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The Search Engine Update, July 1, 1998, Number 32

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Search Engine Watch

THE SEARCH ENGINE UPDATE
July 1, 1998 - Number 32

By Danny Sullivan
Editor, Search Engine Watch
http://searchenginewatch.com/

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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 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.

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In This Issue
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+ General Notes
+ Smart Browsers Ease Searching
+ Kid-Friendly Searching From Lycos, Disney, Ask Jeeves
+ GoTo Going Strong
+ Old Media Buys Into New Media
+ RealNames Raises Fees
+ Out of Beta: Netscape and Microsoft Debut Changes
+ Alexa 2.0 for Explorer 4 Released
+ Infoseek Institutes Listing Delay
+ Toolbox: Keyword Density Analyzer: Not Magic, But Useful
+ Search Engine Notes
+ Search Engine Articles
+ Subscribing/Unsubscribing Info

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General Notes
===================

Hello Everyone--

First, Happy Canada Day to everyone in Canada, and early Fourth of July wishes to everyone in the US. I'll be celebrating over here in Britain, fireworks and all. And condolences to readers in England on yesterday's World Cup loss -- but what a game! And I'm not even a fan…

I plan to update the various How Search Engines Work pages in July. In the meantime, be sure to review past articles from the Search Engine Update, which are now broken out by subject. It makes it easier (I hope) to keep up with any recent changes. A link can be found off the Subscribers-Only home page.

Subscribers-Only Area
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/

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Search Engine News
===================

Smart Browsers Ease Searching

Netscape is promising that the next version of its browser will be bright enough to help users find what they are looking for. "Smart Browsing" will be available in the beta version of Communicator 4.5, to be released sometime in July.

"The idea behind Smart Browsing is that we are trying to add intelligence to the browsing process" Micki Seibel, Netscape Communicator's Senior Product Manager.

One of the best things about the announcement is that it gives a name to features that already exist in both Netscape and Internet Explorer, which will raise awareness of these helpful options.

Netscape's Smart Browsing will initially contain three core components: Internet Keywords, What's Related and NetWatch. The first is a search feature; the second a site discovery tool, and the third is a filtering mechanism.

With Internet Keywords, you can enter search terms into the Location area of the browser and be taken to relevant pages.

You can already see this in action using Communicator 4. Enter any phrase that is two words or longer, and you'll receive results from Netscape's Excite-powered search engine. Similarly, you can perform one-word searches by prefacing the word with either a ? symbol or the word "go," such as "? cars" or "go cars."

The same functionality has been present in Internet Explorer since the IE3 release. It works exactly the same as described above in both IE3 and IE4, and results come from Yahoo, by default.

Those who have installed the Windows 95 or Windows 98 Tweak UI applet can switch the default to another service via the drop down box in the Internet Explorer section of the General tab. Oddly, both versions of Tweak UI still include services such as the now defunct Open Text Index or Infoseek Ultra, which has long been absorbed into the main Infoseek service.

So what's new about Netscape's Internet Keywords? For one, there will be an option to disable Netscape's auto-completion attempts. This is another existing feature in both the Netscape and Microsoft browsers that remains unknown to some users.

With auto-completion, a browser will attempt to add missing portions of a URL in order to reach a site. For example, enter "www.website.com," and both browsers will transform this to "http://www.website.com." So save your fingers and stop entering those http:// prefixes!

Likewise, if you leave off the .com suffix, the browsers will add them or rotate through other options, such as .net. Unlike the http:// prefix, it's best to add the correct suffix, if you know it. Otherwise, you could end up at the wrong site.

Disabling auto-completion is important, because it will allow users to use the Location box the way they use the search box at search engines. There will be no need to prefix one-word searches, as described above. Instead, users can just enter anything into the box, hit return and get results similar to using a search engine.

The results won't be exactly the same as using a search engine, however. There will be a series of "reserve names" that will take users directly to a web site. For example, entering "Amazon" might take users to the Amazon.com web site, while entering Barnes & Noble might take them to that bookseller's site.

Isn't this what RealNames is supposed to do? Yes, the ideas are virtually identical. Users can enter words, rather than URLs, to reach the sites they are looking for. The difference is that Netscape doesn't plan to charge companies to be listed in its reserve word database, which currently has about one million entries, Seibel said.

Instead, editors will add terms to the database, and site owners can also request to be added for free. Seibel expects that there will be some type of formal submission process after the new system goes live.

