THE SEARCH ENGINE UPDATE
December 4, 2000 - Number 90
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 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.
In This Issue
+ Site News
+ Conference News
+ First Search Engine Watch Awards To Be Offered
+ iWon Gets Factual
+ In Search Of Relevant Paid Links At Ask Jeeves
+ Ananova Delivers News With A Smile
+ Searching Inside Of Images
+ NBCi Plans Paid Submission Service
+ I-Search Search Satisfaction Survey
-- (full story online, summary and link provided)
+ Search Engine Resources
+ Interesting Search Engine Articles
+ List Info (Subscribing/Unsubscribing)
I've updated the keywords.ini file that helps those of you using WebTrends to analyze your logs to see what terms are bringing you traffic from search engines. Special thanks to reader Alan Kerr, who has also contributed his version of a keyword.ini file that categorizes over 200 individual search engines. Both are available on the Keyword Analysis Using WebTrends page listed below. WebTrends also recently released version 6 of its log analysis tool, which makes fast work of analyzing your logs.
Keyword Analysis Using WebTrends
I've added some new resources to the Search Talk page, which summarizes major areas where people discuss search engines. Be sure to take a look at Webmaster World Forums, which like the older Search Engine Forums, offers high-quality web-based discussions encompassing all the major search engines. French-speakers will want to visit the Tyrannia.com forums.
The date is set for the next Search Engine Strategies conference: February 15, in London. I'll let you know when the conference web site is ready, but like our last London conference, this will focus on European search engines and issues.
Our first two day event is also going to happen in mid-March, in Boston, and it will feature a day for searcher issues, in addition to the topics aimed at web marketers. We'll also expand and improve the advanced marketer workshops that proved so popular at our last conference in Dallas.
The conference web sites for London and Boston aren't yet ready, but you can sign up to get emailed when the both go online with agendas, via the URL below:
Search Engine Conferences
On the page above, you'll also find links to some other search related events. The annual Infonortics Search Engine Meeting in April now has posted its agenda, and those interested in site specific search may find useful the Argus Center seminars in January and February about thesauri development.
Here are some key news items from the Dallas Search Engine Strategies conference:
+ Interesting results from the I-Search survey on search engine satisfaction were released. These are covered in a separate article, below.
+ AltaVista said that it expects to roll out a paid inclusion program in the near future.
+ NBCi announced that it expects to add an express submission service this month -- see the NBCi article below for more details on this.
+ The Open Directory announced the opening of a new Kids & Teens section, which can be found at http://dmoz.org/Kids_and_Teens/
+ You may be aware that Google scores web pages with their own "PageRank" to measure their popularity. However, Google chief technical offer Craig Silverstein explained to conference attendees that the "page" in page rank is a reference to Google cofounder and CEO Larry Page, not to web pages themselves.
Finally, I've posted some pictures from the conference. I hope this lets you put faces to the names of the various search engine marketing speakers who are known from their online work.
Search Engine Strategies 2000 - Dallas Photo Gallery
First Search Engine Watch Awards To Be Offered
With the end of the year coming up, I figured it was finally time to begin offering annual awards that look back and honor achievements in the search engine space. I'd like to invite my readers to help! At the page below is a survey form to let you vote for which search engine or meta search engine you find best. If you are a webmaster or web marketer, you can also select which search engine you feel does the best job of driving you traffic. Those are the only formal categories, but the form also lets you suggest a category that you think should be added. Perhaps you think there should be a worst search engine category! If so, let me know -- and you can also name who should be nominated.
Search Engine Watch Awards
iWon Gets Factual
Search engines have long recognized that many searchers are looking for factual information. Generally, the response to this demand has been to provide links from their home pages to reference materials within their own sites. However, it can be easy to overlook these "almanac" links and instead gravitate to the search box to seek answers. Given this, iWon is trying a new tact of providing factual information directly within its search results.
Using data provided by Fact City, iWon will present anything from sport statistics to biographical details about actors, in response to the right search. For example, a search for "who was the third president" brings up the answer at the top of the page, "Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States." You'll also links to more factual information about US presidents, vice presidents and political facts.
You won't always get factual information, in part because the database is still growing, but also because iWon's trying to offer up facts only when its search algorithms determine that such a response may be appropriate.
"The challenge for us is to product a perfect match within iWon's general search based on a specific query from a particular user," said George Nimeh, iWon's vice president of search and special projects.
Actions such as using a person's full name (Harrison Ford rather than Ford), dates and phrasing searches as questions may help facts appear. Of course, the easiest way to tap into the fact database is by going to the iWon Fact Finder page. From there, your queries will go against only the fact database, rather than against all of iWon's various search partners.
