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The Search Engine Update, June 3, 2002, Number 126

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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 members. 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

+ Search Engine Strategies Arrives In Sydney, Coming To California
+ LookSmart Hit With Potential Class Action Lawsuit Over Submission Program
-- (full story online, link provided)
+ LookSmart Aims To Mend Fences
+ RealNames To Close After Losing Microsoft
-- (full story online, link provided)
+ Search Engine Resources
+ SearchDay Articles
+ List Info (Subscribing/Unsubscribing)

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Hello Everyone--

Greetings to all of you in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries who are celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee today. Right after this newsletter goes out, I'm off with my family up the hill where our village will be lighting one of thousands of bonfires recognizing the event. More about the Jubilee, for those who are curious, can be found below.

Her Majesty The Queen's Golden Jubilee
http://www.goldenjubilee.gov.uk/

In other news, you may remember that I was heading off on vacation last month and had terrible fears of a mailbox full of spam. Well, I'm back, refreshed from my first long break in ages and saved from mailbox woes after a reader tipped me off to SpamCop.net. This service will intercept your email and filter out lots of known spam.

In two weeks while I was gone, I received 2,000 pieces of email. Half of these were held as possible spam, and only about 10 of them were incorrectly marked. I still had to trudge through the other 1,000 messages of unheld mail, about two-thirds of which was still spam. Nevertheless, SpamCop was a huge help. Check it out at the URL below.

SpamCop.net
http://www.spamcop.net

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Search Engine Strategies Arrives In Sydney, Coming To California

Next week, June 11 & 12, Search Engine Strategies arrives in Sydney for our first ever search engine marketing conference Down Under. The conference features sessions about improving both editorial listings in search engines and advertising on search engines.

Along with Australian and New Zealand search engine marketing experts, representatives from AltaVista, Google, LookSmart, Netscape/The Open Directory and Yahoo are also confirmed to speak. More information can be found below:

Search Engine Strategies Sydney
http://australia.internet.com/events/ses02/

After Sydney, a special "Search Engine Strategies Forum" will be held in Singapore on June 17. Then in August, our first three day event -- including a special track on enterprise search -- will come to California. Two day shows follow for Germany in October and Texas in December. Information, dates, and the ability to register for when agendas are ready for these events can be found via the URL below:

Search Engine Strategies
http://searchenginestrategies.com

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LookSmart Hit With Potential Class Action Lawsuit Over Submission Program

A proposed class action lawsuit claiming breach of contract, fraudulent business practices and misleading advertising has been filed against LookSmart over a recent change in how the company sells some of its commercial web site listings. Details of the case can be found below:

LookSmart Hit With Potential Class Action Lawsuit Over Submission Program
The Search Engine Update, June 3, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/articles/02/06-lawsuit.html

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LookSmart Aims To Mend Fences

Nearly two months into its new pay-per-click listing program, LookSmart has posted a letter on its web site from chairman and CEO Evan Thornley to answer questions and concerns from customers. The letter, made available last Friday, has also been circulated to various search engine forums.

In the letter, Thornley defends the higher pricing of the new LookListings Small Business program as necessary in order for LookSmart to build distribution partners, explains that "grandfathering" old customers to exclude them from new pay-per-click fees would have "disadvantaged" attracting new customers, discusses reporting problems that have made some people question LookSmart's statistics and pledges to use a more "personal approach" rather than a "big company" tone in resolving issues and in communications with customers.

The letter concludes with a FAQ section that answers the most common questions LookSmart says it has been hearing, such as about reporting problems, stressing that credit cards will not be charged if "free" accounts are activated without increasing their budgets and noting that accounts with multiple listings can have budgets set for each listing.

The letter is part of a new effort by LookSmart to win over critics and calm some concerns that have cropped up since the LookListings Small Business program was unveiled in April. The company is also planning a survey in the near future to better understand complaints and needs of small search engine marketers, it says.

"We've seen a really good uptake in the product and a positive response from the majority of users," said Robert Goldberg, LookSmart's senior vice president of sales and marketing. "Most of the negative feedback is from a small and important user base, which is SEOs. We've started a large outreach program to understand the issues that they are facing."