Another key difference is that Netscape will resolve generic terms. Enter something like "autos," and you'll be taken to a relevant page with Netscape Netcenter. In contrast, RealNames will not register a generic phrase to any particular site.

Netscape also plans to resolve some generic and semi-generic terms to particular sites outside of Netcenter. For example, "white house" would take you to the US White House site, under Netscape's plan.

An innovative feature is the eventual introduction of international sets of reserve words. This would be an excellent way of solving the problem of companies in different countries having the same name. Enter "ford" into Netscape's US-edition browser, and you would be taken to the Ford US site. Do the same using its UK-edition browser, and you might be taken to the Ford UK site.

Many searches won't match the Netscape's reserve word database, of course. In these cases, users will be presented with matching pages from the Netscape search engine, as happens now.

Does this mean RealNames has no hope of getting built into future Netscape browsers, a key strategy of that company's plans? Netscape says its Smart Browsing doesn't preclude working with third parties, and RealNames says discussions are on going. So, wait and see.

What's Related is the second component of Netscape's Smart Browsing. It's a site discovery feature based on technology from Alexa. A small drop down box next to the Location box will list sites that have content similar to the site currently being visited.

Netscape's What's Related database is built in partnership with Alexa, but the results will not be exactly the same as those presented by Alexa's own software. Instead, Netscape will be adding its own editorial suggestions and enhancements, Seibel said.

Meanwhile, IE4 users can enjoy a similar What's Related integration and more via a new 45K Alexa download that seamlessly adds Alexa features to the browser. For more details, see the separate article on the Alexa 2.0 release.

Finally, the NetWatch component of Smart Browsing will allow parents, teachers or others to configure the browser so that it cannot reach sites with possibly objectionable material, based on PICS ratings. A similar feature is available in Internet Explorer, via the Internet Options menu. Choose the "Security" tag in IE3 or the "Content" tag in IE4, then select the Content Advisor section.

Netscape Communicator 4.5 Home Page
http://home.netscape.com/communicator/v4.5/

Alexa 2.0 for IE4
http://www.alexa.com/ie40/

Windows Power Toys - Tweak UI
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/downloads/contents/powertoys/w95tweakui/

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Kid-Friendly Searching From Lycos, Disney, Ask Jeeves

A few months ago, I got a message from a teacher desperate to find some kid-friendly search services. She had done a search on a seemingly innocent topic in front of her classroom, only to have sites pitching pornography appear in the top results. She was anxious to avoid a repeat performance.

There's good news for her, along with other educators and parents who want search results appropriate for children. Three new services offer children a safer way to search the web.

Two were introduced in June: Lycos SafetyNet and the Disney Internet Guide, or DIG for short. Another new comer is Ask Jeeves For Kids, which launched in March.

Lycos SafetyNet is a system that uses filtering technology to help prevent possibly objectionable web sites from appearing in its results. This is a first among the major crawler-based search engines.

Crawler-based services like Lycos, AltaVista, Excite and Infoseek create their listings by visiting web pages and indexing the text they find on them. The problem with this is that they can be easier to trick than web guides compiled by humans, such as Yahoo and LookSmart.

For example, some porn sites place misleading text on their pages to fool search engine crawlers into thinking they are relevant for popular topics. In other cases, a site may indeed be relevant for a term, but relevant to adults, not children.

To see this in action, perform a search for "toys," "chicks" or "spice girls" on any of the major search engines, and you'll probably see some adult sites among the top results. You may also see some adult-oriented banner ads.

A Cyber Dialogue study conducted for Lycos found 67 percent of those surveyed wanted the ability to block adult sites from search results when their children are using the computer. In response to this and other concerns, Lycos created SafetyNet. It was quietly launched a few weeks ago, but Lycos made a public announcement on June 29.

Activating SafetyNet is easy. You visit the SafetyNet home page and fill out a small form, which includes assigning a password for altering SafetyNet settings.

At its basic setting, SafetyNet will filter objectionable material from the top search results and prevent adult-oriented ads from loading. At a higher level, SafetyNet will also block access to Lycos chat areas, email and message boards.

SafetyNet settings are stored in a cookie on the computer, so that it remembers whether filtering has been switched on. It can be turned off at any time, as long as the proper password is provided. Click on the SafetyNet logo, which appears in the upper-right hand side of the search results screen, to reach the SafetyNet control panel.

The system works by detecting pages that contain words and word syntax common to adult or objectionable material. These pages are then pushed to the end of the results, where they are unlikely to be found.

