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The Search Engine Update, December 18, 2000, Number 91

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About The Update

The Search Engine Update is a twice-monthly update of search engine news. It is available only to Search Engine Watch "site subscribers." Please note that long URLs may break into two lines in some mail readers. Cut and paste, should this occur.

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In This Issue

+ Site & Conference News
+ Go Gains Paid Inclusion System
+ HotBot UK Launches
+ Iconocast Poll Sheds Light On Search Engine Optimization Issues
+ LookSmart Ups Basic Submit Price
+ Interesting Search Engine Articles
+ List Info (Subscribing/Unsubscribing)

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Site & Conference News

Thanks to everyone who registered their votes for the first Search Engine Watch awards. I'm looking through all the suggestions, and the winners will be announced in the next newsletter.

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.

The conference will be held at the Mayfair InterContinental hotel, and the agenda and registration information will be posted shortly. You can be notified of this by leaving your email address at the form below:

Search Engine Conferences
http://searchenginewatch.com/resources/conferences.html

I also hope to have more information about our first two day event in mid-March posted shortly. To be held in Boston, it will feature a day for searcher issues, in addition to the topics aimed at web marketers. To learn when the agenda is posted, just use the form above.

Finally, happy holidays and a great New Year to everyone!

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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, which 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.

If this indeed happens -- and there's every indication from Go that it will -- then the submission price is much more reasonable, making it comparable to the $199 submission fees charged by both Yahoo and LookSmart for submitting to their directories. Moreover, anyone signing up for the existing program would be retroactively given a free submission to Go Guides, if this feature is added to the program.

In addition, should the bundled 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.

I think it's best for most people to wait and see how the program evolves, rather than submitting through it right now. This is because being included in the Go Guides directory versus the crawler-based results are entirely different things. While everyone does want to be listed in both places, not everyone will need to pay to make this happen.

Let's take Go Guides first. This is a directory built by volunteers, available exclusively through the Go.com web site. Many web sites are already listed within Go Guides. Given this, paying Go's submission fee will make no sense, if it later turns out that this includes the price of submitting your site to Go Guides.

As for the Go crawler, many sites will also already find they page pages listed there. Paying the Go submission fee can certainly help ensure that any particular pages you are concerned with will be included and respidered frequently, but $199 per URL is probably way too much for most people to justify paying.

Instead, consider this scenario. Assume that within a few weeks, Go rolls out two different services. The first keeps the $199 pricing, but it submits your URL to both the Go Guides directory and to the crawler. The second lets you submit any URL just to the crawler, for $10 per URL. Now it becomes easier to decide what to do.

The first service will be primarily attractive to those with new sites and who don't want to go through the hassle of signing up for the Go Guides system, locating the right category for their site, then submitting the site and waiting for other Go Guides to approve their submission. A paid submission system will solve these hassles. Pay your $199, and if your site is of decent quality, you'll be in the directory and have your URL added to the crawler, as well.

The second service should be great for those who want deeper representation of individual URLs in the crawler-based results. A separate service will make it much more economical to have pages listed here.

Given that it's relatively easy to get a site included in Go Guides by submitting yourself, it's really going to be a crawler-only submission service that web site owners will want to watch for. However, if you have a brand new site and want to get into the crawler-results immediately, then using the paid submission service now could make sense.

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.

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.

Go
http://www.go.com/

Premium Service Add URL page
http://www.go.com/AddUrl?pg=SubmitUrl.html

Free Add URL page
http://addurl.go.com/dynamic/freeNewUrl

How Go Works
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/infoseek.html

This page will be fully updated on Tuesday and will take you by the hand through the latest information on submitting to the Go Guides directory and the Go crawler.

Password Finder
http://searchenginewatch.com/about/finder.html

Go Beta Tests User-Assisted Directory
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/articles/9908-go.html

Can't wait until Tuesday? This older article covers the basics of submitting to Go Guides.

Inktomi Debuts Self-Serve Paid Inclusion
The Search Engine Update, Nov. 3, 2000
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/articles/0011-inktomi.html

More about Inktomi's paid inclusion program can be found here.

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HotBot UK Launches

Lycos Europe has quietly launched its new HotBot UK, France and German sites this month (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.

HotBot
http://www.hotbot.lycos.co.uk

HotBot France
http://www.hotbot.lycos.fr/

HotBot Germany
http://www.hotbot.lycos.de/

HotBot US
http://hotbot.lycos.com/

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
http://members.hotbot.lycos.com/

Should you have mail through HotBot US, the URL above will continue to provide you access.

