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
+ General Notes
+ Internet Explorer 5 Makes Search Easier
+ Netscape's Smart Browsing Matures
+ RealNames Expands Namespaces
+ Alexa Adds Webmaster Tools
+ Excite Results Get More Targeted
+ Waiting For Lycos
+ Search Engine Articles
+ Subscribing/Unsubscribing Info
This is my first themed newsletter -- the bulk of it is devoted to searching from within your browser. You'll find in-depth info on the new features in Internet Explorer 5, an update on Netscape's Smart Browsing features, plus some news on the RealNames system.
As for the site, I put up a series of new pages in February that summarized searching tips for the various search engines. Now there's a new Search Engine Features For Searchers chart to go with these pages. It provides an at-a-glance view of searching commands.
Many are also familiar with my other long-standing features chart that summarizes items primarily of interest to webmasters. This has now been explicitly named Search Engine Features For Webmasters. It has also been completely reorganized, so that I can present information for more search engines in the same space.
A new Search Engine Display Chart summarizes information of interest to both webmasters and searchers about how search engines display listings.
Also new is the GoTo.com Top 100 Search Terms page, which shows top filtered queries from the service. The new Search Spotlight page also features data from GoTo. There you'll discover what terms webmasters pay the most for in relation to improving their rank. It's an interesting twist on the usual top terms data. In the future, I hope to present other unusual data like this on the Spotlight page from a variety of search engines.
Another new addition is the Pay For Placement page. This summarizes major articles that deal with paying for listings at the major search engines. GoTo.com is still the only major service that allows this, but services like RealNames, Yahoo Business Express, the Lycos Bullseye ads and other developments are sometimes misinterpreted as paid listings. Get the facts on this page.
As for updates, there have been minor changes made to the Search Engine Math and Power Searching For Anyone pages, to reflect new features at Google. I've also added a new section on "Search Within" features to the Search Assistance page.
You'll find links to all the new and updated pages mentioned above via the What's New link, below.
Within the Subscribers-Only Area, I've created a new Search Engine Submissions Chart that provides an at-a-glance view of submitting to the major search engines. Page per day limits, when pages appear and other issues are all summarized here.
I've also added a Super FAQ page, which has answers to some of the many questions I receive from readers. I'll be adding to this page over time.
The area also has an unfiltered version of the GoTo.com Top 100 Searches page that resides in the public area.
All these pages can be found from the Subscribers-Only Area What's New page, which is the first link you'll see when entering the Subscribers-Only Area.
I hope to have a updated version of the offline edition posted in the next few days. I also hope to integrate material from past newsletters into the various How Search Engines Work pages in the next few weeks. In general, my priority is to get the latest news out via the newsletter, then go back and update the pages that summarize information for each search engine. That's why every page within the How Search Engines Work section has a link at the top of the page to recent articles relating to that search engine. You can reach the very latest information this way.
Finally, I'm working on a large piece relating to doorway pages for an upcoming issue of the newsletter. I've called these bridge pages in the past, but I think doorway page is becoming the more common term. These pages are increasingly being used by webmasters to gain traffic from search engines, and many readers are asking me if they are considered spam. When I last surveyed the search engines on this issue, the answer was that used in moderation, they are OK if they link (not redirect) to relevant material. I'll be checking with the various search engines to see if this is still the case. There are also a number of tools and companies that have appeared to help you create and manage doorway pages, and I'll be taking a close look at these. To date, the best I've seen so far are WebPosition Gold, http://www.webpositiongold.com, and SearchPositioning.com, http://searchpositioning.com. Got a favorite you find effective? Let me know.
Search Engine News
The latest version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser has a number of search features that can make finding information easier. Some of these may not be readily apparent, and so I thought a tour of these would be helpful.
The easiest way to get started searching with Internet Explorer 5 is to click on the Search button in the toolbar. Doing so divides the main content window into two sections. The left section is called the Search Pane, and this is where the Search Assistant will load. The Search Assistant allows you to search for web pages, email addresses, businesses and maps. Clicking on the More link expands the Search Assistant to include encyclopedia and newsgroup searching.
The Search Assistant defaults to a web page search, which will be done by one of Microsoft's premiere search providers. There are five of these: AltaVista, GoTo, Infoseek, Lycos and Microsoft's own MSN Search. The very first time you use Explorer, one of the services will be selected and remains your default choice from that point on, unless you customize your settings.
This is in sharp contrast to how the Search Pane worked in Internet Explorer 4, where the search engine selection constantly changed. Microsoft abandoned this with IE5 so that users wouldn't get confused by a continually rotating search choice.
"Before, it was like Russian roulette. What am I going to get today?" said Bill Bliss, general manager of MSN Search.