For example, a Lycos search for "kate winslett" without SafetyNet brings up numerous sites offering nude pictures of the actress in the top results. With SafetyNet on, these nude sites disappear from the top ten.

Lycos readily admits that SafetyNet is not perfect. Some objectionable sites may still slip through, and a smart kid can certainly figure out how to delete the cookie. Also, access to its dynamically created directory remains, where some adult content could be listed.

"Originally, we wanted a foolproof system," said Lycos Product Manager Rajive Mathur. "But on the Internet, there's no way to get that without sending an army of people to scrub each result."

The key is that SafetyNet greatly lessens the odds of an unexpected, and unwanted, surprise. It gives parents and others an easy, first line of defense, which they can further supplement with a software filtering solution, if desired.

Overall, SafetyNet is an excellent enhancement for those parents and educators who use Lycos already, because they consistently like the results it returns. It offers a way to make their favorite service kid-friendly.

SafetyNet is also a good alternative for those who've tried searching at kid-friendly directories such as Yahooligans but failed to find what they wanted. That's because Lycos, being a crawler-based service, may have more comprehensive coverage for particular types of searches.

For best success, it's also important to understand when not to use SafetyNet.

When SafetyNet is on, you can't search for some words at all. Search for "sex," and you'll be told nothing could be found. Look for "sex education," and you're essentially doing a search for "education," as the term "sex" will be ignored. Likewise, birdwatchers looking for information on "blue tits" are really only searching for "blue."

So, when looking for material with possible adult connotations, or when using terms that include sexual or possibly objectionable words, push the kids out of the room and turn SafetyNet off. You'll get much better results. With it on, you'll probably get frustrated.

Likewise, turn SafetyNet off if your searches don't seem to turn up any good matches. You may be using a term that is filtered out because of connotations you don't realize exist.

In contrast to Lycos SafetyNet, Disney has taken a tried-and-tested approach of handpicking sites for inclusion in its new DIG service.

This is filtering by humans, rather than machines. The advantage is that humans usually do a better job in categorizing the web, so you can expect the Disney guide to be a good starting place for kids to explore the web. The same is true for Yahooligans, the long-established children's directory from Yahoo.

Directories are an especially good place to begin searching when your topic is broad, such as "travel" or "sports." This is because you'll find often discover categories that help you narrow your focus.

The Disney guide is produced in partnership with Inktomi, which provides results to HotBot and powers supplemental results to Yahoo and Snap. However, Inktomi is doing something different with Disney. Its technology is being used both to provide matching pages from a select set of web sites and to also help organize those sites into categories, according to Kevin Brown, Inktomi's marketing director.

This categorization is something Inktomi has not previously done with its other partners, but the company can't say more about it at the moment, Brown said.

It's also uncertain what will happen in the wake of Disney's new stake in Infoseek. It seems likely that Inktomi will continue to power DIG, especially in light of the specialty service it is providing.

The third entry is based on Ask Jeeves, a unique search service that lists questions its thinks you want answered in response to a search, then takes you to web pages that answer those questions.

For example, enter "world cup," and it will display results like "Where can I find the latest news about the 1998 World Cup" or "Where can I find a list of the all-time best players in international soccer." Clicking on the Ask Jeeves logo next to each question takes you to a relevant web site with the answers.

Ask Jeeves For Kids follows the same model, but results are oriented for children. My favorite response was when I tested a search for "sex." Ask Jeeves responds with "Where do babies come from?"

The regular Ask Jeeves service also acts as a metacrawler, presenting results from several of the major search services below its own answers. Ask Jeeves For Kids provides the same functionality, but it filters out any objectionable sites that are on SurfWatch's block list.

Lycos SafetyNet
http://personal.lycos.com/safetynet/safetynet.asp

Disney Internet Guide (DIG)
http://www.disney.com/dig/today/

Ask Jeeves For Kids
http://www.ajkids.com/

Yahooligans
http://www.yahooligans.com/

Children's Search Engines
http://searchenginewatch.com/facts/kids.html

Still want more? This new Search Engine Watch page lists additional sites of interest to kids, parents and educators.

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GoTo Going Strong

Pay-for-placement search service GoTo.com hit both advertising and traffic milestones in June, while also enhancing its search results.

The service announced that more than 1,000 sites are now paying for prominent placement at the top of its search results, and that it has begun serving a million page views a day, thanks to a new publicity campaign.

