sites Worldwide
StatMarket, Dec. 19, 2000
Release with details of the survey from StatMarket.
Ratings, Reviews and Tests
You'll find more information about StatMarket on the StatMarket Ratings page, as well as statistics from other ratings firms. Please note I'm working to update these this month. Also see the Search Engine Index page, which provides an at-a-glance look at key statistics about search engines.
12 Minutes To Search Rage
How long is too long until searching the web drives you crazy? Apparently, 12 minutes, according to a new survey commissioned by search engine WebTop.com.
The survey found that 71 percent of Internet users say they get frustrated when searching, and it takes about 12 minutes, on average, for them to feel this search rage.
The 12 minutes figure is actually a very good benchmark for anyone to use. Search engines are wonderful tools, but everything you are looking for is not on the web. If you've been searching for about 10 minutes, consider some more "traditional" alternatives. For example, consult an informational professional, such as a librarian. Or, looking for a company's web site and still had no luck? Pick up that magical device called a telephone, call directory assistance and get the company's phone number -- then ask them for their web address.
The survey also found that 86 percent of users thought searching could be made more efficient, and that more than one-third of users (36 percent) spend more than 2 hours per week searching the web.
My favorite statistic was that 46 percent of users said that finding wrong information is frustrating. So, does that mean the other 54 percent don't mind getting incorrect results? More likely, it's just that most people expect that web searches will not be perfect, I suspect.
The survey was conducted from July 27 to August 1, 2000 by Roper Starch Worldwide and involved 566 adults, interviewed by telephone.
The World Wide $#@%@$ing Web!
ZDNet News, Dec. 23, 2000
Some comments from me and others about the survey results.
Search Engine Resources
Launched in December, this country-specific edition of AltaVista offers 8 million Brazil-specific pages in addition to the AltaVista world wide index.
Also launched in December, this edition of AltaVista offers over 1 million Portuguese-specific pages in addition to the AltaVista world wide index.
This popular meta search site underwent a facelift in December. The home page and results pages are said to have been redesigned to load faster, and the look is certainly cleaner overall. You'll also find the dog mascot (his name is Arfie) is used more prominently than in the past.
This guide to "invisible web" or "deep web" content has doubled the size of its database to 38,500 sources. More about CompletePlanet can also be found via this earlier review: "Invisible Web Gets Deeper," http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/00/08-deepweb.html.
AltaVista Cool Sites
AltaVista's search trends section lives again. The feature was placed in hibernation after the staff layoffs of September, but it began showing signs of life in December. It's now been reshaped to feature cool sites listings, but on the right-hand side of the page, you'll see the top 25 search terms at AltaVista. The bottom of the page shows terms that are rising and following. "Bottom Feeders" are those terms that were once incredibly popular but which now hover just on the edge of the radar screen of significance.
Search Engine Articles
Johns Hopkins Cures Its Search Woes
InternetWeek, Dec. 28, 2000
How Johns Hopkins University put Inktomi's Ultraseek software to work to make its campus web site searchable.
AltaVista puts Raging Bull on block
CBS MarketWatch, Dec. 26, 2000
AltaVista is selling off its Raging Bull stock market site, just over one year from when it purchased it.
LookSmart big wheels rush for the exit door
The Age, Dec. 21, 2000
Interesting details on LookSmart executives selling off their stock.
Golf organization asks Yahoo to pull gambling ads
Bloomberg, Dec. 18, 2000
Major US sports associations have been pressuring Yahoo to remove online gambling ads from pages where they have content agreements.
Northern Light Officially Launches SinglePoint
Information Today, Dec. 18, 2000
Review of new Northern Light product that provides integrated searching across a company's intranet or web site, the web as a whole and Northern Light's Special Collection documents.
Memo details AltaVista management shake-up, changes
News.com, Dec. 15, 2000
AltaVista may split its business into two groups, one serving consumer web search and the other providing search solutions for businesses, according to a leaked memo.
Ask Jeeves shows staff the door
InfoWorld, Dec. 13, 2000
Ask Jeeves is laying off 180 employees -- 25 percent of its staff -- and is to split into two companies, one concentrating on the Ask Jeeves search solutions for businesses and the other focused on its own consumer search sites.
Search engines get the enterprise treatment
ZDNet, Dec. 12, 2000
News search service Moreover.com inks a partnership with Inktomi, which means that we'll likely see Inktomi partners offer news search in the near future. Inktomi also cuts a deal with video search company Virage, while AltaVista upgrades the search software it offers to businesses.
Search Engines Fire On More Cylinders
Internet Week, Dec. 7, 2000
Details on upgrades to AltaVista search software that is available to businesses for site specific and intranet needs.
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Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!