It's a good move. I think many users of both Explorer and Netscape Communicator have no idea why the search partner changes when they click on the respective search buttons -- indeed, some don't even realize the partner is changing. The IE5 change allows Microsoft to give its partners a shot at its users without confusing those users in the process.
As I noted, the Search Assistant remains ready for a web search when you open the Search Pane. You'll see a search box at the bottom of the assistant, with text above it that says "Find a Web page containing." Below the box is text that tells you which search engine was selected for you. For instance, if AltaVista was the choice, it says, "Brought to you by AltaVista."
To search, enter your terms and push the search button below the search box. The Search Assistant will disappear from the Search Pane and be replaced by your search results. Then when you click on a listing from the results, the page loads into the right-hand section. In this way, you can view your search results and actual web pages simultaneously. It's a great feature for those who hate having to go back and forth.
Because the Search Pane is relatively small, it can be hard reading all the results. However, if you hover the mouse icon over any particular listing in the Search Pane, a pop-up box will appear that displays the entire listing information.
Once you've done a search, you can easily rerun that search using another search engine. Just click on the Next button that appears at the top of the Search Pane. This will send the query to the next search engine on the list, which you see if you click on the small down arrow button next to the Next button. Or, select the down arrow button, then highlight the exact search engine you wish to query from the list.
Performing a new search is easy. Just click on the New button, which also appears at the top of the Search Pane. The Search Assistant will reload into the pane.
The Search Assistant also remembers the past things you've searched for. Do a few searches, then click on the New button. Then change the Search Assistant setting from "Find a Web page" to "Previous searches." You'll be shown up to 10 past searches you've performed, in the form of hyperlinks. Clicking on a link brings back the search results from your browser cache. You can clear these by selecting the "Clear" button.
You can customize the Search Assistant by selecting the Customize button, located at the top of the Search Pane. This makes the Customize Search Settings window appear. By default, the Use Search Assistant radio button is selected.
You'll see sections in the customize window that correspond to different aspects of the Search Assistant. The "Find a Web page" section comes first, and this is where you can override the default search engine setting. Various search engines appear in a list box. Choose the service you want to use by default and move it to the top of the list using the small arrow buttons below the list box. You can also use these arrows to move any service up or down in the list. This list is linked to the Next button, which I described earlier. So by moving services around, you can control the order in which the Next button selects services.
Next to the list box, you'll also see search engines listed with small checkboxes next to their names. Unchecking a box removes a service from the list, while checking a box adds it to the list. Since the Customize page is delivered from the Microsoft web server, you may see more search engines appear as options over time.
When you are happy with your changes, click on the OK button at the bottom of the page. FYI, the Reset button will restore the Search Assistant's default settings. That includes removing the encyclopedia and newsgroup search options, if you had enabled these by clicking on the More link mentioned above.
Don't like the Search Assistant? You can remove it by clicking on the Customize button, then selecting the "Use one search service for all searches option." Pick your preferred search engine, and that will be the only one that appears in the Search Pane. If you change your mind and want the Search Assistant back, use the Customize button and chose the "Use Search Assistant" option.
Everything above covers traditional searching in the sense of going to a search engine and entering queries. But you can also search from the address field of the browser, using a system that Microsoft calls "Autosearch." This corresponds to the Internet Keyword system that Netscape introduced last year in its browser, or to the RealNames system that relates registered words to web pages.
Make a point of trying Autosearch. The results are very good, especially for popular queries. That's because Microsoft has preprogrammed responses for about 40,000 queries.
Searching with Autosearch is easy. Just enter your search terms into the area where you would normally enter a web address and hit Enter or click on the Go button. By default, a list of matching results will appear in the Search Pane. These come from Microsoft's Autosearch search engine, not from its MSN Search service. Autosearch will also load what it believes to be the best web page automatically into the main content window.
"If you type something in that's ambiguous, we'll try to take you to the best resource. If you don't type in something ambiguous, we'll take you right there," said Eric Berman, Group Program Manager for MSN Search.
So if you enter "white house" into the address field, the US White House home page will be displayed as a top pick in the Search Pane, along with other related links, while the White House page itself will be displayed in the content window. MSN editors have linked this particular site to those words.
Autosearch can operate in other ways, all of which are controlled by clicking on the aforementioned Customize button at the top of the Search Pane. When the Customize Search Settings page appears, click on the Autosearch settings button at the bottom of the page. MSN will be shown as your search provider, and the "When searching" option will be set to "Display results, and go to the most likely site."
