In This Issue
Search Engine Watch News
Nominations for the Search Engine Watch Awards are now open! As a Search Engine Watch member, you have the unique opportunity to influence which search engines will go through to the final voting for the best of 2003 later this month. Nominate your favorites today through Friday, using the form below:
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Later this month, you'll receive a special email providing instructions on how to vote in the finalist round.
Search Engine Strategies comes to New York from March 1-4, 2004. It features the return of our most popular sessions as well as plenty of new panels and topics. You'll find the full agenda and registration information via the link below:
Search Engine Strategies New York
Dates for several other Search Engine Strategies events in 2004 have also been set. Find out when it will come to Tokyo, Toronto and San Jose via the URL below:
Search Engine Strategies
Search Engine Articles
By Danny Sullivan
Eurekster Launches Personalized Social Search
SearchDay, Jan. 21, 2004
Personalized search has long been promised as an important next step for increasing relevancy. Now it comes not from Google or Yahoo but instead from tiny Eurekster, which opens to the general public today.
Here's a recap of recent articles from Search Engine Watch's daily SearchDay newsletter:
Today's Newspapers Around the World
SearchDay, Jan. 20, 2004
Want to see what today's print version of your favorite newspaper looks like online? Two services offer reproductions of dozens of newspapers from around the world.
Search Engine Forums Spotlight
SearchDay, Jan. 16, 2004
Links to this week's topics from search engine forums across the web: Yahoo Says It will Switch to Inktomi First Quarter - Yahoo Changing... So Is $299 Annual Still Worth It? - Is It Time To Get Out Of The SEO business? - Inktomi Ranking Algorithm Questions - Fahrner Image Replacement Technique, Can This Hurt Or Help SEO? - Hidden Google Tools - Bad News at FindWhat - Recommended Australia Search Engine for Pay Per Click Advertising?
Local Search, With A Visual Twist
SearchDay, Jan. 15, 2004
Metrobot combines an excellent local search engine with a unique graphical interface that makes it easy to locate businesses in a dozen major U.S. cities.
Day of Reckoning in Search Engine Advertising
SearchDay, Jan. 14, 2004
Overture's announcement that it plans to separate contextual advertising from regular search results has garnered kudos from the search engine marketing community. Will Google follow suit?
Google, Yahoo Add New Search Features
SearchDay, Jan. 13, 2004
Both Google and Yahoo have added new features designed to make it easier to find and track certain types of information that was previously difficult to find with a search engine.
Search Engine Marketing Resources From SEMPO
SearchDay, Jan. 12, 2004
The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization's web site offers a wealth of resources for both search marketers and information professionals alike.
Local Search: The Hybrid Future
SearchDay, Jan. 8, 2004
Last year at this time there was really no such thing as 'local search.' Fast forward twelve months and local is one of the hottest topics in search.
2003's Most Wanted Search Terms
SearchDay, Jan. 7, 2004
The most popular search terms of the past year reveal as much about the interests of searchers as they do about the perceived 'personalities' of the major search engines.
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Search Engine Articles
Slam Dunk or Scam Junk?
Entrepreneur, Feb. 2004
Catherine Seda remains unimpressed with the various companies pitching keyword navigation systems.
Ever wish you could help Google understand that a particular word in your query is more important than another? Here's a handy form to let you do that. You can also see the results to learn how to do this yourself -- in short, repeat the word you want to prioritize.
Overture extends its partnership with major European ISP Wanadoo
Yahoo Lab to Cook Up New Search Tech
InternetNews.com, Jan. 20, 2004
Let the rebranding begin! In the middle of last year, Overture launched Overture Research. It was designed to show that Overture was just as serious about search research as competitor Google, which opened its own Google Labs back in 2002 (see http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2159971). Now that Yahoo owns Overture, it has borgified Overture Research to be its own flagship Yahoo Labs: http://labs.yahoo.com/.
One interesting thing that appears to be new in the change from Overture Research to Yahoo Labs. Previously, we've written about open source search engine Nutch (see http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3071971). You still can't search using Nutch at its own site, Nutch.org. But Yahoo -- as a supporter of Nutch -- is offering a way to test its own implementation here: http://labs.yahoo.com/demo/nutch/.
I tried some searches for "cars," "travel" and "pocket pc" and came away unimpressed. The results for the first two seemed a mishmash and remnant of what you'd expect from a 1998-era search engine. The last one did better. Yahoo does warn not to expect the results to be good, as it's a work in progress. (permalink to this item)
Google eyes email-based ad delivery
Reuters, Jan. 19, 2004
Is Google getting into email? It may be, and it wouldn't be surprising. This article focuses on rumors that Google may insert ads into emails. In fact, Google inherited a contextual email service when it bought Sprinks earlier this year. However, Google may be planning to go beyond what Sprinks did by automatically inserting ads into email, based on the content.