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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.

Regardless, I would recommend that most webmasters not bother with the "Basic" service and instead opt for "Express Submit." Though double the price, the $199 fee gets you an answer within two days, rather than eight weeks. Many sites will probably find that getting listed faster (assuming they are accepted, and most sites are) will make up for the added expense in terms of traffic.

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
http://submit.looksmart.com/

Information from LookSmart about its various submission options.

How LookSmart Works
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/looksmart.html

Tips on submitting to LookSmart.

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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." I'm not certain what the exact difference is between these two choices, and my suspicion is that respondents may also have been confused. That means the overall percent of those using paid submission options may actually be higher. I'm checking into this more and will report back.

+ 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).

This suggests that there may indeed be a market for one service I've discussed with some search engines -- the ability for the search engine itself to tell you how people searched for and found your site. Given that many services now track clickthrough, it would be possible for them to allow site owners to open accounts and see exactly what terms people used with they clicked through to a particular site.

+ 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
http://www.iconocast.com/issue/20001207.html

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
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/00/03-submit.html

Results of the I-Search submission survey mentioned above.

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Search Engine Articles
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Ask Jeeves shows staff the door
InfoWorld, Dec. 13, 2000
http://www.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/00/12/13/001213hnask.xml

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.

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Studying Pay-for-Position Campaign Results
ClickZ, Dec. 13, 2000
http://clickz.com/cgi-bin/gt/article.html?article=3014

Two short case studies on pay for placement results.

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Search engines get the enterprise treatment
ZDNet, Dec. 12, 2000
http://www8.zdnet.com/eweek/stories/general/0,11011,2663776,00.html

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.

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What Makes a Site Link-Worthy?
ClickZ, Dec. 7, 2000
http://clickz.com/cgi-bin/gt/article.html?article=2970

Want to gain links? You've got to offer content. Eric Ward has advice on what this really means.

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Search Engines Fire On More Cylinders
Internet Week, Dec. 7, 2000
http://www.internetwk.com/story/INW20001207S0002

Details on upgrades to AltaVista search software that is available to businesses for site specific and intranet needs.

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Will Google's Purity Pay Off?
BusinessWeek, Dec. 7, 2000
http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/dec2000/nf2000127_947.htm

I couldn't let this article go without a good vent -- it was from BusinessWeek, after all, and you would expect better. This is supposed to be an analysis of how Google might make money, but the story leaves much to be desired. It starts by stating, "the company's adamant refusal to use banner or other graphical ads eliminates what is the most lucrative income stream for rival search engines." Ironically, the major search engines are falling all over themselves to find new alternative streams to make up for the fact that these same lucrative banner ad revenues appear to be in trouble. So, rather than this being a weakness for Google, the fact that it started out from the beginning with text ads might arguably be a strength.

The story also implies that Google has only just started to diversify past doing more than running its own web site. In reality, Google signed its first major deal to power Netscape back in June 1999 -- notably, BEFORE its own site went officially live and out of beta in September of that year. The story itself cites that Google has over 100 web search partners, in addition to making money off of intranet search partners. So, Google appears to have a firm footing in three major search engine marketing spaces: consumer web wide search, portal powering and intranet/enterprise search. And this isn't diversified?

The story ends with this: "Can it keep forswearing pay-for-placement deals that allow commercial sites to buy high rankings in searches? Yahoo has begun cutting these deals in droves, matching lesser competitor LookSmart." Hmmm -- Yahoo has no pay-for-placement deals at all. It does have a paid submission service, which is an entirely different thing -- and LookSmart has actually been far more active at "cutting deals" around paid submission programs than Yahoo. But that misinformation pales compared to the fact that Google hasn't forsaken pay-for-placement deals at all. Indeed, it has two major systems -- the text banners and the self-serve AdWords program. Both let advertisers purchase actual placement near the main search results at Google.

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Is Dot-Biz Really a New Domain?
Wired News, Nov. 27, 2000
http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,40301,00.html

ICANN just approved .biz as one of seven new top level domain names, but it's still not likely to be available for purchase until the middle of next year. However, alternative domain routing systems on the Internet exist, where .biz domains can already be purchased (as well as .parody and .geek, among others). These non-ICANN approved domains only work with a relatively small number of computers configured to used alternative domain names. Main message? Buyer beware, I think. Watch the ICANN site (http://www.icann.org) and you'll know when the new domain names are both fully approved and available for pre-registration (if offered) or actual purchase.

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