THE SEARCH ENGINE UPDATE
October 16, 2000 - Number 87
By Danny Sullivan
Editor, Search Engine Watch
Copyright (c) 2000 internet.com corporation
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
+ Conference News
+ Google Gets Paid Links, Quotes and More Languages
+ Up Close With Google AdWords
+ Go Gets New Site; MSN's Is Coming
+ Submitting For Free
+ FAST Claims Biggest; So Does Google
+ New Domain Proposals Received
+ List Info (Subscribing/Unsubscribing)
The Media Metrix Search Engine Ratings page has been updated, and a new MMXI Europe Search Engine Ratings shows ratings for European search engines. You'll find both from the What's New Page. Also, my thanks to all those who sent condolences about my grandmother -- they were appreciated.
The next Search Engine Strategies conference is just over three weeks away, coming to Dallas on November 9. 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 in the panels so far include About.com, AltaVista, Go, Inktomi, LookSmart, NBCi and RealNames. In addition to the main track about search engine marketing issues, new concurrent sessions will cover making your own site searchable for visitors and creating a vertical search engine. We're also planning a series of roundtable discussions that will cover advanced search engine marketing issues. Details about the conference, for attendees or potential sponsors and exhibitors, can be found via the URL below.
Search Engine Strategies 2000 - Dallas
Google Gets Paid Links, Quotes and More Languages
Google has debuted a new self-serve paid links program, while also adding more language search support and a feature that allows you to locate stock quotes.
Called AdWords, the Google paid links program has been running for about two weeks and has purposely been not heavily promoted so that Google could slowly beta test the system. Ads appear to the right of the main search results, not in place of them. They are clearly labeled under a "Sponsored Links" heading and visually distinct from Google's editorial results. As with the Ask Jeeves paid links program, it's a nice blend of allowing advertisers to be present without detracting from the non-paid results.
Google is now also making stock and mutual fund information easier to find as part of regular searching. If you enter a company stock or mutual fund symbol into the search box, a link to a stock quote will appear at the top of the search results page. For example, enter "INTU," and you'll see a link next to a chart symbol that says "Show stock quotes for INTU (Intuit Inc.)" at the top of the results.
Also, if you search for publicly traded company by name, a quote for that company now appears next to Google's listing for that company. For example, search for "Intuit," and you'll see a "Stock quotes: INTU" link appear below the site description.
When you click on a quote link, Google will automatically select a stock page from one of several providers and show it in a frame. However, you can choose the one you prefer by selecting from tab options that will appear above the frame.
New search by language options have also been announced by Google. These include the ability to limit searches to Czech, Estonian, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Romanian. In all, Google supports 25 languages.
Here are a few other things Google-wise especially of interest to site owners:
Google doesn't use meta tags for its descriptions, nor does it take the first 200 characters of text that it finds, like some other search engines. So where do the descriptions, or "snippets" as Google calls them, come from? Google looks for the first instance of the search term on the page, then includes the words around that term. So, try making a short sentence containing your main search term for the page that appears as the first HTML text on your page. That might help you ensure your pages are well described.
Also, some questions have come in about why Google-powered results in Yahoo's "web pages" section were recently so different from Google's own results. Google says that when it does major updates to its index each month, various partners such as Yahoo may lag a bit behind in tapping into the newer information. Additionally, it's always the case that Google's partners themselves can exert some control over the ranking system, as is true of other search engines like Inktomi and FAST that power multiple web sites.
Finally, if you recently saw a plunge in your Google rankings, it could also be due to Google's index refresh. Google president Sergey Brin said that if Google had problems accessing your site for some reason, then your "page rank" measure of how popular your page is would drop. However, this should correct itself when Google does its subsequent monthly update toward the end of this month. Also, some updating is constantly occurring, so you might find the situation fixes itself faster, assuming the problem was indeed due to Google being unable to reach your site.
Google Language, Display, & Filtering Options
A full list of language options at Google can be found here.
Netscape Renews Search Deal With Google
InternetNews.com, Oct. 4, 2000
Netscape has renewed its deal to have Google provide the results when there are no matches from its Open Directory-powered listings.