What email? That remains unclear. The company could consider offering a Yahoo Groups like service, allowing people to set up their own email lists about different subjects. If so, delivering ads to that content wouldn't be difficult.
Google could also be considering offering its own free email service. If so, that might be monetized by inserting ads. However, targeting such ads will be difficult and perhaps even annoying to people who might dislike the idea that their private email is being analyzed for ad purposes.
Offering free email certainly would help Google with the idea of "lock-in." Currently, if users dislike Google's results, it's an easy step to use Yahoo, MSN or another competitor instead. No need to return to Google. But if Google offers email? That might keep you sticking around the site, much as Yahoo has millions of registered users and its own form of lock-in.
Who needs another email account? Not many. But envision Google rolling out a system that lets you store and sort through your email online, perhaps also providing spam filtering. Suddenly, the company would still be in the business of "organizing" information and perhaps offering a compelling reason for people to switch or forward their email. Perhaps it might look to acquire a company to help with this, as I wrote at the end of last year: http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3104441.
One email company Google already owns is Neotonic, which makes the Trakken email support system. Google used the system for its own purposes (see http://www.destinationcrm.com/articles/default.asp?ArticleID=2781), then apparently liked it so much that it bought the company.
Visiting Neotronic now provides no indication that it's owned by Google. But last week, before this Reuters story broke, the Neotonic home page stated, "We are pleased to announce that on April 24, 2003, Google Technology, Inc. acquired Neotonic to bring the Trakken email management system in-house. At this time we are not signing up any new customers."
By the way, Google has never ruled out free email. It's definitely made noises that it never wanted to be a full-fledged portal. However, cofounder Larry Page said back in 1999 that free email could happen, in the right circumstances.
"We wouldn't put free email on our site unless we thought we could do a much better job," Page said. See http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2167311 for my interview on this, from back then. (permalink to this item)
Latest Proposal Kit Ideal for SEOs - Product Review
High Search Engine Ranking, Jan. 19, 2004
Need to do a proposal for search engine optimization work? Here's a general software-based proposal kit with an SEO template included.
Massachusetts makes claims that Microsoft may be using its operating system dominance to hinder search companies from competing with it, according to filings in an anti-trust action. However, the filing gives no specifics. It's also going to be an interesting argument to defend, given that Microsoft is very much in third place in terms of traffic, behind Google and Yahoo. Indeed, despite Microsoft's operating system dominance, both other companies have thrived.
Tips on getting more out of your search engine marketing budget in two parts.
Dex Says What's Next: Searchable Display Ads
MediaDailyNews, Jan. 16, 2004
Dex has converted 240,000 yellow pages display ads into keyword-searchable listings. Despite what the article says, this isn't a "single search box" interface like Google and other traditional search engines. You still need to enter information into three boxes: subject, US city and state. The ads that have been converted cover 15 western and mid-western states, but further information is available through a partnership with infoUSA. You can visit the site at http://www.dexonline.com/. (permalink to this item)
Looking for another way to resurrect old versions of web pages? Ay-Up is a crawler-based service to put on your bookmark list.
The Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals has ruled that a case Playboy filed against Netscape involving keyword-linked banner ads can go to trial. Back in 2000, a lower court determined that the case did not involve trademark violations and so refused to let it go to trial. (See this good New York Times article about that ruling: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/15/technology/15CYBERLAW.htm).
The latest ruling means Playboy will finally get its chance before a jury. The ruling has also spawned numerous articles spelling out possible doom-and-gloom for the search engines. However, this case is now somewhat of a dinosaur.
Keyword-linked banner ads still exist (the court ruling calls this "keying," a term of art I've never heard used by anyone in search engine marketing), but most advertising revenue now comes from keyword-linked paid listings.
The question of the legality of linking paid listings to terms that may also be trademarks remains uncertain, and this case will perhaps have an impact on that. But a far more direct case involves Google and American Blind & Wallpaper Factory.
In that case, Google proactively asked the courts at the end of November to rule that keyword-linked paid listings do not violate trademark laws. (see http://news.com.com/2100-1024_3-5113673.html, http://www.forbes.com/newswire/2003/12/04/rtr1170330.html and http://www.internetnews.com/IAR/article.php/3285971)
I may do an actual article to explain the key issues involved as to why Google has done this in more depth. The short answer is that to date, Google has side-stepped trademark holder anger by agreeing to their demands.
eBay says it doesn't want anyone to bid on the term eBay? OK -- you've got it. But that game doesn't work when American Blind doesn't want people bidding on generic terms such as "american blind" "american wallpaper."