Let's take a look at some of the major problems LookSmart says it has been hearing from customers.

Reporting Issues

LookSmart says that companies have been complaining that LookSmart's tracking system will show a large number of clicks to their site which cannot be verified when the companies reconcile against their own traffic logs. LookSmart says its "batch processing" of clicks before reporting is to blame.

For instance, let's say you check your LookSmart statistics at the beginning of your billing cycle. On the first day, you get no traffic. On the second day, the same thing happens. Then, on the third day, you get 165 clicks. What happened?

Going back to your own server logs, you might get further concerned. On day one, you might detect about 50 people coming from LookSmart. On day two, about 40 people. On the third day, you get about 75 people. Why didn't LookSmart show the traffic for the first two days, and how could the third day be so high in comparison to your server logs. Certainly the company's reporting must be totally messed up!

What's happening is that LookSmart is processing clicks through a fraud detection system, to clear out robotic clicks or those from the same person who might be purposely clicking excessively on a listing. However, it doesn't do this processing each day. Instead, a couple of days may go by, then an entire "batch" of clicks is processed and posted to your account.

In other words, in the example above, those 50 clicks you received on the first day (and can see in your logs) weren't posted because they hadn't been processed. The same thing happened with the second day's 40 clicks. On the third day, all the clicks from all three days were added together, processed and posted. That made it seem that there was a sudden "spike" in your traffic, when in reality, it was simply that traffic from several days was suddenly posted all at once.

"Our goal is to do it each day, so its nice and even and the trend line is something they can plot," said Tony Mamone, LookSmart's vice president and general manager of small business services. "We're working as quickly as we can, and my guess is that it will be sometime in the next couple of weeks."

Keep in mind that even if things do even out, it will still be up to you to log in each day and see how traffic has risen. LookSmart does not yet currently allow you to see how much traffic came to your site on any particular day, only a running total over the course of your billing period.

LookSmart also said there have been requests for reporting to show the actual search terms used by those who click on LookSmart listings to reach a site, but this is a feature not likely to come anytime soon.

"It's not currently on the docket for development," said Mamone.

Account Management

Another big area of concern LookSmart says has been over handling multiple listings per account. The company said its small business account management system was designed primarily to serve the needs of those with only one listing. However, many search engine marketing companies may want to manage a range of listings within the same account.

Moreover, during the transition, some of these companies may not have had the multiple listings that they manage consolidated into a single account. Conversely, there are some companies who did have multiple listings placed into the same account but which would prefer to have separate accounts.

In both cases, LookSmart says it is working to organize accounts as desired.

"We've identified a big chunk of those customers already and will be working to consolidate," said Mamone. "If theyve been in touch, weve got them logged and they should get some communication from us and given us a time line. If not, they should contact customer service."

Mamone added that the consolidation changes are likely to take LookSmart about two weeks to perform.

Budget Issues

LookSmart says that a number of people with multiple listings in one account apparently didn't realize that they could assign a budget to each listing. Failure to do this means that a "popular" listing could eat up all the free or paid clicks in an account.

In contrast, by setting a budget for each listing, you can prevent one listing from using up all the credit and ensure that other listings in the same account have a chance to appear.

LookSmart says it has now been made more prominent in the account management system about how to assign budgets to each listing and help files providing further explanation are being drafted.

Grandfathering

Another key area of concern is obviously those upset at being moved into a new cost-per-click program when they'd paid a one-time submission fee already. Don't expect to see a reversal from LookSmart on this policy.

"It was impossible to grandfather people in," said Goldberg. He echoed the line in Thornley's public letter that having some people not in the pay-per-click program would make it difficult to attract new people into it and build up the revenue needed to gain new distribution deals.

I tend to hold the opposite view, that it should have been entirely possible and advantageous for LookSmart to have done this. LookSmart could have quickly built up a new customer base of pay-per-click customers, and older customers could have been brought into the new program in a variety of ways.

For example, one incentive might have been the ability to change a listing. Anyone might have been able to change listings for purposes of better optimizing it to gain traffic (as opposed to factual corrections) but only if they were part of the new pay-per-click program.

