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Excite Changes Look, Results

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From The Search Engine Report
July 5, 2000

A longer and more detailed version of this article is available to Search Engine Watch "site subscribers." This is just one of the many benefits that site subscribers receive. Click here to learn more about becoming a site subscriber.

Excite has released a new look to its search results that also coincides with a new ranking system. In response to a search, Excite's new "Excite Precision Search" generally displays only matches from its crawler-built database. The simple design mimics the "less is more" move that AltaVista kicked off in May with its Raging Search. Behind the scenes, Excite is making better use of link analysis than it has in the past to improve its search results.

The search format changes should be welcomed by Excite users. In particular, it was becoming increasingly difficult to understand how Excite would construct its search results page. Sometimes web page results would appear with full summaries, then other times only titles would appear. Directory listings, news headlines or information from other data sources would pop up almost whimsically. But far from whimsical, Excite was purposely varying its results format depending on the context of the search in an attempt to better serve users. Being predictable is now the watchword.

"We're aiming for consistency," said Abbot Chambers, Excite's Senior Director of Search and Directory Products. "Some users really liked the different results, but it did have the untended expect of unsettling users."

Simplicity is also a key aim. Search for something on Excite, such as "fireworks," and you'll get back 10 results that come from Excite crawler-based index. Other information, such as human-compiled directory listings, news articles and multimedia results will only appear if you specifically request them using links at the top of the results page. Doing so will rerun your queries against those search offerings, described further below.

The only exception to this is if you search for something popular or which falls into a category where Excite editors have produced some programmed results. In those cases, a "Quick Results" box appears to the left of the search results. It has links to related information within the Excite portal. For examples, try "vw bug," "britney spears" or use another example from the Targeted Results article, below.

Excite also says it has upgraded its use of link analysis to improve the quality of its results. Previously, Excite gave pages a boost depending on how many links were pointing at them, with no attempt to measure the quality of those links. Now, sites that have some degree of authority, as measured by the number of links pointing at them, are able to transmit this authority to other sites. In other words, a few links from high quality sites may factor in more highly than many links from ordinary web sites.

Aside from web searching, Excite offers four other major search options. Let's take them in turn by first stopping at the new Excite Precision Search home page. To reach it, click on the "More" link that appears below the search box, on the Excite home page. By default, the page will be set to do web searching. Click on "Category Search," and you can search for matching categories or web sites that come out of Excite's directory, which is primarily powered by LookSmart. Some listings remain from the days when Excite assembled the directory itself. Other than that, except for adult listings, Excite's directory is essentially LookSmart. Unfortunately, no option to browse the directory is presented. Instead, you'll need to go back to the Excite home page itself, then follow links in the "Explore Excite" box. Directory categories will appear on the right side of the screen.

"News Search" allows you to search for "Web News" articles from over 350 news sites, which are checked several times per day. The "Newswires" option lets you check against a much smaller group of wire services, such as the Associated Press and Reuters, while "News Photos" brings back news images from those two wire services. Unfortunately, Excite fails to notify you about its helpful NewsTracker service, from the News Search home page. That's a shame. The NewsTracker clipping service is one of Excite's biggest strengths, yet people I talk with never seem to have found it. You should definitely try it (see link below), and I only wish Excite would add an option to have finds emailed to you and fix the "Learn What I Like" option, which doesn't seem to learn anything, anymore.

"Photo Search" runs a query against pictures from Excite's "Webshots" web site, in particular against the WebShots Community collection, which allows people to contribute photos to other Webshot members. It sounds great -- Excite touts this as giving searchers access to over 750,000 "free" photos. But how "free" are these photos? According to the Webshots Terms and Conditions, members give Excite the right to distribute their photos to other members, when they contribute them. As for what rights Excite then grants you, they seem to be restricted to sending photos as email greeting cards or to download for use in the Webshots screen saver.

As for "Audio/Video Search," it checks for matching multimedia files that Excite has found across the web, such as AVI and MP3 files. Excite says it has between 500,000 and 1 million files indexed.

Other searches and assistance can also be found on the Precision Search home page. There are 25 different search tips that rotate on the page. Popular searches spotted by Excite editors are spotlighted along the left hand side of the screen, while specialty searches such as Maps and TV Shows are also itemized on this page.

Excite
http://www.excite.com/

Excite Add URL Page
http://www.excite.com/info/add_url/

Excite Search Index Add URL Page
http://www.excite.com/info/add_url_form

AltaVista Launches New Search Site
The Search Engine Report, May 3, 2000
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/00/05-altavista.html

More about AltaVista going for the pure search market with its Raging Search site.

Counting Clicks and Looking at Links
The Search Engine Report, Aug. 4, 1998
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/98/08-clicks.html

An older article that nonetheless still covers the basics behind link analysis, including the notion that some sites have more authority than others.

Targeted Categories At Excite
The Search Engine Report, April 5, 1999
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/99/04-excite-categories.html

An older article that still provides current examples of how to see Quick Results appear at Excite.

Excite NewsTracker
http://nt.excite.com/

Excite's news clipping service, a long-time favorite of mine, can be found here.

Moreover: News Lover's Delight
The Search Engine Report, June 2, 2000
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/00/06-briefs.html#moreover

If you are searching for news, you'll also want to try Moreover. More about the service.

A longer and more detailed version of this article is available to Search Engine Watch "site subscribers." This is just one of the many benefits that site subscribers receive. Click here to learn more about becoming a site subscriber.


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