You can change this option to "Just go to the most likely site," which in the example above, would have taken you to the White House site and never opened the Search Pane to show other options. The "Just display results in the main window" would have shown you matching Autosearch results in a single window, without taking you to the top site. Finally, the "Do not search from the Address bar" would have shut off the Autosearch feature entirely -- although I found that if I then entered search term into the address field to test this, Autosearch magically restored itself to the default setting.
You can also choose to have another provider give you search results via the address field. For instance, change the search provider option from MSN to Excite. Now you can enter some terms, and results from the Excite search engine will be displayed. Most of the major search services are listed as options, as is the RealNames service.
This is the first time RealNames has had the presence it wanted in a major browser. Previously, users could only get RealNames functionality by downloading a program to enhance their browser (the NeoPlanet browser does have support built-in). Obviously, usage will still be limited because RealNames is not the default choice, but it does make it easier for this to happen in the future.
MSN does not have programmed Autosearch results for every search topic, of course. You'll know when generic answers are provided, because instead of displaying a "Top Pick," the Search Pane will instead inform you that it's doing a "Web Address Search."
When this happens, Autosearch will usually try to find a page to automatically load by condensing your words and appending .com or other common endings, a system Microsoft calls "Autoscan." For instance, entering "cars" brings up http://www.cars.com, while "used cars" is condensed into one word and brings up http://www.usedcars.com/.
You'll also be presented with other possible matches in the Search Pane. Most of this information comes from the LookSmart database that MSN has licensed. However, you won't find that the search exactly matches the same search at LookSmart because MSN is using its own search algorithm to retrieve results. Some special MSN information is also mixed in.
An obvious concern webmasters will have is how to become a top pick or be listed within Autosearch matches. Unfortunately, there is no formal mechanism to request consideration. Bliss recommended webmasters use the MSN feedback page to let team members know if they feel a site would be a good top pick.
Some important notes if you try searching from the address field. You'll discover some words are ignored when you use them to start your query, in particular "search" and "find." For instance, if you look for "search engines," you'll really only be searching for "engines." You'll need to search for "search search engines" in order to keep the word search in your query.
This happens because old versions of Explorer had Autosearch functionality only when you used words like "search," "go," "find" or the ? symbol. Autosearch will show you want it looked for in the search pane, so look closely, and you'll know if a term is accidentally omitted.
You may need to use one of the terms above if you want to use Autosearch and are behind a proxy server. This is because a single word search may fail if the browser tries to resolve the word into a local server name. Start your queries search, find, go or the ? symbol as a workaround to this problem. Or, go to Internet Options, select the Connections tab, click on the LAN Settings button, then check the Bypass proxy server for local addresses option.
IE5 also has some Alexa functionality built into it. Click on the Tools menu, then select Show Related Links. You will see pages that the Alexa service thinks are related to the page you are viewing, along with an archived version of the page, if it's available.
Here's a good tip from Windows Magazine. You can have Related Links as an option on your toolbar, rather than having to hunt for it via the menu. Go to the View menu option, choose Toolbars, then Customize. Then click on Related from the list of available buttons and click on Add. Now when you click on Related, the Related Links information will appear in the Search Pane.
Alexa provides more information than just related pages, but you'll need to install the full Alexa product to get this. This is easy and free to do, through a fast download at the Alexa site. It upgrades IE5 automatically in about one minute.
Finally, but far from least, Internet Explorer 5 provides the ability to save searches done at the MSN Search service. MSN Search is the first major search service to offer this ability, and it's something professional researchers have long wanted.
It's a slick implementation. Do a search as MSN Search, and if you have IE5, you'll see small disk icons appear next to each listing. If you click on an icon, it saves the link. This information is then available on the Saved Results page.
To get to that page, go to the MSN Search home page, and you'll see an option called "Saved Results" in the reverse bar above the search box. When the page appears, you see any listings you've saved grouped by the search terms you used.
The feature only works with IE5, and it's important to note that the information is not being stored at the MSN Search site itself. Instead, it's all kept on your own hard drive. In fact, if you have the Saved Results page cached, you can access your pages without going back to the MSN Search site.
Here's are some last tips for IE5 that you may find useful:
Need to get to the address field in a hurry to do a search or enter a URL? Use Alt-D to jump right there.
Want to add http:// and .com to an address quickly? Type in the main part of the address, then hold down Control and push the Enter key. For instance, enter "nike," then hit Control-Enter, and the word is transformed into http://www.nike.com.
Enter the name of one of your Favorites into the address box, and you'll be taken right to the site you've bookmarked. For instance, say you have a personal homepage bookmarked as "My Page" in your Favorites list. Type in "My Page," and you'll be taken to the address you've saved, assuming the link is at the top level of your Favorites, not with a subfolder.