Instead, LookSmart has angered some existing customers and gained continuing bad publicity on forums and in various articles, not to mention may now be facing a class action lawsuit.

Other Issues

LookSmart says it is continuing to hear from search engine marketing companies that are not set up to bill clients on a cost-per-click basis. Here the company is advising these firms to at least start by considering monthly billing, which can be linked to an account budget with LookSmart.

In a previous article, I mentioned that I was uncertain what would happen to those with multiple listings from the same web site, when transitioned into the new program. The new program only allows one listing per site. LookSmart confirmed that those with multiple listings can retain them.

"The new policy is on a go forward basis," said Mamone.

Also, the relevancy keywords feature added to the new product is still not being used by MSN Search for ranking purposes, Mamome said. However, it is something he said MSN Search is evaluating for the future.

Another issue has been the fact that Inktomi still carries the entire LookSmart directory. This means that is possible that your site can be listed with Inktomi twice -- first through the listing that Inktomi found by crawling your for free or through paid inclusion, and secondly through picking you up as part of the LookSmart feed. Moreover, if someone clicks on your LookSmart listing, then you would indeed be billed by LookSmart for this, if it is a pay-per-click listing.

Unfortunately, there is no way to have LookSmart suppress your pay-per-click listing from being sent to Inktomi. That's considered part of the entire LookSmart distribution network, and as with Overture, you have to take the entire network or nothing.

Update for our Small Business Listings Customers
LookSmart, June 1, 2002
http://listings.looksmart.com/help/evan_letter.jhtml

The letter from LookSmart chairman and CEO Evan Thornley.

LookSmart Changes To Cost-Per-Click Listings
The Search Engine Update, April 17, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/articles/02/04-looksmart.html

Explains how the new LookListings Small Business program works and covers complaints and concerns that have arisen from it.

LookSmart Hit With Potential Class Action Lawsuit Over Submission Program
The Search Engine Update, June 3, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/articles/02/06-lawsuit.htmll

A proposed class action lawsuit claiming breach of contract, fraudulent business practices and misleading advertising has been filed against LookSmart over a recent change in how the company sells some of its commercial web site listings.

Seething Over the Search for Cash
Wired, May 23, 2002
http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,52741,00.html

Recent article about complaints over the new LookSmart program, ironically noting that the same company LookSmart uses to highlight the success of its new program also wishes MSN would drop LookSmart and use a "cheaper listing service," since his expenses are now higher.

Early Success of LookSmart 'Small Business Listings' Exceeds Expectations
LookSmart Press Release, May 13, 2002
http://www.shareholder.com/looksmart/releaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=80355

To support the contention that the new program is a success, LookSmart issued a release in the middle of last month saying more than 8,000 businesses had purchased LookListings Small Business listings since the program launched on April 9, exceeding its expectations.

From January through March of this year, according to LookSmart's financial documents, the company averaged about 144 small business listing sales per day. This means when the release was issued, 35 days after the new program was launched, you would expect LookSmart to have sold at least 5,040 listings.

Selling nearly double this amount does sound like the program is extremely successful, but that figure also includes the conversion of some part of 90,000 existing customers. The true measure of how successful the new program is won't really be known for a couple of months, when the impact of converting existing customers levels out. However, even if there are fewer sign-ups, greater revenue may still come through the pure cost-per-click model that provides recurring fees.

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RealNames To Close After Losing Microsoft

RealNames, which provided a pioneering alternative to the domain name system, announced last month that it would cease operations as of June 28 after failing to renew an important distribution partnership with Microsoft. More about the development can be found below.

RealNames To Close After Losing Microsoft
The Search Engine Report, June 3, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/02/06-realnames.html

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SearchDay Articles
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Here are some recent articles that may be of interest, from Search Engine Watch's daily SearchDay newsletter:

The Search Engine Spam Police, Part 2
SearchDay, May 30, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0530-spamcops2.html

Representatives from major search engines reveal the details of their spam detection and management policies, including email addresses for reporting suspected abuse.