At present, most of the facts are centered around sports and entertainment. However, iWon said corporate and dictionary information is coming.
Also just added is a new "search within" feature, to help users narrow a search within a particular set of results. After performing a search, to look just within the set of results initially found, use the check box below the search box that appears at the top of the results page.
iWon Fact Finder
Need movie facts? This new reference resource is produced by Fact City and Movies.com.
Fact City and Movies.com Make Movie Search Engine
ResearchBuzz, Nov. 15, 2000
Tara Calishain tries the movie facts page at the site above and finds both problems and things to like.
Looking for reference material? xrefer lets you search against information from encyclopedias, dictionaries, books of quotations and other reference works.
In Search Of Relevant Paid Links As Ask Jeeves
GoTo likes to talk about how "relevant" its paid listings are, which can sound funny. After all, isn't "relevancy" simply defined as who is the highest bidder? Not at GoTo. There are actually editors who will review ads to make sure that they seem somehow related to the search terms they are associated with. While GoTo's system isn't perfect, one can see the advantages in having such a review by contrasting GoTo with the Ask Jeeves paid links system.
Over at Ask Jeeves, a strong correspondence between search terms and ad content seems to have been abandoned over the past few weeks in favor of earning more money. Steve Colby, of CheesyLights.com, provides a good example. In October, he was the top bidder for the words "party lights," with an ad designed to bring people to his site that sells odd illumination items such as flamingo-shaped lanterns.
Out of the blue, Colby's site was suddenly bumped to the number three position. Who came in over him? These ads:
Fly to London on British Airways...
For as low as $129! (one-way, based on round trip) But act fast. Book your flight before Midnight, October 31st and plan your getaway! Click for more:
Find or sell a car AutoTrader.com
Search the largest used car inventory on the planet. More than 1.5 million listings, updated daily. Your car is waiting.
What on earth did these ads have to do with party lights? Nothing. But the corresponding bid prices told the story. Rather than being just above Colby's $5 CPM bid, these ads came in at $50.50 and $50 respectively. What happened was that these two advertisers had "run of site" style deals with Ask Jeeves to appear for a wide range of terms.
This is bad on two fronts. First, it produces ads that are clearly not relevant to the terms. For a further example, the three current paid link ads at Ask Jeeves for "party lights" sell reducing homeowner debt, sending online holiday invitations and purchasing last minute trips. In contrast, all 15 paid links at GoTo are specifically relevant to the terms "party lights" (though what's probably a bug causes links 11-13 to lead to the same site).
The second problem with a lack of term-to-ad correspondence is that it alienates the smaller advertisers that Ask Jeeves ultimately may need to depend on to keep its system viable. The larger advertisers bidding on run of site-style "search buckets" bump out smaller advertisers, forcing them to pay artificially high prices to regain their positions.
For instance, none of the top three current advertisers for "party lights" at Ask Jeeves have actually overtly bid for that term. But, because that specific term has been included in a grouping of many search terms at the rate of about $10 CPM, an advertiser who really wants "party lights" is forced to pay more against people who never actually specifically selected it.
"If large advertising accounts are allowed to dominate almost all of the categories, regardless of [relevance”, than Direct Hit/Ask Jeeves becomes useless to us as an advertising vehicle," Colby told Ask Jeeves, in a letter of complaint
Ask Jeeves says it is aware of the problems outlined, and that changes could come.
"Since the system is relatively new, we have been trying different models and working with different types of advertisers to evaluate the results. Some of the larger campaigns try to fill impressions within a specific amount of time, targeted or not. The system is not unfair to the advertiser although not always flawless either. We have two choices with regard to choosing keywords: no involvement where advertisers choose their own keywords and tell Jeeves how they want to spend advertising dollars, or Ask Jeeves starts manually monitoring the system, and Ask Jeeves tells the advertisers how to spend their advertising dollars. Most of these larger campaigns will have finished by the end of the quarter, and we will be reevaluating the system to determine what provides the most fair bidding competition, the most effective use of dollars for advertisers and return on investment," wrote Ask Jeeves spokesperson Abigail Berens, after checking on the issue.
Ask Jeeves Text Sponsorship Network
Sign-up here to have paid links displayed at Ask Jeeves, Direct Hit, Go2Net and elsewhere.
Paid Links At MSN Search And Direct Hit
The Search Engine Update, April 24, 2000
More about paid links at Ask Jeeves. The MSN Search program also described has now closed.