GoTo also enhanced its results by partnering with Inktomi, while adding new directory listings and a browser-based way to drill down into the service.

GoTo switched to a pay-for-placement model in February. Advertisers can open accounts and bid on how much they'll pay to appear at the top of results in response to specific searches. Advertisers are currently paying anywhere from one cent to one dollar a click, GoTo says.

"We could have signed up perhaps more advertisers over this time period, but we've been laying the groundwork to scale up to 10,000 advertisers," said CEO Jeffrey Brewer.

Part of the groundwork has been educating advertisers to write appropriate descriptions for their paid links and to ensure that those links take users to the most appropriate sections of their sites, Brewer said.

New guidelines on the site bid form explain these aspects, as well as better instruct advertisers how to choose appropriate keywords. They are assisted in this by the ability to see actual search terms people are using at GoTo.

For example, an advertiser interested in "sunglasses" could research the term and discover that 96 people searched on it in May, while 16 people were looking for "cheap sunglasses."

Researching is easy. You enter a term into the first "search term" box on the bid page, then choose the "Want a suggestion" link above the box. Any terms matching the word or words entered will be displayed, in order of frequency.

It's incredibly valuable information, and no other service offers anything like it. At the major search engines, such data is usually only released as part of a potential advertising buy.

GoTo has also ramped up its publicity campaign in recent weeks, which it says has increased traffic to the site. Banner ads began running in key places such as the Netscape Net Search page, GeoCities and LookSmart. Ads will soon begin at Microsoft and Lycos. The company also has radio and outdoor campaigns planned.

All those new visitors are finding a greatly improved service, thanks to a partnership with Inktomi.

Previously, GoTo's non-paid results had come from the World Wide Web Worm crawler that GoTo acquired for its original launch in 1997. Those results were looking decidedly dated. When Inktomi took over in late May, they immediately improved.

By the way, there's no Add URL form to ensure Inktomi crawls your site via GoTo. You can send your site URL to [email protected], but it is easier and quicker simply to submit your site to Inktomi-powered HotBot. That will get you in the database for most Inktomi-powered sites.

Of course, GoTo's model is based on the idea that its paid listings will make it more relevant than other services, especially for general searches. Cash equals quality is the theory, and web sites that pay more are probably better sites, GoTo feels. Ultimately, the accuracy of this remains with each individual user.

What is significant is that there have been no great outcries or bad publicity about GoTo's pay-for-placement model, as had accompanied the last great experiment with paid listings by Open Text back in 1996.

Perhaps the web has matured, and these type of economic models are more acceptable. Perhaps as GoTo founder Bill Gross originally speculated at the launch earlier this year, GoTo would succeed because as a relatively new service, it had no reputation to taint with paid listings.

Or perhaps it is what Brewer thinks: no one cares how the results are determined, as long as they personally find them relevant.

"Quite frankly, there's no understanding of how any service provides results," Brewer said. "If consumers are satisfied, they really are not interested in the mechanism."

In other search changes, GoTo has introduced "Related Searches" categories at the top of some search results pages. For example, a search for cars suggests checking "used cars" or "auto parts," among other options.

GoTo is also planning to allow a second page of results to appear on the service. Currently, a search brings up 40 matches on a single page, with no way to request more.

Some users have requested the ability to dig deeper, and some popular categories such as "hardware" and "web hosting" now have so many paid listings that a second page option will soon be necessary to accommodate more.

GoTo.com
http://www.goto.com/

GoTo Bid Form
https://www.goto.com/linead/getlisted.cgi

GoTo Sells Positions
The Search Engine Report, March 3, 1998
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/9803-goto.html

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Old Media Buys Into New Media

Much continues to be made over the two traditional media players, Disney and NBC, making investments into the new media players of Infoseek and Cnet's Snap. It's added more hype to portal mania that is sweeping the web, or at least various online news services.

Since the summary in the last newsletter, some additional articles have appeared that provide more details about specific deals and the merging of old and new. These are listed below.

The Portals' Drawing Power
Internet World, June 29, 1998
http://www.iw.com/print/current/opinion/19980629-ednote.html

After Disney, What's Next?
Internet World, June 29, 1998
http://www.iw.com/print/current/news/19980629-disney.html

Stop this portal nonsense!
News.com, June 22, 1998
http://news.com/Perspectives/Column/0,176,210,00.html

Nice commentary by Tim Clark, who discusses which "old" media firms may be next to hook up with likely portals, networks, search and navigation services, or whatever you want to call them this month.