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The Search Engine Spam Police, Part 1
SearchDay, May 29, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0529-spamcops1.html

"We hate spam!" Representatives of LookSmart and the Open Directory Project offer guidelines and advice for webmasters to avoid the wrath of editors and get successfully listed in these crucial web directories.

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Dealing with Yahoo, LookSmart and the ODP
SearchDay, May 23, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0523-directories.html

Getting your site listed in the major Web directories is crucial. Representatives from the Big Three share tips and techniques that help you facilitate the process.

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Google's Gaggle of New Goodies
SearchDay, May 22, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0522-google.html

Google has enhanced its already indispensable toolbar, and is offering an intriguing peek inside the kimono through Google Labs, a "technology playground" for ideas that aren't quite ready for prime time.

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Search Engines, Keywords and Dictionaries
SearchDay, May 20, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0520-keywords.html

Using the right keywords is crucial, for searchers and webmasters alike. Here are two sites with definitions and translations of hundreds of thousands of words, in a wide variety of languages.

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Special Search Tools Issue, Part 1
SearchDay, May 15, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0515-stools1.html

Special Search Tools Issue, Part 2
SearchDay, May 16, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0516-stools2.html

Search tools maven Avi Rappoport covers new articles, announcements and reports from the world of web site search software. Tomorrow: New and updated search tools.

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Alexa Meets Google
SearchDay, May 14, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0514-alexa.html

Web navigation company Alexa has launched an intriguing new search engine powered by Google, offering powerful search tools with a number of unique twists.

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Google AdWords: Sublime Poetry?
SearchDay, May 13, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0513-googlead.html

A frustrated poet uses Google's AdWords program to not only lose money with his art, but as a clever way to test the effectiveness of keywords for search engine optimization efforts.

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On the archive page below, you'll find more articles like those above, plus have the ability to sign-up for the free newsletter.

SearchDay Archives
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/archives.html

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Search Engine Resources
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Zeal UK
http://uk.zeal.com

Zeal, the LookSmart-owned volunteer directory of non-commercial web content, opened a new edition serving the UK last month. Those with non-commercial web content are free to become Zeal members and contribute their sites, which become part of the BTLookSmart UK database used by BTLookSmart and its partners.

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SEO Consultants Directory
http://www.seoconsultants.com

New guide now opened allowing you to find search engine optimization firms by US state, country or language.

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SEMList.com
http://www.semlist.com/

INT Media is planning its own directory of search engine marketing firms. The site is set to open on June 24 and registration is free. INT Media also publishes Search Engine Watch, but please note that I'm not involved with SEMList.com and so cannot answer questions about it.

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Google Weblog
http://google.blogspace.com/

Are you Google-obsessive? Then Aaron Swartz's site with posts about all things Google might be for you.

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Search Engine Articles
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A Guide to the New Pay-Per-Search Scene
ClickZ, May 30, 2002
http://www.clickz.com/media/media_buy/article.php/1146811

With Overture and Google tightening the editorial requirements on ads, here are some tips on getting your copy accepted.

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WebPosition Releases v2.0 & Rejects Reporting Issues
The Search Light, May 27, 2002
http://www.webrank.com.au/searchlight_issue_12.htm

Q&A with WebPosition about the ranking software's new release.

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Can AOL Maintain High CTR's on Sponsored Listings Near Search Results?
Traffick, May 27, 2002
http://www.traffick.com/article.asp?aID=88

Google recently tightened rules about how ads can be written, in part to please standards AOL required for paid listings. Andrew Goodman suggests in this article that the reason may also be to make the listings look so much like "editorial" results that users are tricked into clicking on them. Perhaps. However, the reality is that many people simply do not care what is paid or not. They simply want to do a search and get something that satisfies their query, regardless of whether it is a pure paid listing ad, editorial result or paid inclusion result. Of course, some people do want to know what's paid, to better make their click decision. AOL and Google both adequately delineate their sponsored results, for those who care.