Did you know you can search for text in past pages you've visited? Click on the History button, then click on the Search button that will appear at the top of the Search Pane. A search box will appear. Enter your query, and any pages in your browser cache containing those words will be listed.
Internet Explorer 5
Download a copy from here.
IE5 Web Accessories
The Lockergnome newsletter, http://www.lockergnome.com, is a must for Windows users and brought IE5 Web Accessories to my attention. They configure special codes that let you query any search engine from the address field. For instance, "av travel" would send the query "travel" to AltaVista (I found this conflicted with IE5 Autosearch, but you may have more luck). You can also highlight any word on a page, then send that to a default search engine (it's currently Yahoo, and there's no customize option). The Web Developer Accessories, available from this same page, allow you to highlight words on a web page, then view the exact source code for that text. You can also download the full Alexa product via this page or the AltaVista Power Tools, described below.
AltaVista Power Tools
AltaVista Power Tools let you highlight any term on a web page, right-click with your mouse, and then send the text to AltaVista for a web search. You also get instant access to the Babel Fish page translation service, and menu options to do a link or host search via AltaVista for any page you are viewing.
Got IE5? Try Saved Results here.
Think your site is suitable as a top pick for the Autosearch system? Try sending feedback via this page.
RealNames Ramps Up
The Search Engine Report, Feb. 2, 1999
More information about RealNames can be found in this recent article, which also links to further background information.
Smart Browsers Ease Searching
The Search Engine Report, July 1, 1998
Learn more about how Autosearch and other search assistance features work in older versions of Internet Explorer.
Alexa: Searching Serendipity And More
The Search Engine Report, Jan. 9, 1998
More about information provided by the Alexa service.
Netscape has been building up its Internet Keywords system since it was implemented last July as part of its Smart Browsing enhancements, and it has turned into an impressive resource that can make locating web sites much easier.
The idea of Internet Keywords is simple. Users should be able to enter a word or words into the web location box of their browser and be taken to a relevant site, regardless of whether they entered a proper web address. So under the system, a user can enter "united airlines" where they'd ordinarily enter a web address and be taken straight to the United Airlines web site, rather than having to enter http://www.ual.com.
When Netscape launched its system, users were either taken directly to a relevant web site or given matching results from the Netscape Search search engine. Occasionally, they might also have been dumped into one of the Netscape site's channels, such as "autos" linking to a page within Netcenter.
Now, the keywords system is quite likely to land you on an intermediary page, where Netscape displays a variety of options that seem suited to your query.
"We quickly learned that there isn't any one thing that you can send people to, especially in terms of the generic categories," Ken Hickman, the senior product manager at Netscape who oversees Smart Browsing. "So, we introduced this intermediate page, that allows us to point at multiple answers in respect to what you type in."
The results are easy to understand and helpful -- sometimes even better than what the major search engines dish up. For instance, imagine a search for "united." It could mean United Airlines -- but it could also mean United Artists. The intermediary page solves the problem. It lists several major companies that all include the word United in their names. Likewise, the page lists common domains that have the word in them.
Another good example is a search for "airlines." Here, you're shown a link to a matching category from the Netscape site relating to airlines. Netscape also offers to take you to its online booking area -- as an option, it can be appreciated. If it had been forced upon you, it might have been resented.
Using Internet Keywords is easy. Just enter a word or words into the location box and hit Enter. Netscape will then try to resolve your term in one of several ways.
First, it will check to see if the word or words have been linked directly to a web site. This is commonly the case for trademarks, brand names, company names or other common words where Netscape feels comfortable that it knows what most users want. Entering "white house" is a perfect example. You're taken directly to the US White House site.
If there are no defined keywords, then you may be taken to an intermediary page. This will happen if you search for a term that might match several trademarks, such as the "united" example above. This will also happen in response to many generic terms, such as "music" and "movies."
If the term matches no intermediary pages, then Netscape will scan to see if there are any domain names that seem to match your words. If so, you'd be taken directly to a web site.
Finally, if all the above attempts fail, Netscape will forward your request to its Excite-powered Netscape Search service, where you'll be shown web pages that match your topic.
Netscape says it intends to further add to the system. Editors are constantly watching query logs and creating pages in response to popular searches. For instance, they have already made up a page in response to a search for "melissa virus," Hickman said.
In the next few months, more content on these pages will begin to come from the Netscape Open Directory. Currently, most of the directory categories listed come from the Excite directory, which has been rebranded for Netscape's use.
That also makes being listed in the Open Directory much more important. As the system grows in popularity, it can become an important source of new traffic. If you still haven't submitted to the Open Directory, get started soon.
Netscape also says it may either enhance the Open Directory submission process to help further develop the Internet Keywords system, or it may launch a submission mechanism just for the system's needs. This is because it would like to solicit greater guidance from site owners on the best place to link within their sites, in relation to trademarked terms.