Up Close With Google AdWords
Google's AdWords system is similar to that run by Ask Jeeves, where paid results are displayed along the right-hand side of the results page. Also like Ask Jeeves, ads are sold on a CPM basis. This means you pay for how often your ad appears, rather than how often someone clicks on your paid link. That's about the end of the similarities, and the unique differences Google introduces may take some getting used to.
For one, you cannot control where or even if your ad appears. At Ask Jeeves, there are three ads spots per page. If there are more than three advertisers, then the top three bidders are displayed. In contrast, which advertisers appear in the three available spots at Google depends on the "interest" level in that ad.
Every ad has an "Interest" bar that appears below the description. This indicates how many people are clicking on it. The more green in the bar, the more the ad is attracting clicks. If there is more than one advertiser, then ads are ranked by their clickrate. And if there are more than three advertisers for a particular term, then only the three with the best interest rate will appear. The concept is to reward advertisers who have created precisely targeted ads that seem to satisfy users.
"The advertiser is motivated to increase the clickthrough, to try hard to make the ads better," said Google president Sergey Brin.
Of course, even Brin admits than a well-written ad might pull clicks, only to lead to a disappointing site. "Clickthrough doesn't measure quality beyond the ad," he said. However, he also said there are a number of other factors Google is experimenting, with as the program works through the beta period. And yes, Google is normalizing interest tracking to take into account the fact that the first ad listed naturally draws more clicks.
Not appearing isn't a big deal now, because the program is so new, you'll probably only see one or two advertisers sporadically popping up for anything. However, if the popularity grows, you might find your ads being bumped off not by higher paying ads but instead by a lack of interest. To combat this, you should make your ads as appealing as possible, though you obviously can't be misleading. Keep in mind that repeating the search term your are targeting in your description and title has been shown to increase clickthrough in other pay for placement programs.
Also, be as precisely targeted as possible. The broader the term you target, the less likely you'll please everyone, which means a lower clickthrough. For example, if you sell computer games, targeting specific game titles with ads that state you have those particular games are more likely to attract clicks than a generic ad targeted against the general term "games."
Finally, another tip would be to begin advertising now. That means your ads can begin building interest before other people start experimenting with the program. If you wait, you might find it hard to get into rotation at all. You might have to wait until all the popular ads end their campaign for a particular term. On the other hand, Google could conceivable randomly allow other advertisers a shot at being displayed. It may also turn out that the entire interest-based appearance program simply won't work or could prove unpopular with advertisers, forcing a change. Remember -- it's still in beta.
Not only are you not sure where you ad will run, but you also can't tell how much it will cost. The top ad is charged at a rate of US $15 CPM, then the second ad at $12 and the last at $10. Since your ad might move around, you will be charged higher or lower rates depending on where it appears. That top rate is also high compared to the $5 CPM that Ask Jeeves begins with, though higher rates happen over there if several advertisers bid against each other for a particular term.
Google does make it very easy to limit the amount you spend for each "campaign," which is a particular ad or ads linked to a search term or set of terms. Simply indicate your spending limit, and when that's reached, your ads will cease appearing.
Do set a limit -- if you don't, Google will keep displaying your ad after your initial deposit runs out and bill your card for the extra cost at the end of the month or as soon as you rack up $500 in fees. Google will also notify when a spending limit is approaching, if you desire, and an option to set a period of time for the ad to run is available, especially helpful for seasonal campaigns.
When it comes time to select keywords, you'll be confronted by four different boxes to choose from. While this is more complicated than other programs, it also allows you to be more targeted, if you desire. Here are the options:
Keywords: Your ad will be shown for any single words you specify, if those words appear ANYWHERE in someone's query. For example, you target "cars." Your ad will now appear if someone searches for "cars," "used cars" "best places to buy cars" or even "albums by the cars." In contrast, other paid links programs would only target the single word "cars." So be careful with putting words in this box -- if you do, you'll be targeting far more broadly than you may expect.