Ironically, I think these standards can be onerous to advertisers. They place ads to a higher standard that the ordinary crawler-based editorial results. If these are ads, as long as advertisers are not misleading, then they should be able to market themselves in the way they think will attract clickthrough. Advertisers are probably far better able to determine this than Google or AOL, since they are paying for those clickthroughs.

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Search-engine wars
Multiex Investor, May 25, 2002
http://www.marketguide.com/Article.asp?target=/stocks/home/home&docid=8948

Major financial analyst firms comment on the prospects for Overture and Inktomi given recent customer losses to Google. Overture is seen as still strong while Inktomi is placed in a weaker position.

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Fast in trouble
Pandia, May 25, 2002
http://www.pandia.com/sw-2002/17-fast.html

Brief article covering FAST potential loss of income from a major revenue source, Dutch internet service provider KPNQwest, which has filed for bankruptcy protection.

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The Straight Story on Search Engines
PC World, July 2002 issue (online May 22, 2002)
http://www.pcworld.com/features/article/0,aid,97431,00.asp

An excellent, comprehensive guide to how paid listings and paid inclusion results are integrated into search engines, which a rundown, along with search tips and a list of specialty search tools. Google and Yahoo get excellent marks for being clear about paid listings.

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IAB: Online Ad Sales Fell in Q4, 2001
InternetNews.com, May 23, 2002
http://www.atnewyork.com/news/article/0,1471,8471_1143881,00.html

Banner ads remain the big spend when it comes to online advertising, 35 percent revenue in the fourth quarter of last year. Keyword-based ad spending rose to third place and represents 6 percent of spending.

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New Lycos Biz Unit Targets Commercial Sites
ASP News, May 20, 2002
http://www.internetnews.com/asp-news/article/0,,3411_1141501,00.html

Lycos, once in the enterprise search space years ago, is making a return to it with a new business unit targeting the market. The difference is that much of the enterprise search technology comes from FAST, rather than from Lycos in-house. However, there are provisions to build enterprise portals with content from Lycos web search, with customer bulletin boards and financial and news information from Lycos-owned Wired News.

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PORTFOLIO: Steve Kirsch
San Jose Mercury News, May 19, 2002
http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/business/3294962.htm

Nice item here spotted by SearchEngineGuide.com, where former Infoseek chairman Steve Kirsch cites among his biggest blunders not buying Yahoo in 1995 for $20 million or selling 6 million shares of Infoseek stock in early 1999 for $100 per share. Don't feel too bad, though -- Kirsch is still worth about $50 million.

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Yahoo's Google blooper
News.com, May 17, 2002
http://news.com.com/2011-1088-916882.html

Rumor has it Yahoo offered $700 million to buy Google while Google countered with a price of $2 billion.

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Yahoo to Pipe Premium NYTimes.com
Silicon Alley News, May 16, 2002
http://www.atnewyork.com/news/article/0,1471,8471_1135771,00.html

Archived articles from the New York Times are to be offered within Yahoo News on a cost-per-view basis.

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Teaching a search engine
San Jose Mercury News, May 16, 2002
http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/business/3274269.htm

If only a search engine could learn what I like and understand what I like. Columnist David Plotnikoff thinks it would be a great idea, and it is -- but one that has never gone anywhere because of privacy concerns or because search engine users were afraid personalized results would cause them to "miss" important information. See my last article on the subject for more: Google May Get Personal, http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/01/10-personal.html

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Excite Metasearch Serves Up Equal Doses of Innovation and Monetization
Traffick, May 11, 2002
http://www.traffick.com/article.asp?aID=83

Excite has been relaunched as a metasearch service, where parent Infospace is promising a better balance between paid and editorial results. Review of the service.

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Avoid Search Engine Roadblocks in Macromedia Flash MX
Traffic, May 1, 2002
http://www.traffick.com/article.asp?aID=74

Here's the key tip when it comes to Flash -- if you use it, and care about search engine related traffic, any important content will need to be represented in HTML, as well.

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Server Issues which could affect SE rankings
Searchengineposition, April 12, 2002
http://www.searchengineposition.com/info/articles/ServerIssues.asp

Tips on moving IP addresses, avoiding banned IP addresses, shared IP addresses and other server issues that might impact search engines.

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