One welcome twist to the Internet Keywords system is that you will get different results if you have set your language to French, German or Japanese. For instance, searching for "yahoo" with a browser set to French would take you to Yahoo France, not Yahoo in the US. More of this will be a well received by those outside the US who are looking for local content.
Anyone can try this. Just go to the Preferences menu option, then open Navigator and click on Languages. Click on Add to select an additional language, then use the arrow keys to move your choice to the top, so it's the default language.
Netscape also has a number of "keyverbs" that work within the Internet Keywords system. For instance, use the word "quote" followed by a company symbol, and you'll get a current stock quote. For instance, "quote aol" would bring back the AOL stock price. You can also use the word "help" followed by a topic to get help about Netscape's products and services.
Ordinarily, there's no need to use the "go" keyverb, which is an explicit command for the browser to do an Internet Keywords search. But if you go through a proxy server, a single word query will probably fail, because the browser will try to find a local server. In these cases, start your query with "go."
Netscape has also augmented the Alexa-provided information that's available when clicking on the What's Related button, which is next to the Location box. What's Related displays links that seem similar to the page you are viewing, along with helpful information about the site. Additionally, when at some major company sites, you will also see relatively new options allow you to retrieve a stock quote or news items.
A link at the bottom of the What's Related list will also take you to a web page version of the What's Related information presented, which is useful in case you want to print or save the information for later reference.
Internet Keywords and What's Related are built into Netscape Communicator 4 and 4.5. Those running Internet Explorer 4 can also download a "tune-up" to add Netscape's Internet Keywords to the Microsoft browser.
IE4 users might also find they've been accidentally converted to using Internet Keywords without realizing it. When you install Netscape Communicator, it will ask if you want to "Use Netscape Netcenter to search the Web." If you say yes, then any Internet Explorer installation will also be changed to use Netscape's Internet Keywords. The install program does warn that this will happen, but this may be overlooked by some.
Don't choose this option if you want Explorer to stay as it is. Netscape will still configure itself to use Internet Keywords (and on the off chance it doesn't, then go to Preferences, choose Navigator, then Smart Browsing, then click on Enable Internet Keywords).
If Explorer has already been changed on your system, you'll need to install the Tweak UI utility to get back to normal. Click on the General tab, then change the Internet Explorer search engine option from Custom to the search engine of your choice.
Netscape Communicator 4.5 Home Page
Download the latest version, which has the Smart Browsing features described above.
About Internet Keywords
More information about Internet Keywords, including the ability to use an online form to search for terms using the system. There's a helpful FAQ page, plus links to the IE4 tune-up mentioned above.
Netscape Integrates Directory
The Search Engine Report, Feb. 2, 1999
More about the Netscape Open Directory.
NewHoo: Yahoo Built By The Masses
The Search Engine Update, June 22, 1998
Includes tips on submitting to the Netscape Open Directory.
Smart Browsers Ease Searching
The Search Engine Report, July 1, 1998
More about the initial launch of Netscape's Smart Browsing.
Alexa: Searching Serendipity And More
The Search Engine Report, Jan. 9, 1998
More about information provided by the Alexa service.
RealNames has introduced three new namespaces to demonstrate what it hopes will become common place for companies: the creation of custom RealNames databases to serve their various searching needs.
The new databases allow anyone using the RealNames system, such as through AltaVista or via RealNames-enabled software, to search for US income tax forms, US Securities and Exchange Commission filings and US Patent information.
To find tax forms, simply preface the form number with "IRS." For instance, you could enter "IRS 1040" into AltaVista, then select the RealNames link that appears at the top of the results page. That would take you to where you can get a copy of a 1040 form on the Internal Revenue Service web site.
SEC information works similarly. Enter "SEC" followed by a company name, and you'll be taken to a list of filings for that company. For instance, entering "SEC Amazon" into AltaVista and then selecting the RealNames link would take you to a list of filings by Amazon.
To retrieve patent information, use the words "US Patent" followed by the patent number you are interested in.
In all these cases, what's happening is that the RealNames system is simply passing on your query to another search service. For instance, using SEC tells RealNames to send whatever words appear after SEC to the SEC's EDGAR database.
Likewise, it is possible for RealNames to have any number of custom namespaces that pass queries to other search services in this way. For example, entering "yahoo travel agents" could cause you to get results from Yahoo for "travel agents." Or, entering something like "amazon tom clancy" could take you to Amazon results for a search on the author Tom Clancy.