We'll all be watching that case. As for the Playboy case -- disclosure time first, I was an expert witness in this case against Playboy, and more details about that can be found at http://searchenginewatch.com/about/article.php/2155641
Next, the light read I've done of the legal documents in the case so far suggest that this is revolving around the content of the banner ads themselves. The court seemed concerned that the banner ads were not clear enough to suggest to consumers that they weren't going to reach Playboy's site but instead a competitor.
In addition, the court seems to suggest that if the banner ads had said something like, "Find out why we are better than Playboy," then they might have been deemed OK under comparative advertising.
Again, I hope to come back and cite some of the actual ruling in a longer article, to explore the issues in more depth. But in the end, it's the American Blind case that's the real front-runner on whether Google and Yahoo (and anyone with keyword-linked products, including companies like eBay) may be facing problems. (permalink to this item)
Yahoo's made a variety of changes to its crawler-based news search beta service.
Yahoo finally gives a date about when Google results will be replaced by Inktomi results -- by March 31 or earlier. It means Google will drop from powering about 80 percent of the web's non-paid listing to only 50 percent -- and Yahoo will pick up nearly all of the other half. But in terms of bottom line, it will have little impact on Google. Yahoo doesn't carry Google's ads now, so dropping Google will not hurt Google's ad distribution. (permalink to this item)
Big Distribution Win for Espotting
InternetNews.com, January 15, 2004
Espotting wins a distribution deal with UK publisher Emap.
The Graphical Search Divide
InternetNews.com, Jan. 14, 2004
How about a logo next to your paid listing? That's not something the majors offer now, nor plan to, seeing them as distracting rather than helpful. Any other reason? Putting graphics next to paid listings makes them look different from unpaid listings, which might cause consumers to avoid them. That's not good for advertising sales.
Google's Duplicate Content
ResourceShelf, Jan. 14, 2004
Gary Price highlights problems with duplicate content in Google's index.
Google Fans Fill Web With Buzz Over IPO
Washington Post, Jan. 13, 2004
Will Google change after it goes public? Speculation and thoughts.
Shopping.com, Switchboard Join Forces
InternetNews.com, Jan. 13, 2004
Shopping.com expands its reach to Switchboard's yellow pages results.
Google Woos Domain Registrars
High Search Engine Ranking, Jan. 12, 2004
One of the big revenue generators Applied Semantics had was a program called DomainPark. Got a hot domain but no content? No problem -- DomainPark creates what looks like a topically-related directory along with the ability to search the web. The only problem was that Applied Semantics used all paid listings from Overture and didn't identify them as such.
Today, Google owns Applied Semantics -- and it looks like DomainPark has now been rebranded Google DomainPark. From the screenshot at http://www.google.com/domainpark/, which has more information, it also appears that disclosure's now happening. If you've got 750,000 or more page views per month, you can be considered for the program.
Yahoo Drops Google (Get Out Your Wallets)
ClickZ, Jan. 12, 2004
Inktomi's back on top with MSN and is returning to Yahoo. Get in, or get missed. Not in already? Then get out your wallet and learn to say, "paid inclusion."
Searching for Dominance: What Will Microsoft Search Look Like?
SearchEngineGuide.com, Jan. 12, 2004
Gord Hotchkiss tries to guess what Microsoft's search solution will be like, especially in terms of the operating system. He focuses on ways Microsoft may try to make searching your own computer easier. Implicitly Query sounds pretty cool. But there's a danger in assuming that what works for the desktop is somehow useful for searching the web.
In fact, time and again we've seen companies claiming a synergy between web search and enterprise search fail to do both well. Open Text got out of web search; AltaVista, Inktomi, Lycos, and Inktomi all dumped enterprise search. The big enterprise search companies like Verity don't try do to web search. I'm also dubious that the web will latch on to some Microsoft system of tagging files, and there are plenty of web servers that don't use Microsoft products.
Now that Google's jumped out of the browser and into the taskbar, Microsoft and Yahoo are thinking of doing the same. Look forward to having yet more apps that suggest they should check to ensure they are your "default" taskbar, as well as more spyware/adware programs that try to step on these installations.
Open Directory Integrates "Thumbshots"
High Search Engine Ranking, Jan. 9, 2004
The Open Directory now has screenshots that appear alongside listings in its directory categories. Just click on the red ball at the bottom of a category page to turn them on. The green ball, by the way, lets you see the Open Directory category as it appears at Google, where sites are ranked by PageRank order.
Top three things learned from SES Chicago applicable to doing better with Google's natural results.
Kanoodle Teams With MarketWatch For Content-Targeted Links
MediaDailyNews, Jan. 7, 2004
Kanoodle's fledgling contextual ads program wins its first big partnership with CBS MarketWatch.com
The Nightmares of a SEO
Search Engine Guide, Jan. 6, 2004
If you don't work with your SEO, they can't do their best for you. Tips on getting along.