Disney's Deal With Infoseek: A Win-Win-Win
Industry Standard, June 19, 1998
http://www.thestandard.net/articles/news_display/0,1270,746,00.html

NBC Bets TV Promos Can Make Snap a Yahoo
Industry Standard, June 12, 1998
http://www.thestandard.net/articles/news_display/0,1270,643,00.html

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RealNames Raises Fees

Centraal has raised the fee to register a name in its RealNames alternative addressing system from $40 to $100 per year, effective today.

The company says the move is being made to better reflect the value it feels the names are providing, especially in light of the traffic the names are now generating though its partnership with AltaVista.

To date, the system is resolving 3.5 million requests per week, with 95 percent of those coming from AltaVista and the remainder from browsers equipped with the RealNames plug in.

AltaVista lists a RealNames link at the top of its search results, for any search of three words or less. Clicking on the RealNames link takes a person directly to a site that has registered a particular name, or to the RealNames search engine, when a name has not been registered or is so generic that registration is not allowed.

At the moment, the split is even: about half clicking on the RealNames listings at AltaVista go directly to a site, while the other half gets to the search engine, according to Geni McPherson, Centraal's Vice President of Communications.

Among the most popular names being resolved from AltaVista are ford, quake, disney, sony playstation, yahoo, hotmail, windows, and leonardo, McPherson said.

Previously, there was an upper traffic limit of 10,000 resolutions per month, per name, though only about 20 percent of names were expected to approach this figure, Centraal estimates.

Those doing so should pay an additional fee for extra traffic, but the limit is being waived entirely for 1998, as a result of the higher fees. After 1998, Centraal will negotiate a flat rate with sites that experience exceptionally high usage.

McPherson said talks are continuing with both Netscape and Microsoft about integrating RealNames into future versions of their browsers, as well as with other search engines to supplement their listings.

"Being on AltaVista has made us very real to the marketplace," McPherson said. The recent Netscape Smart Browsing initiative has also helped, she says. "It's demonstrated to other players the way the market is going to develop."

RealNames Service
http://www.realnames.com/

Real Name Tops At AltaVista
The Search Engine Report, June 3, 1998
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/9806-realname.html

Details on how the system works.

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Out of Beta: Netscape and Microsoft Debut Changes

It was beta hype with both Netscape's and Microsoft's navigational offerings in June, and expect hype to continue as both play catch up with the likes of Yahoo, Excite and the other search-based services.

In mid-June, Netscape announced its revamped Netcenter site was in beta, and it got lots of press. Then the site went live yesterday, so it was time for more headlines. Meanwhile, Netscape says its still has much more planned.

Pop over and take a look at what the folks at Excite have built for their new partner Netscape. I expect to do a review in the next newsletter.

Meanwhile, Microsoft announced it also had a beta site for its revamped Start site. The strange thing was that the beta site didn't look very different than the live site. Then the beta link stopped working altogether, taking people instead to the main Start site.

The beta test was apparently only to test speed improvements, which have now been incorporated into the main site. It does feel a bit faster. Other features, such as the promised Inktomi-powered search engine, are still down the line.

Netscape Netcenter
http://home.netscape.com/

Microsoft Start
http://home.microsoft.com/

Netscape Eyes Pact With Major Media Partner
TechWeb, June 30, 1998
http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB19980630S0005

Now that Netscape has Netcenter up-and-running, it's looking around for another partner to pump more money into its service.

Microsoft Seeks Public Input On Portal
TechWeb, June 30, 1998
http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/NIN19980630S0001

A New Start for Microsoft
E-Commerce Guide, June 21,1998
http://e-comm.internet.com/experts/seidman/seidman.microsoft.html

Brief, but packed with nice details on where Microsoft is going with Start.

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Alexa 2.0 for Explorer 4 Released

When I last reviewed Alexa, I found it a remarkable product. The latest release for Internet Explorer 4 makes it even easier to begin using this useful tool

The first advantage is the incredibly small size: 45K. It takes longer to load some web pages than this program, which previously was a 900K download.

The second plus is that the Alexa toolbar now floats within the main browser window, at the bottom of the screen. This makes it far more useable than when it floated outside the browser.

From the toolbar, you can continue to select from the main Alexa options, slightly renamed from the older version. "Stats" provides interesting statistics about the web page you are viewing. "Links" suggests web sites with content similar to the page you are viewing.