Both those examples are fictional at the moment, but the Amazon one might not be that unlikely. "We did meet with [Amazon CEO” Jeff Bezos last week, and he was amazed. He was very excited about the possibility," said Centraal's CEO Keith Teare, whose company runs the RealNames system.
Already, one company has already signed up for a custom RealNames namespace. An official announcement will come later this month, Teare said.
There's also a new RealNames service aimed at individuals. "My RealName" allows anyone to register for a free name. All that's required is that they have a web page hosted by a qualifying community site, such as GeoCities.
The service will be formally announced later this month, but you can register a name or a nickname right now. Just follow the instructions via the link below.
How RealNames Works
As RealNames continues to grow in importance, registering some names can be a good traffic generator. Be ahead of the curve. This page explains the advantages to registering names and takes you through the process.
If you needed a further reason to try RealNames, the company is offering a 60 day free trial in conjunction with Network Solutions through the end of April.
Now that Alexa is built into both the major browsers, webmasters may become even more aware of the information it reports about their sites. New tools introduced recently will help them fix incorrect information and perhaps even influence the related links that appear.
Alexa presents general contact information about a site that's drawn from the InterNIC database. In particular, Alexa will show the name, address and phone number of the person or company which owns a particular domain. If the InterNIC has incorrect information, then Alexa will also display incorrect information.
The Alexa Site Information Editor allows you to change this information. You can alter specific contact details or choose to make none of them public at all. Keep in mind that this only affects the Alexa database, not the InterNIC's. Information there will still remain incorrect, unless you correct it through the InterNIC's horrible change system -- and unlike with Alexa, there's no way to keep your contact details from being publicly accessible.
A good suggestion from Alexa is to consider changing a site's contact details to something friendly for customers. For instance, many sites may have phone numbers listed for the technical person that registered the domain. With the site editor, you can change information to reflect a main corporate headquarters or a customer service phone number.
At the bottom of the Site Editor page is a link to the Related Links Editor. This allows you to make suggestions about the Related Links that Alexa displays in relation to your site.
Related links are generated mostly through an automated process. But if a site has low traffic, or if it suddenly changes addresses, Alexa may have no related links to suggest.
This is where the Related Links editor comes in. It allows webmasters, or any web surfer, to suggest new links for a site. They can also rate existing related links as good or bad.
Alexa doesn't immediately implement the suggestions it receives. In fact, it can be somewhat skeptical about those reporting links as bad.
"If there are good links that someone says they hate, we realize this may be someone that doesn't want a competitor's link on their site," said Alexa Editor Geoff Mack. "It does happen a lot."
As for new links, Alexa is particularly interested in sites it hasn't heard of before. It will allow these links in at a "low confidence" setting, which then gives its automated system a chance to evaluate them. If the link passes this second test, then it may appear in relation to a particular page.
There's an opportunity here for webmasters. Instead of trying to bump your competitors off the links that Alexa displays in relation to your own site, go out and find good sites that lack related links or places where you think your site might be a good related link. You may find this positive action works better than being negative.
Alexa Site Change Form
Enter your domain or web site URL into the box on this page
HTML Writers Guild Mailing List Archives
Not everyone's happy with Alexa displaying ads and related links to visitors at their sites. Complaints came up on one of the HTML Writers Guilds list. The link above will take you to recent posts.
Alexa Bulletin Board
Following discussions on the HWG list, a separate forum was later established so people could share concerns about Alexa. The company itself has agreed watch the forum in order to gather feedback.
Alexa: Searching Serendipity And More
The Search Engine Report, Jan. 9, 1998
More about information provided by the Alexa service.
You may have noticed that Excite responds to certain types of queries, such as those involving a city, a university or a movie, with very targeted information at the top of its results pages. Excite launched this style of targeted results last spring, but it has been greatly expanded over the past few months. Topics such as news, entertainment, sports, universities and geographical locations are all likely to bring up programmed results.
Searches relating to "New York" are a good way to see the variety of results which may appear. Searching for "New York" itself brings a page topped with a map to the city, tourism resources, and the current weather. Searching for "New York weather" brings up an extended forecast. "New York University" brings up contact details and links with information about the educational institution. "New York lottery" presents the current lottery results. "New York Giants" brings up links to information about the football team and displays their last game score. "New York news" pulls up a headline relating to the current police shooting case.
Certain words help trigger the appearance of this type of custom information. For instance, any geographic place name is likely to bring up targeted results. "California," "Utah," "Germany," "Berlin" and "United Kingdom" are all examples. Likewise, using the word "lottery" with a US state name may bring up lottery results, while "weather" brings up forecasts. Many sports team names are programmed, as are colleges and universities throughout the United States.