Ananova Delivers News And A Smile
Cast your mind back to April of this year, and you may recall hearing about a "virtual newscaster" called Ananova being launched online. The animated character, who somewhat resembles video game heroine Lara Croft without the pony tail, still serves as the personality for the news web site of the same name. More than just a headline service, the Ananova site is a news search engine that provides coverage from about 1,500 different sources.
Of course, when you enter the site, it will be Ananova's face that you'll probably notice first. In the upper right hand corner of the home page, you can ask her to deliver newscasts about news, entertainment and sports by clicking on the appropriate links. Her delivery is very realistic, with facial expressions matching the tone of the story she's delivering.
Behind the scenes, in house technology is being used to convert selected stories into Ananova's speech. Stories are also tagged so that Ananova know if they are "happy" or "sad," for example, so her demeanor will match.
"If a story is tagged as being sad, then the movements that the virtual character makes will be chosen from a range of emotion that are more sad oriented," said Ananova operations director Andrew Burgess. "If the story is happy, then she might be more upbeat, looking up more."
Some might find Ananova a novelty, while others might love her, but she's only part of what the site offers. At the top of the home page, using the "Instant search" box, you can also perform a traditional news search that draws back stories that are gathered throughout the day from major news outlets. Note that this happens only if you select the "web" option. By default, Ananova instead shows its own stories written by editors from newswire reports.
Produced in the United Kingdom, Ananova is oriented more toward the UK but still is accessible to anyone interested in English-language news from around the world. North Americans should note that story dates are in dd/mm/yy format.
"It's very much news and information with a UK flavor, and we want to make sure we are doing that as well as well can, but it also works extremely well outside the UK" said Burgess. "Things like the animated newscaster have pulled in people from around the world."
Beyond news searching, you can also browse news stories by topic, using the directory structure at the bottom of the page. In addition, there are over 2,000 email alert topics to sign-up for. Use the Ananova Alerts link below to easily find the choices. Or, when viewing a story, select one of the options in the "Alerts By E-Mail" section that appears to the right of the article.
Overall, there's a lot for news hounds to like here. If you haven't been by, the site is well worth checking out -- whether you choose to get your news directly from Ananova herself or not.
Ananova WAP Demonstration
Describes Ananova's WAP news service, for those with mobile Internet access. UK football fans -- there's even an option to get goal-by-goal updates of major matches.
Ananova WAP version
If you have a WAP phone, access the WAP version via this URL.
Ananova Feedback Form
Got a story you think Ananova should carry from your site, or know of a topic they should consider? Use the "Tell Ananova about a news story" link, on this page.
Drawing on content from about 500 sources, this is a new and developing news search site. More sources of research and journal types are planned to be added soon.
News Search Engines
Other places to search for news across the web.
Searching Inside Of Images
The Holy Grail of image searching is to actually "see" what images are about, rather than understanding them based only on the words appearing around them. A new generation of multimedia search tools aims to change this. In particular, Ereo, Cobion and LookThatUp.com are all companies with new products touted to truly see inside images and recognize patterns efficiently.
To understand the importance of this, consider a traditional image search tool, such as what AltaVista runs. If you use its image search and look for "eagles," you'll get pictures of eagles or graphics with the word "eagles" in them. However, AltaVista didn't retrieve these pictures because it could recognize what an eagle looks like or because it could read the text inside an image.
Instead, AltaVista (and most crawler-based image search engines) remain mostly blind to what the actual image shows. Instead, they rely on the words that appear around the image or in the file name of the image to understand its content. So, pictures with the word "eagles" in the file name or pictures that appear on web pages that make use of the word "eagles" in the HTML text give AltaVista the clues it needs to display results.
Since this is guesswork, it's not surprising that an image search may miss what you are looking for. In contrast, the new crop of products aims to use both surrounding text and an analysis of the image file itself to determine what is relevant. Interestingly, none of these new companies is trying to launch an image search service on their own. Instead, they plan to partner with those who may have image search requirements -- either large portals and search engines, vertical portals or even those with visual intranet content that needs to be indexed.
In addition to Ereo, Cobion and LookThatUp.com, I've also noted a few other interesting companies doing recent work in the multimedia space worth watching.
Ereo just landed a deal to power Excite's web-wide multimedia search service, plus Ereo says that relevant image and multimedia finds may be integrated into Excite's regular search results. The joint service is set to go live in the first quarter of next year. In addition to providing web-wide image search for portals, Ereo is also applying its technology to those with media collections that need an indexing solution, as with its just announced deal with Minden Pictures.
The Start-up: A story of dot-com survival
Denver Post, July 30, 2000
Long article discussing the launch of Ereo and touching on the technological issues involved in extracting information from images to improve search.