Selecting either of these causes a new pane to open in the browser, to the left of the page displayed. The pane conveniently displays stats or link information.

About the only drawback is for those who like to open multiple windows. If you turn Alexa off during a session, then open a new window, the Alexa toolbar returns. You must close it again in each new window. This is annoying for me, because I constantly open new windows. For others, it may not be a problem. A fix is promised for the future.

Alexa 1.4 remains available for those using Netscape browsers or Internet Explorer 3.

Alexa 2.0 for IE4
http://www.alexa.com/ie40/

Alexa 1.4
http://www.alexa.com/download/

Alexa: Searching Serendipity And More
The Search Engine Report, Jan. 9, 1998
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/9801-alexa.html

A longer review about Alexa, discussion in detail how the tool works.

===================

Infoseek Institutes Listing Delay

Infoseek is no longer listing sites submitted to it within minutes. Instead, it now takes between one to three days for pages to appear.

The change is a result of a massive wave of submissions that have followed since Infoseek launched its Extra Search Precision algorithm in May.

"We saw a huge spike the week we released ESP, because basically, everyone is trying to figure out how the new algorithm works," said Nilo Zaratan, who oversees the Infoseek spidering process. "The number of submissions has increased quite significantly, up to about 30,000 to 50,000 per day."

The increased traffic meant that Infoseek could no longer process submissions as quickly in the past. In turn, it began receiving complaints from site owners. "People would call us within an hour and say, you still haven't indexed my site," Zaratan said.

To ease these expectations, Infoseek now says on its Add URL form that pages will be added by the next business day. That means up to two days, unless you submit on a Friday, when the next business day is three days away.

Zaratan said that faster processing may eventually return, but even with a two or three-day delay, Infoseek still remains close to HotBot and AltaVista, in terms of speediness. At those services, pages take one to two days to appear. In contrast, pages submitted to Excite and Lycos can take three weeks or longer to appear.

Meanwhile, numerous webmasters are throwing their hands up in frustration over the fact that they can no longer achieve high listings they once expected at Infoseek. One stunning measure is that the Infoseek forum at VirtualPromote has twice as many posts as any other search service.

ESP is largely to blame for this trauma, though its hard to blame Infoseek for making changes it hopes benefits its users.

Of course, some cynics say the changes were made to benefit Infoseek's advertisers, claiming they are receiving better ranks. I tend to discount this theory, since there are plenty of top ranked sites that don't advertise in the site. Infoseek flat out denies it.

"If anything, we sort of have this church and state position as far as our ads go," Zaratan said. "They come up when they come up, depending on the search terms, and regardless if they buy banner ads with us."

Mainly, many webmasters have grown dependent on Infoseek being an easy site to optimize for. The ability to add pages and have them appear quickly made testing Infoseek's ranking mechanism easier than elsewhere.

Some comments I've read almost make it sound as if site owners feel they are entitled to positions they once held within Infoseek, which is astonishing in that I've not seen similar comments made about other services.

I'm not saying this to defend Infoseek. Instead, it's meant to highlight the fact that fixating on this particular service is out of the norm, especially when you consider that a service like Excite has a higher reach than Infoseek on its own and mega-reach considering it powers AOL NetFind and Netscape Search.

I think it's fair to say that the glory days many people enjoyed at Infoseek are over, and they probably aren't coming back. Given this, the best overall advice I can offer is that instead of expending so much effort on Infoseek, consider improving your positions at other services.

Remember, while the ideal situation is to be top ranked for all your terms at all the search engines, a more realistic approach is to expect various success and failures across the board.

On top of all this is the advice I always suggest and which is usually ignored. Do not depend on search engines for the bulk of your traffic. Algorithms change. Pages disappear. Rankings are not guaranteed, except over at GoTo, where you pay for them. Perform other types of online publicity, such as link building, so that you are not left at the mercy of a ranking change. Consider search engines as one part, not the sole part, of promoting your site.

Since concern over Infoseek obviously won't go away, there are some specific tips below that may help improve your ranking situation.

Infoseek has been showing an almost antagonistic approach to meta tags, particularly to the meta keywords tags. Heavy repetition is bad. Try not to repeat any word more than three times, and sticking to only one usage may be best. You may even find that eliminating the keywords tag altogether helps.

This is somewhat unfortunate, because Inktomi, which powers HotBot, still seems to favor meta tag usage. I've also seen many cases there where heavy repetition is clearly helpful.