I was most impressed by the movie results. Do a search for "Analyze This," a current movie in the US, or any other recent film. You'll be presented with a summary of the film, links to actor information, the official movie site and reviews of the film. Moreover, if you have personalized with Excite, you'll be told the location of a theater near you that's screening the movie, along with showtimes. I found this to be a wonderful and incredibly useful feature. Other services offer movie times, but not this easily. For instance, at Yahoo, you have to do the same search, go into the Full Coverage category for the movie, then click on the link below "Showtimes."
Custom results are also available for previously released movies as well as television shows. For instance, looking for "Ally McBeal" displays a summary of the current show, local air times (if you've personalized) and the next episode.
"This has been incredibly popular. People love this. They like to be able to type in their show and check on when it's playing next and what the episode may represent," said Excite search product manager Kris Carpenter. Not surprisingly, Carpenter said movie-related queries tend to peak on Thursdays and Fridays, when new movies are released.
Another popular topic is music, and Excite has programmed results for more than 40,000 North American artists. In particular, using the terms "cd" or "album" along with an artist's name or a album title specifically prompts Excite to look for custom music information.
"The titles of albums are usually too generic to surface automatically, so this helps us make sure we aren't suggesting content that isn't relevant. Often titles are used by multiple artists. To ensure that you are getting the artist you desire, type in the artist name, album name and 'cd' or 'album,'" Carpenter said.
Other areas that bring up programmed results are searches for large companies, such as "microsoft" or "ford," and popular topics such as "geneology," "soap operas" and "beanie babies." Excite plans to continue expanding these over time.
There are also news related topics, but these can be hit-or-miss. Excite won't deliver programmed results unless it is extremely confident that's what someone wants. One way it does this is to watch for the word "news" within queries. For instance, "Kosovo" brings up normal results, but "Kosovo news" brings up a page topped by a particular story about the current conflict.
Be aware that when targeted results appear, the other information below them is condensed. Only web page titles will be displayed, for instance. This is a key reason webmasters should ensure that their page titles are targeted and attractive. When programmed results are presented, you won't have any descriptions in the web results to help entice people to your site.
When there aren't programmed results, Excite defaults to showing matching information related to a query from a variety of sources, including its web index. Typically, the page will begin with matches from the Excite directory, under the title "Web Site Guide." You'll notice that the categories displayed may not actually contain your search terms, yet they will often be relevant to the topic. Excite uses a system to help more broadly define its categories, in order to make this happen.
Unfortunately, there still is no way to submit your site to be listed within the Excite directory. Carpenter advises webmasters to send a request through the normal feedback mechanism, if they want to be considered.
Carpenter said a direct submission system might come in the future, and I certainly hope it does. As the directory results are given more importance, I think it's crucial site owners have a mechanism to at least alert Excite to their sites independently of being stuck within the normal feedback process.
The Web Results section usually follows the directory listings, and it shows matching pages that come from Excite's web index, which is built by spiders. There have been all sorts of rumors and misconceptions flying around recently about the web index, so let's clear a few things up.
First, there is absolutely no 25 page per site listing limit at Excite. There has never been such a limit. Excite does have a 25 page per week submission limit, but as I've written many times in the past, submitting to Excite has nearly no impact on the actual pages that get listed. So this limit really doesn't matter. Submitting does help the spider know that the pages exist, and it will be the only way the spider knows about "doorway" pages that have no links to them. But the Excite spider will come to your site, index a large number of pages and then some of these may eventually appear in the index -- without any apparent reason as to why some make the cut.
Another rumor going around is that Excite is not indexing subpages of web sites, only the "default" or "root" page. For instance, Excite would list the default page that appears when I go here:
but it wouldn't list this page or even accept it for spidering consideration:
This is NOT the case. Excite does and will index inside pages, and you are certainly able to submit them. The confusion arises over the fact that Excite favors default pages more than inside pages. You are virtually assured of seeing a default page appear in the index, and often within a week. Inside pages may or may not appear, and this can take up to a month to happen. Default pages also tend to stay in the index, while inside pages are often dropped and others rotated in. Finally, Excite says it gives default pages a ranking boost -- something AltaVista also does.
I know some of you may get conflicting messages from Excite support on this, but I've reconfirmed all the above with Carpenter herself. Please keep in mind that the techs at all the search engines don't always get it right, though you wish they would. And to be fair, sometimes it's the techs that do clue you in on something that the search engines will otherwise deny. In this case, I think it's more a case of confusion.
You should expect that many of your pages may suddenly disappear out of the Excite index for no apparent reason. Carpenter said there were a few reasons why this might happen, due to glitches and snafus on Excite's part, along with normal reasons such as the spider not being able to reach a page three times in a row. One other major reason is simply that there isn't enough room to store all the pages that the spiders visit. Thus, pages that have been listed may get dropped as part of the index "churn," Carpenter said.