Cobion is another new company that has launched image scanning services. These are being primarily targeted at those with brand protection needs. Coupled with Cobion's web crawling, it's designed to help ferret out unauthorized use of logos and other trademarked symbols. Cobion's technology is also being positioned as a filtering tool. For example, it could help detect pornographic images on pages that are pretending to be about innocent topics. Finally, Cobion is also available as a regular image search engine. In contrast to Ereo and LookThatUp.com, Cobion is also attempting to extract any words it finds within images, rather than primarily sticking to pattern recognition.
LookThatUp.com introduced its image search products last month at Internet World in New York. As with Cobion, LookThatUp.com is pushing its technology as a filtering tool. And, similar to Ereo, it suggests that by letting people upload an image of what they want, or clicking on a image (such as a lamp or a couch), more matching products can be found by looking for similar images. Finally, LookThatUp.com offers its technology for those needing an image search tool.
Launched in 1999, like Cobion, ImageLock is aimed to recognize unauthorized use of logos and copyrighted materials. A client's content is "fingerprinted," then ImageLock's spider watches content across the web for unauthorized use of the fingerprinted materials.
Originally launched as a standalone image search engine, Ditto made a position change earlier this year to distribute its results to other partners. It currently provides image search results to NBCi and Go2Net's MetaCrawler and Dogpile meta search services. You can still search for images directly at Ditto's own site, but it now it is more a showcase for its technology than aimed at consumers.
Taalee has been primarily focusing on those with audio-visual search needs. It will index multimedia content and understand what it is about by the associated text it finds on the page and from any meta data that may be provided along with the content. When users search, it also goes beyond the actual search words to include related concepts or meanings that may not have been specified. This semantic expansion of search queries is also something Taalee will apply to those needing more traditional text-based search.
Launched earlier this year, SingingFish.com has developed what it claims to be the largest index of MP3 and streaming media files. Its first portal partners are supposed to be announced later this month.
Start-up Boasts Of 99.9%-Accurate Video, Music Search
Newsbytes, June 12, 2000
More technical details about SingingFish.com.
Virage Internet Video Guide
Rolled out earlier this year by video search specialist Virage, this product is available to portals and others with web-wide video search needs. Use the "Got Video" icon to let them know if you have video content that should be included.
Various places to see Virage's video search technology in action.
He Said What? Clinton Video Search Available
The Search Engine Report, October 5, 1998
Past story about Virage's video indexing service.
AltaVista Image Search
Web-wide image search service from AltaVista.
NBCi Plans Paid Submission Service
I'm planning a longer look at changes to NBCi (formerly Snap) soon, but I wanted to provide some more details now on the service's planned paid submission service, expected to go live later this month.
At the moment, any site can submit to the NBCi directory and will generally be listed within minutes. However, your site will only appear in the secondary "LiveDirectory" results, rather than in NBCi's "main" directory. Being in this second tier category means you'll probably get some traffic, but not as much as being in the main directory, where the results are more prominently displayed.
Eventually, quality sites in the LiveDirectory that seem to satisfy queries do get promoted to the main directory. The planned NBCi paid submission process will speed up this process. In return for a flat fee (to be determined, but probably less than the $199 charged by Yahoo and LookSmart), NBCi editors will review newly submitted sites for inclusion in the main directory, said NBC's Robert Christiansen, managing producer of the directory.
Snap Unveils LiveDirectory
The Search Engine Update, Dec. 6, 1999
Covers the basics of submitting to NBCi for inclusion in its LiveDirectory.
I-Search Search Satisfaction Survey
In November 2000, moderator Detlev Johnson, of the I-Search mailing list, asked his readers what were their biggest problems with search engines and directories. The 75 responses received shed light on top issues that webmasters encounter with search services, such as having editors alter submitted descriptions, which can cause a site not to be found for particular terms. Respondents were also asked about problems they encounter from a "searcher" perspective. Aside from the statistics, the actual written responses are fascinating reading, primarily because of the outpouring of frustration that site promoters encounter with search engines. The survey findings can be found at the page below, which also has a link to the written responses.
I-Search Search Satisfaction Survey
The Search Engine Report, Dec. 4, 2000
Search Engine Resources
A free newsletter that comes out twice per month, Free Pint always seems to be something useful here relating to searching or doing research on the web.
Wall St. Journal Trademark Search Tool
Produced in conjunction with NameProtect.com, this lets you choose to search for domain names, registered trademarks in the US and Canada and against a company name database using the same form. Handy, though it would be better if it searched all four sources at the same time and produced a single report. Instead, you have to run a report for each source separately.