As a result, you may need to consider having search engine specific pages. I've never been a big proponent of this, especially as the differences between the services were never that great to justify the effort, for many people. Now, it may be more important.

Ranking seems to improve in some cases if a site is listed within the Infoseek directory. I've covered this recently, but here are some brief updated tips:

Locate an area you think is suitable for your site or your page. Copy this location into an email message, as shown below. Add to it your site title, a short description similar to what you might submit to Yahoo, and your URL. Send this information to [email protected] in an easy to read format, such as:

Please consider my site for:

Automotive > Driving tips > Traffic & driving schools

My site information is below:

Tom's Traffic School
You'll laugh while learning how to be a better driver in our online driving course.
http://www.tomstraffic.com

Sites do get in. I've seen it happen in a matter of days. Infoseek says it can sometimes take longer, as a number of sites may be collected until there are enough to open a new category. You are obviously free to resubmit, but I'd suggest giving it a week or two before doing so.

Remember, if you are listed in the directory, that description will also appear for your page in the search engine results, not the description in your meta tag. You can't override this or alter it, so don't keep submitting your page in hopes of changing the description. You may also occasionally see two listings, one that represents the actual web page, and the other that represents your directory listing.

Also, Infoseek has a duplicate page detection feature. It watches for pages that are nearly identical to each other. If you make a page, submit it, then make a copy with only minor changes and submit that page, you'll probably boot the original page out.

That's one reason why you may find your pages disappearing. Many people assume that Infoseek has yanked their pages out of the directory, which obviously can happen. But by being too aggressive, you can also injure yourself.

Finally, numerous people have reported that they find their pages drop in rank significantly a few days after submission. My assumption was that Infoseek might be running a separate database to house new submissions, and that pages in this holding area might drop when blended into the main database.

Infoseek says this is not the case. Zaratan had no explanation as to why an unusual page drop might happen, other than that the sheer number of new submissions coming in each day could be adding new pages that are more relevant, and thus changing the rankings.

That's the official word, so if submissions begin to stabilize, these strange drops should become less prevalent. If not, you can always let me know. I can't respond to all the feedback I get, but when enough people report the same things, it's helps me identify a trend to follow up for everyone.

Infoseek Promotes Directory
The Search Engine Update, April 30, 1998
http://searchenginewatch.com/updates/9805-infoseek.html

More information about the Infoseek directory and ESP.

VirtualPromote Search Engine Forums
http://www.virtualpromote.com/searchengineforums/bin/Ultimate.cgi

Pick up some tips, or at least find a shoulder to cry on.

===================
Toolbox
===================

Keyword Density Analyzer: Not Magic, But Useful

Wouldn't it be great if you could analyze the content of top ranking pages and figure out the secret that makes them relevant? That's the idea behind the GRSoftware's Keyword Density Analyzer. The reality is not so rosy, but this is still a useful tool for many webmasters.

The program allows you to import a series of HTML files and compare at a glance how often and where a word or phrase appears in each of them. It will show you the count within the title, the meta keywords tag, the meta description tag and other key locations.

Supposedly, you could download top ranking pages at a service, import them into GRKda, and see at a glance the important criteria to mimic.

I tried it out at two major services, AltaVista and HotBot, to see what secrets would be revealed. I did a search at each of them, then downloaded the top ten pages listed for that search.

Next, I threw out any pages that had different titles or descriptions from those in the search results, to ensure I was only analyzing the same pages as appeared in the results. I had also picked a non-competitive search phrase, to avoid problems with pages being delivered via IP or agent name delivery.

Finally, I imported the files into GRKda to see how they compared. Nothing stood out at either place. There was no overriding criteria that seemed crucial to match. Most pages might have the terms in the title, but a small number wouldn't. Some might have the same mix in the meta keywords field, while others wouldn't. There were always exceptions.

I won't go into a great deal of detail, but believe me, I looked at these pages in all sorts of ways to find a pattern. None stood out, which didn't surprise me at all.

The frequency of a term, or the "keyword density," is only one part of the ranking equation. Location is also crucial. The program makes a good stab at this, by showing the presence of words in key areas such as meta tag fields. But it doesn't give you an idea of where the terms are located in the body copy.

With some search engines, pages with terms appearing higher on the page, say in the first half, may do better than those with terms appearing only in the lower half. GRKda gives no analysis of this. GRKda also can't detect a variety of other things that may be involved in ranking, such page popularity or a bump for being a reviewed site.