Phrase Matching: This lets you target two or more words together in a particular order. As with keywords, your ad will be shown if the phrase you target appears anywhere in someone's query. For example, you target "used cars." Now your ad will appear if someone searches for "used cars," "finding used cars," "buying new and used cars" and "fixing used cars." However, it would not appear for something like "cars used" or "buying cars used," because the phrase order isn't matched. As with keywords, be careful with this option, as it may go beyond what you intend.
Exact Query Matching: This box corresponds to what most people are used to, when buying paid links. Your ad will only appear for the exact terms you specify in this box. So target "cars," and your ad will only appear for "cars." Target "used cars," and your ad will only appear for "used cars." To be safe, you might consider using only this box as you begin experimenting at Google, then progress to the other options if you want more power or want to reach more broadly. In fact, it might make sense for Google to only display the Exact Query box unless advertisers want to see the more advanced options.
Negative Keyword Matching: If you are going to use Keywords or Phrase Matching, then Negative Keyword Matching can help you eliminate some queries that are obviously off target. For example, you sell cars and decide to target that word. However, you don't want anyone searching for the musical group The Cars to see your ads. This box lets you indicate terms to filter these people out. Enter something like "music" and "songs," then anyone searching for "cars songs" or "cars music" won't see your ad, because the negative words are appearing.
Unlike GoTo.com, Google's program does not automatically match plural or related word forms. That means you have to indicate every word form you want to be found for separately, such as "car" and "cars." Also, if you are doing phrases, I find it useful to also reverse the order of two word phrases. For example, bid on both "used cars" and "cars used." You'll likely find a small but noticeable number of people may search with the reverse order.
Finally, Google will estimate how much it thinks each term your target will cost. However, the estimates are rough and were showing no differences between exact, phrase and keyword matching last week. Google says this should improve as the program is rolled out. In the meantime, set your spending limits and keep an eye on the reports that show actual traffic generated, which Google provides.
It's easy to use the Preview option to dive in and create ads without having to register until you want to actually pay for a campaign. You have to start your account with at least $50 to launch a campaign, and then you can top up in whatever amounts you desire.
Paid Links At MSN Search And Direct Hit
The Search Engine Update, April 24, 2000
If you are unfamiliar with CPM pricing versus paying by the click, such as at GoTo.com, the past article below about Ask Jeeves explains the differences. It also explains more about the Ask Jeeves program (called the Direct Hit program, when it was written. The MSN Search program also described no longer operates.
Go Gets New Site; MSN's Is Coming
Go's new web site is out of beta and live online, while MSN Search has launched a beta site of its own that will take over from the main site in the near future. I'll be looking at both of these in more depth shortly, but here's a heads-up to major changes:
At Go, searching produces what I'd describe as a modular search results page, where different bits of information are mixed together in rectangular boxes. In the left-hand column, the page starts out with categories from the Go Guides directory, followed by top links out of the Go Guides directory, then followed by matching web pages found by the Go crawler. This new change puts much greater emphasis on sites that are listed in the Go Guides directory. That's good news, since it's relatively easy for site owners to add themselves.
Over at MSN Search, a new beta mainly features design changes that are hoped to make the site more functional. The categories section no longer appears, in preference instead to flagging "Popular Search Topics" under the search box to let you refine your query. There's some nice magic behind these that I'll tell you about next time. Main "Web Directory Sites" results continue to come from the LookSmart database, while "Web Pages" results are still supplied by Inktomi.
Sign-up to be a guide here.
Go Beta Tests User-Assisted Directory
Older article that still covers the basics of submitting to Go Guides.
MSN Search Beta
Submitting For Free
Now that all of LookSmart's major partners are offering the paid LookSmart Express Submit program on their own Add URL pages, a number of people believe that they must also pay a fee to be listed in the non LookSmart-powered portions of these search engines. Huh? What? Don't worry. Just come along with me on a little tour, where I hope to make more sense out of the whole submission mess that has developed.
As a refresher, LookSmart is a human-compiled directory of web sites. While editors might find your site naturally (and list it for free), you are more likely to get listed if you actually submit to LookSmart and pay the submission fee required of all commercial web sites. Let's look at the submission options....