Special toolbar for Internet Explorer users that puts a Google search box right into your browser. In addition, you can use it to see the "PageRank" popularity score of any page you are viewing, search within the particular site you are viewing, see a previous of "cached" copy of any dead pages, find pages similar to the one you are viewing, and more. It loads within seconds and is well worth adding to your browser. ResearchBuzz offers a longer review of using the toolbar here, http://www.researchbuzz.com/news/2000/nov23nov2900.html. Note that using the toolbar with PageRank enabled sends some information back to Google. If that concerns you, choose the "Install Without Advanced Features" option.
Directory that categorizes over 50,000 vertical portals. You can also perform a keyword search to find sites of interest. User interface available in English, Spanish, French, Italian or German.
Just launched, this latest country-specific edition of AltaVista offers 3.5 million Swiss web pages in addition to the world wide index.
A low-cost shareware product that enables dynamic content in sites using Active Server Pages to be included in the major search engine indexes by converting the PATH_INFO part of an HTTP header.
Disturbing Search Requests
Designed to allow people to share the strange, unusual or disturbing ways that visitors came to their web sites via searches at search engines. Be aware that some of the examples shared may contain sexually-graphic terms.
Search Engine Articles
What A Search Engine Optimization Specialist Can (and Can't) Deliver
Search Engine Forums, Nov. 24, 2000
Long discussion covering the issues of hiring someone to perform search engine optimization work.
Ask a Librarian, Not Jeeves
Wired, Nov. 24, 2000
Libraries are fighting the suggestion that web-based search and answer tools will be their replacements through a new virtual reference desk called the Collaborative Digital Reference Service (http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/digiref/). The service is not yet live.
Yahoo mulls charging for services
News.com, Nov. 17, 2000
Yahoo ponders whether it could charge for some of the services it currently offers for free. Sound familiar? Cast your mind back to 1998, when I suggested we might see this type of move in "Turning Users Into Members," http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/98/02-yahoo.html.
Net name body OKs seven new domains
News.com, Nov. 17, 2000
The new TLDs are here! The new TLDs are here! Sort of. The new TLDs of .biz, .aero, .name, .coop, .info, .pro and .museum were approved by ICANN, but agreements with the winning applicants still must be negotiated, then the US Department of Commerce needs to grant its approval. That won't happen until after the new year, and the new domain names aren't expected to be available until the middle of next year. ICANN also warns that there is no way to "preregister" names (see http://www.icann.org/tlds/).
Search Engines: PC Magazine Review
PC Magazine, Nov. 15, 2000
Editors Choice awards went to Google and Northern Light in PC Magazine's annual review of search engines. They each were scored as excellent for overall performance. Overall runners-up were Direct Hit, HotBot and Oingo. For "simple search," Google, Northern Light and MSN Search all received top scores.
Norways FAST IPO Shelved Until 2001
Kagan, Nov. 15, 2000
FAST puts its IPO plans on hold due to adverse market conditions.
Selecting a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Agency
ClickZ, Nov. 15, 2000
Types of services typically offered by search engine optimization firms and questions to ask.
Desperately seeking surfers via search engines
The Globe and Mail, November 13, 2000
Discusses using third party firms to improve traffic from search engines.
AltaVista Wins Patents For Search Technology
AltaVista Press Release, Nov. 13, 2000
AltaVista claims new patents for methods of identifying and eliminating duplicate pages, ranking results by degrees of relevancy and spidering techniques. Do the patents pose problems for other search engines? Probably not. For example, nothing ever came of the conflicting Lycos and Infoseek patents at the end of 1997 (see http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/97/10-patent.html).
The Trouble with Search Engines
eCompany, Nov. 10, 2000
HotLinks, the search guide compiled out of user bookmarks, recently circulated a study showing that it listed important popular sites that traditional human-powered directories missed. Writer Erick Schonfeld put the claim to the test and came back feeling that the traditional services held their own.
Goodbye GuruNet, Hello Atomica
SiliconValley.Internet.com, Nov. 7, 2000
GuruNet is changing its focus from being a consumer-targeted lookup utility to instead developing its technology to help corporations with search needs. The company name has also changed, to Atomica. The GuruNet applet will continue to be provided to consumers via the Atomica (http://www.atomica.com) web site.
Dublin Core - Tagging the Web for better search and retrieval
WebReference.com, Nov. 5, 2000
An introduction to the fifteen Dublin Core meta tags, but bear in mind that none of these are supported by any of the major search engines. At the moment, they are worth implementing if you have your own site specific search engine that depends on them.
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