So should you pass on the GRKda? Not necessarily. It's an excellent way to analyze your existing files to see which are already content-rich for particular terms. For example, you might have a hot air balloon company. You could pull all your web pages into GRKda, then rank them in order of the ones that say "hot air ballooning" the most.

These pages are the ones you should probably optimize with page titles and meta tags for that phrase, since the phrase already exists on them in good proportions.

Using GRKda in this way is a real-time saver. You could eyeball the same pages to determine which are strong for particular terms, but this software makes the job much easier.

GRKda Order Page
http://www.searchenginetools.com/

GR Software
http://www.grsoftware.net/

===================
Search Engine Notes
===================

GnuHoo Becomes NewHoo

The GnuHoo directory that I wrote about in the last newsletter has changed its name, and URL, to NewHoo in order to avoid confusion with the GNU project.

NewHoo
http://www.NewHoo.com/

===================

Mining Co. Ads Play Up Yahoo Exclusion

The Mining Company has had a long-standing dispute with Yahoo, which will not list its various sites. Now the network is capitalizing on its grievance via a banner ad campaign.

Ads running at AltaVista and elsewhere proclaim, "The 500 Sites Yahoo is Afraid to List - Click Here." The campaign will spread to further sites in the coming weeks.

Mining Company Illustrates Yahoo Limits
The Search Engine Report, Jan. 9, 1998
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/9801-miningco.html

Just why won't Yahoo list those Mining Company sites? Read both sides of the tale.

===================

Yahoo Habla Espaqol

Yahoo introduced a Spanish-language edition of its guide called Yahoo en Espaqol on June 8. The service features more than 5,000 sites from 20 Spanish-speaking countries, as well as news, business, sports and entertainment information.

Yahoo en Espaqol
http://espanol.yahoo.com/

===================

Infoseek Offers Free Home Pages

Infoseek matched free home page offerings at Yahoo and Lycos with its own service, powered by the WebChat Broadcasting System, which Infoseek recently acquired.

Infoseek's Home Page Center
http://pages.infoseek.com/webchat3.so?homepage_center.x=1

===================

Excite Launches Access Service, Event Search, Auctions

Excite has begun offering its own branded Internet access service, Excite Online, in conjunction with AT&T. The service launched on June 11. It offers 150 hours of access for $14.95 per month, within the US.

Excite Event Finder is a new feature at the service to allow users to find concerts, festivals, movies, sporting events, plays and events throughout the US. Listings are drawn from more than 20 web sites, including TicketMaster, EventCal and PlayBill.

Also, Excite is now offering online auctions within its site. It will be free to place an auction ad for the next two months, and auction items will receive premium positioning within the Excite Classifieds area.

Excite Online
http://www.get.excite.com/

Excite Event Finder
http://city.net/forms/events/

Excite Auctions
http://www.classifieds2000.com/cgi-cls/Display.exe?Excite+AuctionIntro

===================
Search Engine Articles
===================

A Search Engine Retools for Speed and Dexterity
Internet World, June 29, 1998
http://www.iw.com/print/current/infrastructure/19980629-hotbot.html

Tech details on HotBot's servers.

===================

AltaVista adds content channels
News.com, June 25, 1998
http://news.com/News/Item/0,4,23568,00.html

Details on AltaVista adding headlines from ABCNews.com, career development information and a mapping service.

===================

Compaq Keyboard Gives Users Easy Internet Link
Internet World, June 15, 1998
http://www.iw.com/print/current/news/19980615-compaq.html

Compaq's new computer keywords will offer one touch access to reach its AltaVista search service, while another button takes users to My Yahoo.

===================

Yahoo speaks on e-commerce buy
News.com, June 10, 1998
http://news.com/News/Item/0,4,23003,00.html

Another article on the Yahoo-Viaweb purchase that wasn't in the last newsletter.

===================
Sponsor Messages
===================

Below are sponsor messages that ran in this month's issue of the Search Engine Report, which may be of interest to Search Engine Update readers.

================================

When a prospect does a search for a keyword related to your products or services, do you appear in the top 10 or does your competition? Submitting alone does nothing to insure good visibility. WebPosition is the first software product to monitor and analyze your search positions in the top search engines. WebPosition has been compared to similar "services" on the web and has been overwhelmingly voted the best and most accurate tool for search position management.

Try WebPosition yourself for FREE at:
http://www.webposition.com/cgi-local/index.pl?DS1=e-ds5

================================

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===================
End Notes
===================

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