Danny Sullivan Shares A Few Comments About Google Bombing, or
Bush Not A Miserable Failure With AOL's Google-Powered results.
ResourceShelf, Jan. 6, 2004
Gary Price takes my article about the "miserable failure" search bringing up the Bush biography on Google and Inktomi further. I checked Teoma also, and found it didn't happen there. Gary finds that AltaVista, AllTheWeb and Gigablast also don't show it.
Most interesting is that AOL Search also doesn't have it -- yet AOL uses results from Google. In particular, the Bush biography is gone, while MichaelMoore.com jumps up into its place. Then Jimmy Carter's bio stays in position 2, as with Google, and the order of the rest of the results remains in the same pattern as compared to Google.
What's going on? AOL has intervened.
"To ensure that we continue to deliver relevant search results to our members, when we become aware of web search results that are clearly 'link' spam, we remove those links from the results we get from Google. The perception of link spam degrades the quality of the AOL Search service so when we discover high-visibility link spam, we take immediate action. We've had to remove link spam from Google results on very few occasions, including the results for the 'miserable failure' query," said Gerry Campbell, executive director of search and navigation with AOL.
On the one hand, I want to applaud AOL. My original article (see http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/3296101) was severe in criticizing Google for dismissing Google Bombing in this case as inconsequential. But had Google intervened, then they'd face the same potential criticism that AOL now faces -- why haven't the listings for Jimmy Carter, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Michael Moore also been removed?
These are all there due to other Google Bombing campaigns, and for links to these liberal figureheads to remain while Bush is protected opens a entire new chapter in this story. And I feel for AOL -- because even if they remove these three listings, the game continues with other people.
I may revisit this whole thing in a new article, especially to provide some additional Google perspective on the matter. Plus, I may also have a response from AOL about the issue with the liberal links remaining. The newsletter had to go out before I could get a response to my follow-up question. (permalink to this item)
Do Web search engines suppress controversy?
First Monday, January 2004
Search engines seem to reflect the "sunny side" of controversial issues, this study finds. It does searches for topics such as "albert einstein" and "distance learning" which contain some controversial issues -- did Einstein's wife get proper credit for her contributions and problems with diploma mills, for example.
It then examines results gathered from various major search engines, finding that the controversial material doesn't arise much. It's not because of overt attempts to suppress it but instead because the bulk of material on the web doesn't address the controversial issues but nonetheless is relevant to the query.
Solutions suggested are a change in linking patterns, which frankly isn't going to happen. Ranking changes are suggested, but the paper assumes that the search engines can make judgments about what's "objective." The most effective suggestion is that searchers change their habits. Wondering if there's controversy with Albert Einstein? Try a search for "albert einstein controversy." Guess what? Do that on Google, and you'll find the first result mentions the issue with his wife (which incidentally, is a page out the twURL project that this author created).
Of course, a key point of the paper -- and one that I agree with -- is that someone should get a variety of viewpoints when looking for a topic. Perhaps increasing default listings from 10 to 20 would help (that's the rule at Yahoo and MSN but not at Google).
Search refinement can also be a huge help. AltaVista's "Refine Your Search" suggestions, for example, are drawn from analyzing the top 100 matches. That can help bring out some subjects that might be buried in pages below the top ten (but not in the case of Einstein -- I checked). Teoma's Refine results can also be helpful, though again, not in this case.
A hallelujah to this part of the paper: "The general public that is growing increasingly dependent upon search engine technology has relatively low understanding of how the technology works or their responsibilities for its proper use."
I absolutely agree. In fact, it goes exactly to how I concluded my big piece on all the Google changes at the end of last year (see http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3286101#soapbox). Users must have an understanding of how search engines operate to make the right decisions, and that means important "signals" need to be explained, not kept as mysteries. (permalink to this item)
On the economy of Web links
First Monday, January 2004
This paper attempts a model of how people buy and sell links. The simulation doesn't appear to take into account the concept that some people may not want to buy links on an "important" page if that page has many links on it already. It also doesn't appear to integrate the notion that some sites (big or small) may have a set number of incoming links that are gained because of their content, not because of their marketing budget. I've read the paper several times and don't come away feeling that it provides any sense of the reality of how links are actually bought and sold nor seems to pose great predictive value. But perhaps you'll have a different take.
IBM has half a football field of computers churning away at analyzing the web for its WebFountain search engine. But don't think it's designed to help you navigate to particular web sites. Instead, it seems configured to help you see patterns based on the documents on the web. WebFountain is designed to analyze and tag pages, in order to understand how to relate words and concepts found in them to other pages. WebFountain is being readied as a pay-for-search service that businesses are hoped to pick up for data mining purposes.
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