It's hard to pin exactly which pages are listed from a site within the Excite index, because it lacks a url: command that would let you get a definitive count of pages from a particular domain. You can do a search for the URL string, but this may not reveal all the pages actually indexed -- and if you Sort By Site, you'll only be shown the top 40 results in response to your query sorted by site. That doesn't mean that all the pages from each site shown will be presented. A site could have pages that weren't in the top 40 and so wouldn't be displayed.
One thing that will help in the future is that Excite plans to move non-English web pages into separate indexes by the end of April. That will mean there is more room in the main index that currently holds 50 million pages from across the world, in all different languages. Until then, Carpenter says to contact customer support via Excite's feedback form, if your site seems underrepresented.
Also, many are aware that Excite powers the AOL NetFind and Netscape Search services. You may find that the same search provides somewhat different results, at times. This is because both AOL NetFind and Netscape Search have the ability to boost certain sites that they consider important. Likewise, Excite provides boosts to sites it has reviewed. As a result, using the same index of sites may still yield different results.
After the Web Results section is usually other information. The Reference section has relevant links to online reference material, while news articles may appear in the News Articles section. The Discussions area presents links to Excite chat and discussion boards, as well as links to relevant newsgroup listings.
Excite has also made a tweak to downgrade pages that come from online forums so that they don't rank as high within the Web Results section. The pages are still indexed, and they would still appear in response to a specific query. But they are less likely to appear in response to more general queries, which I think is mostly positive. These pages can sometimes be years old and no longer as relevant. Users certainly wanted the change, according to Excite.
"One of the things we kept hearing from consumers was 'Gee, I'm wandering through my web content, and I keep coming across these news postings. They're getting in the way," Carpenter said.
Finally, Excite has introduced Related Searches functionality similar to that at AltaVista. These appear mainly when there are also targeted listings. For instance, a search for "Madonna" shows the related search of "True Blue," just under the search box on the results page.
Excite is also sticking with its suggested terms feature, which suggests words to add to the query. I can't reveal the exact figure, but very significant numbers of users are making use of it.
Targeted Categories At Excite
A list of major categories where Excite provides targeted results, along with specific examples.
It's not your imagination. Lycos continues to be behind in adding many new pages to its web index. Likewise, you're likely to encounter stale links and outdated information in relation to some queries. But in other cases, you may get very fresh results.
Lycos acknowledges the problem, which is related to an upgrade of its indexing system that's underway. The company hopes to have changes finished within the next few weeks.
One important change that the service has implemented is that it now spiders a select group of "premiere" sites on a daily basis. Pages from these sites are also given a boost in the page rankings. As a result, queries on popular topics such as "oscars" or "travel" often display fresh and relevant pages. It's when you do very specific queries that the index refresh delay is likely to cause problems.
Search Engine Articles
Lycos's loop has users reconsider rivals
News.com, April 2, 1999
I've been meaning to mention this change at Lycos that happened some months ago, in the context of the Company Names Test that I run from time-to-time. Basically, Lycos is popping up special pages if you enter "Yahoo" or "Excite." The pages are a bit heavy-handed -- they make a pitch for sticking with Lycos, instead of going to the competing site. But they do provide a link at the bottom to the service that users are after -- which is more helpful than what some search engines were providing, the last time I ran the test. But do a search for "Infoseek" at Lycos, and you'll see what would really benefit users more -- a big link that says "Infoseek's home page" at the top of the results.
Yahoo Acquires Broadcast.com for $5.7 Billion
InternetNews.com, April 1, 1999
Yahoo is to acquire online audio/video company Broadcast.com in a $5.7 billion stock swap.
Yahoo maps its future, will buy Broadcast.com
San Jose Mercury News, April 1, 1999
More details about the Yahoo-Broadcast.com deal.
Broadcast.com Model Has Portals Thinking
Internet World, March 29, 1999
Written before Yahoo's Broadcast.com acquisition, it still provides details on why portals are interested in multimedia partnerships.
RIAA threatens to sue Lycos over MP3
Reuters, March 25, 1999
The Recording Industry Association of America is considering suing Lycos over its MP3 search engine.
MP3 Search Engine Under Fire
Reuters, March 24, 1999
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry files suit in London against FAST, the company that produces the Lycos MP3 search engine.
Is The Lycos MP3 Index Legal?
The Search Engine Report, March 3, 1999
In case you missed it, this article from last month's newsletter explains why Lycos faces legal problems relating to its MP3 search engine.
Snap Previews High-Speed Portal
InternetNews.com, March 22, 1999
Details on Snap releasing a high-bandwidth version of its portal site.
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