LookSmart Submit Page
You can submit your site to LookSmart by starting on this page. Commercial sites must choose either the $199 "Express Submit" option or the $79 "Basic Submit" option. What's the difference? Time! Paying the higher fee means that LookSmart will give you a yes or no answer about being listed within 48 hours. Paying less means it may take up to 8 weeks until you are listed. Not a commercial site? Then click on the little "Read More" link that appears at the bottom of the page, after the Basic Submit option. Make sure you really qualify. If so, good news. However, unlike the paid options, there's no guarantee that you'll get a yes or no answer back within a set period of time.
OK, you submitted to LookSmart and got listed. What does that mean? Your site is now available to those searching at the LookSmart site itself, of course. However, it will now also appear at different search engines across the web, such as....
MSN Search is one of LookSmart's partners. After doing a search, more than likely the results you see will come from the LookSmart directory, though MSN Search may rank and sort them differently than if you did the same search at LookSmart itself. So, if you are listed with LookSmart, you're listed with MSN Search in the best way possible. There's no need to use the MSN Search Add URL page.
Have no money? Didn't get listed with LookSmart? There may be hope yet for you at MSN Search. Some of its results come from the Inktomi search engine, which crawls the web. If you are listed with Inktomi, then you have a chance of appearing in the "Web Pages" section of MSN Search's results (the "Web Directory" section is powered by LookSmart listings). How do you submit? Well....
MSN Search Add URL page
At the very bottom of MSN Search's Add URL page is a link that takes you to its Inktomi submit form. Look at the last paragraph that begins, "For profit sites may be submitted at no charge for inclusion in the Web Pages section of the MSN Search." You'll see a "Read More" link at the end. Click on that. Congratulations! You can now submit your page to Inktomi. Well, not quite. The form wasn't working when I tested it last week, consistently asking for a phone number to be entered, even when one was provided. This is a relatively new form, so perhaps that will be fixed soon. Until then....
HotBot Add URL page
Some of HotBot's results come from Inktomi, so you can use its Add URL form to tell Inktomi about your pages -- and that means those that are accepted should eventually show up in the Inktomi-powered portions of MSN Search and at other Inktomi-powered search engines.
Some of Excite's listings come from LookSmart. So if you submitted to LookSmart and got accepted, you may show up for those who chose the "Directory Search" option at the top of the page, after performing a search. However, the main results at Excite come from its own crawler. To appear here, it helps to submit your site. That takes us to....
Excite Add URL page
This page prominently features the LookSmart Express Submit option. However, you're not interested in that. Remember, we already submitted to LookSmart at the beginning of this tour. Instead, at the bottom of the page is an option that says "Click here to add your site to the Excite Search Index only." That's what you want. To make it easier for you, here's the link itself:
Excite Crawler Add URL Form
Fill out the form, and you're done -- you've submitted to the Excite crawler for free, which also means you may show up at other Excite-owned search engines such as WebCrawler and Magellan.
Just like Excite, some of AltaVista's listings come from LookSmart. If you do a search, then select the "Directories" option at the top of the page, much of that information comes from LookSmart's listings. However, AltaVista's main results come from its own spidering of the web. To appear in them, as with Excite, it helps to submit. That means using the AltaVista Add URL page....
AltaVista Add URL Form
Hey, there's that LookSmart Express option again! But you don't want it -- remember, we already submitted to LookSmart. So, go past it and choose the "Submit" button that appears in the "AltaVista Search Index" section. That will bring up a new form -- with yet another option to submit to LookSmart. Ignore this second suggested sale and use the box that says "AltaVista Search Index: Add or Remove a Page" to enter your URL. That's it -- you've submitted to the AltaVista crawler for free.
Why on earth would you want to submit to LookSmart from anywhere other than at LookSmart itself? Why are these LookSmart forms showing up everywhere? Money. If you submit to LookSmart from one of its partners, they share in some of the submission fee. Unfortunately, this is clearly causing confusion for some people, based on messages I'm getting and posts that I've seen elsewhere. If you want to support one of LookSmart's partners, then fine -- use the Express Listing options they provide. Or, go directly to LookSmart and do it. Just only do one of them. That's all you need, because ultimately, the Express Submit information all goes back to LookSmart anyway.
