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Introducing "Ask the Search Engine"

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With all the myths and urban legends surrounding search engines, sometimes it's important to get the facts directly from the source. Today SearchDay is starting a new feature to do just that, called "Ask the Search Engine."

As a longtime observer of the world of web search, I've been struck by the number of times I've seen so-called "information" appear online or even in the mainstream media that's either incorrect or blatant nonsense. These factoids range from confused statements about how search engines work to "secret" methods for achieving high rankings in search results, and all manner of other blather.

(Pedantic aside: The widely misused word "factoid" means "a piece of unverified or inaccurate information that is presented in the press as factual, often as part of a publicity effort, and that is then accepted as true because of frequent repetition," according to Dictionary.com. Exposing and debunking search engine factoids is precisely what this new feature is all about.)

Ask the Search Engine will take the form of a single question posed to a representative of a major search engine or directory, with his or her reply. I'm asking each respondent to provide a factual response, avoiding sales and marketing lingo, and to make the answer as non-engine specific as possible. The exception will be for those questions that relate to a unique feature of a specific search engine or directory.

Over time, I'd like to open this feature up to reader questions, but for now, I'll be posting questions based on my own observation of misunderstood issues or incorrect information I see being passed off as facts. While I will consider suggestions for questions via the feedback form (link below), I won't be able to respond to them given the volume of email I already receive.

Tomorrow's SearchDay will feature the first installment of Ask the Search Engine, and it will cover a topic that is not only confusing to many people, it's one that causes unnecessary concern or even fear that search engine results are somehow being diluted by crass commercial forces. Stephen Baker, Director of Business Development & Marketing for Fast Search & Transfer, will answer the question: "What's the difference between paid inclusion and paid placement?"

Stay tuned: Stephen's response is both enlightening and thought-provoking.

New Search Engine Statistics

Search guru Greg Notess has made several new additions to the Search Engine Statistics section at Search Engine Showdown. Greg writes:

"I have updated my Relative Size Showdown and the Total Size Estimate analyses with data from March 4-6, 2002. Using 25 search terms, and verifying the actual number of hits available for the largest search engines, Google has maintained a solid first place, followed by WiseNut (a surprise to me) and then AllTheWeb.

"I also updated the Database Change Over Time page which compares the same searches run on the search engines at various times. In addition, I have posted two new pages on Google: the Google Database Components which compares the components of the Google Web database based on the statistics analysis and one on Google's Unindexed URLs which has an explanation and example of Google's barely-indexed URLs."

See http://www.searchengineshowdown.com/stats/ for links to all the new pages on Search Engine Showdown.

LookSmart Buys Wisenut

LookSmart, best known as one of the Big Three web directories compiled by human editors, has purchased Wisenut, a relatively new crawler based search engine.

"As we integrate WiseNut's search technology over the next few quarters, LookSmart will be able to offer our portal and ISP partners a full service solution that includes a scalable billion document index infrastructure, next generation search relevance and strong listings revenue," said Evan Thornley, chairman and CEO of LookSmart. "By acquiring WiseNut, LookSmart becomes the first company to have both high quality scalable search technology and strong listings revenue generation."

Danny Sullivan will be taking a closer look at LookSmart's purchase and its implications in the next issue of Search Engine Report. If you're not a subscriber, sign up for your free subscription using the link below.

Wisenut, the Google Killer? Nah...
SearchDay, September 5, 2001
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/01/sd0905-wisenut.html
The media is heralding Wisenut as the scrappy underdog that's supposedly going to topple Google from its "throne" as the king of web search. Not likely -- here's why.

The Search Engine Report
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/index.html
Contents of the current issue and recent back issues, as well as a sign-up form for the free newsletter.

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

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