THE SEARCH ENGINE UPDATE
June 16, 2000 - Number 79
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
+ About The Search Engine Watch site
+ Conference News
+ Search Engine Round-Up
+ What You're Asking
Search Engine Articles
+ Interesting articles relating to search engines.
+ List Info (Subscribing/Unsubscribing)
I will be on vacation from June 17 through June 27 -- no phone, no email -- nothing. So if you should try to contact me, you aren't being ignored!
The next Search Engine Strategies conference will be held in San Francisco on August 14. I'll be presenting and moderating sessions that feature experts on search engine marketing issues, including online publicity master Eric Ward, and panelists from the various major search engines themselves, including About.com, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, Excite, Google, Inktomi, LookSmart, Netscape/The Open Directory and Snap. In addition, there will be a special session on shopping search, which should be of interest to any online retailers. Details about the conference, for attendees or potential sponsors and exhibitors, can be found via the URL below.
Search Engine Strategies 2000 - San Francisco
Search Engine Round Up
+ Excite has released a new look to its search results that also coincides with a new ranking system. Excite's new "Excite Precision Search" generally displays only matches from its crawler-built database, in response to a search, in a simple design that mimics the new "less is more" move that AltaVista kicked off with its Raging Search site. Behind the scenes, Excite is making an improved use of link analysis than it has in the past, in particular to allow popular sites to more easily pass along their popularity to sites they link to. A full review of changes comes in the next issue. Meanwhile, Chris Sherman provides a good overview in his review, below:
Worth A Look: Excite Precision Search
About Web Search Guide, June 16, 2000
+ Lycos has finally committed to using FAST Search's results to power the "Web Sites" section of its search results. Over the past two months, Lycos experimented with using results from its own crawler, from Inktomi and from FAST Search in this section. Now, FAST Search has been given the nod. However, Open Directory information also continues to be used -- you'll know this is happening when you see a category link under a listing. In addition, material from Lycos-owned or partnered web sites also may show up in this section. Again, a full review comes next issue.
FAST Gets Bigger, Partners With Lycos
The Search Engine Update, Feb.3, 2000
More about FAST Search and how it has previously been powering advanced searches at Lycos.
+ LookSmart has reestablished a free submission option for both commercial and non-commercial sites, for the time being.
Free Listings Gone At LookSmart
The Search Engine Update, June 2, 2000
Explains how LookSmart has been experimenting with different submission systems.
In case you forgot your password, the finder will help you access the Search Engine Update articles, above.
What You're Asking
I diligently try to answer many of the questions emailed to me each day, and I thought it would benefit everyone if I shared my answers more broadly. So, here are some of the questions I've received recently:
Q: Is there a standard out there for how much search engine traffic should come from optimization efforts? In terms of web site traffic, is there a percentage one should expect from search engines?
A: There are no standards that I know of. Every site is different. Some may naturally attract more traffic from search engines than others. Personally, I think having 30 to 50 percent of your traffic from search engines is fine. More than that amount, and you are probably too dependent on search engines. Less than that, and you can probably do better.
Q. People in my company tell me to resubmit our site. I tell them it is not necessary, that I've checked our listings and don't see the site slipping down. What are your thoughts on this?
A. I operate on the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" rule. If your site is listed well with search engines, then I don't see great advantages to resubmitting. However, if you see your traffic drop from a particular search engine, then resubmitting to that search engine can make sense.
A. In general, any type of redirection is bad. However, I've only ever received reports of Go.com having problems with Java redirection.
Q. In terms of the "Find Similar" feature that some search engines offer, how does it work? What process does the search engine follow in order to carry out this function?
In most cases, the search engine will look at the document you selected, then seek out other documents that seem to fit its particular usage of words. In some other cases, such as at AOL Search, you will be taken to where that page lives within the human-compiled directory -- which means you can see other pages like it, as determined by humans. For more about Find Similar features, see the Search Assistance Features page, http://searchenginewatch.com/facts/assistance.html.
Q. Will I get in trouble submitting other people's pages to the search engines?
What type of trouble, morally, legally or with the search engines themselves? The answer depends on the type of page you are resubmitting. If you submit a page that a search engine doesn't currently list, for purposes of helping to improve its listings, you should have no problems. Similarly, if you submit a page that no longer exists, in order to help a search engine remove it from its listings, that also poses no problems.
Some webmasters submit pages that have changed since the search engine has last visited them, especially if these are competitor pages that have good rankings for particular terms. A search engine should revisit these anyway, so it would be hard for anyone to argue that you've done any harm. Similarly, some webmasters submit pages that have current listings, simply to see if they can cause a ranking to drop.
Morally, I don't like this, nor do I think I'm alone in that. However, other people may feel this is perfectly fine. Legally, there's never been a case I know of involving submission of other people's pages. Potentially, one could be raised, if the web site owner could prove you did the submission and equally convince a court that your submission caused them real harm. As for the search engines, if you were to embark on a large scale resubmission of current pages, they probably would not look upon this favorably. It's unclear how they'd be able to track this back to an individual, though. At best, they might block your IP address. That only hurts those with dedicated Internet connections. People connecting by modem get a different IP address each time they connect.
Finally, some people may resubmit many pages from a site in hopes of convincing a search engine that the site is attempting to spam them. I find this morally wrong, and I think most people would also agree with this. Legally, it would make for a stronger case to show harm, as you are attempting to harm another sites reputation. The search engines themselves would definitely not like this activity.
Q. Some search engines use the first text found within the body tag as the "description" text they display for that page. They disregard the meta description tag. How can I control hide my page summary for these engines?
You can make an image the first thing that appears after the body tag and insert your description as ALT text for that image. That's especially helpful for the Lycos crawler. You might also make a comment tag with your description appear right after the body tag. Finally, you can simply ensure that the first 200 characters or so of HTML text after a body tag contains the description you want. Despite these attempts, there will still be some search engines like Google that make their own decision on what to use for a description, rather than using your meta description tag or the alternatives I've suggested.
Q. If I have the word, "marketing" in my meta tag keyword list, and someone enters the word "market," can most search engines today figure out that "market" is contained in "marketing," or should I include both market and marketing in my tag.
You should include both forms, and not just within the keywords tag but also in the page copy itself. That's far more important. While some search engines may use "stemming" to understand that marketing is a form of the word "market," you cannot depend on this and you may still generally find that they will give preference to exact matches.
Search Engine Articles
No Questions Asked
Business 2.0, June 2000
About avoiding difficulties with search engines, when you have dynamic content. If this applies to you, be sure you've also read the Search Engines And Dynamic Pages article, http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/more/dynamic.html.
Content Matters Most In Search-Engine Placement
Information Week, June 12, 2000
Nice overview of search engine placement issues.
'Invisible' web code infringes trademark
BBC, June 8, 2000
A company that used the trademark of its competitor within its meta tags loses in a UK court.
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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!