I recommend going to LookSmart directly because it help better ensure you'll be listed in the right category, as one of the articles below explains. Another reason is only at LookSmart will you find the lower $79 option being offered. While I recommend paying more and saving the time, those with budgets may want the lower price.
LookSmart also raised the price of its "Basic" submit option last month from $49 to $79, just two months after it said testing of different price points had ended. The fee was increased so that LookSmart could 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.
One month after the increase, LookSmart's major partners are still offering only the higher $199 fee.
Along with the price increase, LookSmart also said it planned to soon announce a guarantee to provide a yes or no answer about being listed to any qualified non-commercial sites that used its free submit option. Such a guarantee has yet to materialize -- I'll let you know, if it does.
How about those crawlers that you submitted to. When will the traffic start? It could be never. Submitting doesn't mean getting listed, and even if you get listed, that doesn't mean you will rank well for particular terms. However, you do want to submit to at least start things off.
How LookSmart Works
Explains more about submitting to LookSmart, including why preselecting the right category can be important.
LookSmart First To Charge Commercial Sites
The Search Engine Update, Aug. 2, 2000
More background about the LookSmart Express Submit program.
FAST Claims Biggest; So Does Google
FAST Search announced that its size has increased to 575 million indexed pages, making it the largest search engine on the web. Well, at least tied for first. Google also says it now has indexed at least that many pages (previously, it was at 560 million pages). When factoring in partially indexed pages, Google still takes the lead, with over 1 billion pages that can possibly be accessed during a search. Inktomi remains at the 500 million mark. Partners accessing full Inktomi information include iWon, HotBot and NBCi, Inktomi says. Northern Light has also been on the move, raising its index to 350 million page, matching AltaVista's self-reported numbers.
FAST Announces World's Largest Search Engine
FAST Press Release, Oct. 12, 2000
New FAST-powered search site.
Search Engine Sizes
Links to past articles about search engine size issues and announcements. I haven't updated the charts yet, but that should happen shortly.
New Domain Proposals Received
ICANN received 47 applications to provide new top level domain names, with over 200 proposed endings in all. A public comments period should be announced soon, then ICANN will eventually post a staff report on the proposals. You can see the full list, along with proposing companies, via the link below. In a hurry? OK, here's a condensed list of all the new proposals:
.ads .africa .agency .aids .air .antiques .art .artists .auction .audio .bbs .biz .books .cafe .cam .card .cars .cash .center .channel .church .city .club .commerce .computers .consulting .cool .coop .co-op .culture .design .digital .dir .direct .dot .dtv .dubai .dvd .ebiz .ecom .event .factory .fam .fashion .festival .fiction .film .films .fin .find .firm .foundation .free .fun .fund .funds .gallery .game .games .gay .geo .global .go .graphics .group .guide .health .help .history .home .hotel .i .inc .index .info .insurance .jazz .jina .jobs .kids .lab .law .llc .ltd .mad .mag .magic .mail .mall .market .mas .max .media .men .mid .mis .mobi .mobile .monitor .movie .mus .muse .musea .museum .museums .music .name .nom .now .number .nyc .one .online .opera .own .page .partners .people .per .phone .pid .planet .politics .post .power .pro .productions .projects .properties .radio .real .records .san .sansansan .school .secure .security .service .sex .shareware .shoes .shop .show .site .society .software .solutions .sound .soup .space .sports .spot .star .store .studios .sucks .surf .svc .systems .tech .tel .temple .theater .three33 .time .times .tour .toys .trade .travel .union .voice .wap .war .watch .weather .web .women .world .writer .xing .xxx .yp .ypa .ypi .zine .zone
ICANN: TLD Applications Lodged
New Domain Names Coming
The Search Engine Report, July 27, 2000
Articles providing background about the new domain name creation process.
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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!