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Shopping Search Engine Week!

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This week, SearchDay focuses on specialized shopping search engines, with an eye toward helping you make the most of your searching skills during the holiday gift buying season.

Shopping search engines have been around in various forms form for many years. But it has only been in the past year or so that they've evolved into mainstream tools that can not only help you find good deals, but also assist with the crucial research and comparison process before you actually make a purchase.

One of the first web shopping search programs was Bargain Finder, developed by Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in 1995. Bargain Finder was actually a web robot, similar to the crawlers used by search engines. It was a simple program, querying ten online music stores to find an particular album, and returning prices from the stores for comparison.

Most online merchants in 1995 had yet to establish a brand or develop much customer loyalty, so the price comparisons Bargain Finder offered were not welcome. More than a third of the merchants on Bargain Finder's list took steps to block the robot from accessing their sites. Without access to the product information, the utility of the program quickly faded.

These days, savvy merchants do anything they can to attract visitors to their online stores. Shopping search engines have evolved considerably from Bargain Finder's crude price comparisons, providing lots of other relevant product information such as shipping rates or taxes, stock quantities, consumer reviews, and so on.

Merchants have also realized that since people no longer base purchase decisions solely on price, shopping search engines offer an excellent avenue for acquiring customers. In fact, studies that I'll discuss later in the week suggest that shopping search engines are more effective at delivering buyers than paid placement ads on general purpose search engines.

Tomorrow, I'll take a look at a number of useful sites dedicated to helping you research products and the reputations of online merchants. Wednesday will feature a profile of one of the major players in the shopping search arena, with a behind the scenes look at how it works and how it differs from a general purpose search engine. Thursday will feature a roundup of some of the web's most popular and useful specialized shopping search sites.

A recent survey by the Business Software Alliance found that 71% of Net users that said they plan to buy some to all of their holiday purchases online. If you're among that savvy group, this week's focus on shopping search engines should help you leverage your own searching skills to help save both time and money.

Search Engine Forums Spotlight

AltaVista - New design forgot the users
Cre8asite Forums
http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/viewtopic.php?t=407
"They have the databases, company connections, and brand name. What they need is new ideas, new technology, breaking away from existing contracts that aren't doing them any good..., and finding ways to be as user-friendly/accessible as possible."

The future: Info content over commerce?
Webmaster World Forums
http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum3/6831.htm
"As soon as Google is convinced that a big enough segment of customers go to Google search and other general search engines to go on shopping expeditions, I am absolutely sure they will roll out 'Google Shopping'..."

SEO conversions
The I-Search Discussion List
http://list.adventive.com/SCRIPTS/WA.EXE?A2=ind0211&L=i-search&D=1&T=0&H=1&O=D&F=&S=&P=288
"The first experience 4 out of 5 new visitors of your site will have is landing from search engines. SEO Conversions start at the SERP. So does your Web Usability."

How to write an anti-robot txt file?
Cre8asite Forums
http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/viewtopic.php?t=415
"Unfortunately, for the robots.txt file, many of the bad robots (leachers, email harvesters, etc.) don't read the robots.txt file anyway, so you need to have other solutions."

AllTheWeb validates to W3C standards
Webmaster World Forums
http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum21/3718.htm
"Following the precedent set by the ODP, AllTheWeb has become the first major crawler based search engine to validate their home page to support W3C HTML and accessibility standards."

Google and dmoz loose expired domains fight
Webmaster World Forums
http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum17/1190.htm
"The ODP is not a domain registry (neither is Google), so they simply can't remove sites from the directory automatically the same moment as they expire. But there are a number of editors who specialize in this kind of research."

Search Engine Forums Spotlight courtesy Search Engine Guide.

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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