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The Search Engine Report, Feb. 4, 2003, Number 75

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Hello Everyone!

So much to write about! Unfortunately, I can't get to everything, and this issue I decided to spend the majority of my time on the issue of cloaking. Quite a debate has erupted on the topic over the past week, and I thought it deserved a closer look in the newsletter.

This is especially the case because while cloaking gets a lot of attention from some as a way that search engines are "subverted" or "deceived," many people fail to realize that paid inclusion XML feeds, which are offered by all major crawlers but Google, provide a way for approved cloaking to happen.

There's good and bad in this, and I hope the "Ending The Debate Over Cloaking" article below helps guide you through how I think things have evolved, in order to make the right choices whether you a search engine marketer, someone working with a search engine marketer or a search engine users wondering what goes on behind the scenes, in the results you depend on.

In other news, I'm happy to report that Search Engine Watch was honored twice in the 2002 Pandia Awards, once for "Best Site On Searching" and again for "Best Site On Search Engine Marketing." Among the other winners was Google for "Best All Round Search Site," FAST for "Best Professional Search Site" and WebmasterWorld.com for "Search Engine Discussion Forum." A round-up all award winners can be found below:

The Pandia Awards 2002
http://www.pandia.com/post/016.html

Finally, the winners of our own 2002 Search Engine Watch awards have been announced. I'll give you a summary of the winners and a link to more detailed information, further below in the newsletter.

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Search Engine Strategies Comes To Boston, Sydney

Search Engine Strategies comes to Boston from March 4-6! As usual, there are a variety of sessions that focus on how to improve editorial and paid listings on search engines. Both search engine marketing tactics and general issues are explored.

Leading sessions will be experts in search engine marketing, as well as confirmed speakers from About.com, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves/Teoma, FAST/AllTheWeb.com, Google, Inktomi, LookSmart/WiseNut, Lycos, Overture and Yahoo.

You can sign-up by calling (203) 662-2976 or online, via the URL below, which also provides detailed information about sessions.

Search Engine Strategies Boston: March 4-6, 2003
http://www.searchenginestrategies.com/sew/boston03/

Search Engine Strategies is also returning to Australia, from March 26-27. I won't be "chairing" that show, but Jupitermedia's staff in Sydney has assembled an agenda full of search engine marketing topics for the event. More details can be found below:

Search Engine Strategies Sydney: March 26-27, 2003
http://www.searchenginestrategies.com/sew/sydney03/

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2002 Search Engine Watch Awards Winners Announced

Thanks to all of you who voted for the 2002 Search Engine Watch awards! Chris Sherman and I went through all your votes and comments, which was an essential part of the process in helping us determine the final winners. A summary of winners is listed below, and you can find the complete write-up via the awards site. The write up includes the many second place and honorable mention winners that can't be listed here, for space reasons -- so I encourage you to review the full list at the awards site.

  • Outstanding Search Service: Google

  • Best Meta Search Engine: Vivisimo & Copernic

  • Best News Search Engine: Google News

  • Best Image Search Engine: Google Images

  • Best Shopping Search Engine: Yahoo Shopping & DealTime

  • Best Design: Google

  • Most Webmaster Friendly Search Engine: Google

  • Best Paid Placement Service: Google AdWords & Overture

  • Best European Paid Placement Service: Espotting & Google

  • Best Paid Inclusion Service: Inktomi & Fast

  • Best Search Feature: Google Spell Checking

  • Best Specialty Search Engine: Scirus & Google Groups

  • Special Recognition Award: WebmasterWorld.com

Search Engine Watch Awards Site
http://searchenginewatch.com/awards/

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Ending The Debate Over Cloaking

Few issues have divided the search engine marketing community than that of cloaking. There is a segment that firmly believes they should have the right to cloak their content from users, while another group strongly feels this is a deceptive tactic. Get the two talking about it and tempers flare.

Complicating the issue is the fact that while some search engines have guidelines against cloaking, arguments can also be made that these same search engines still allow it or even themselves practice it. In addition, just trying to agree on "what is cloaking" can lead to frustration on both sides.

Search engine marketer Alan Perkins hoped to clarify matters by publishing his "Cloaking Is Always A Bad Idea" article last month. Instead, the article has renewed the debate over cloaking, but perhaps in a helpful matter.

In my article below, we take a look at why people have traditionally cloaked, how XML feeds these days provide a form of approved cloaking and why the bigger issue to focus on isn't whether cloaking is allowed but instead whether paid content gets more liberal rules about acceptability. The full story can be found via this link:

Ending The Debate Over Cloaking
The Search Engine Report, Feb. 4, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/03/02-cloaking.html

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SearchDay Articles
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Here are some recent articles that may be of interest, from Search Engine Watch's daily SearchDay newsletter:

The Quest for Search Engine Relevancy
SearchDay, Feb. 4, 2003
http://www.searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0204-ses-relevance.html

Today's search engines are experiencing dij` vu, it seems, focusing on developing better relevance in search results instead of trying to entertain users as "portals".

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Help Build a Searchers' Swiki
SearchDay, Feb. 3, 2003
http://www.searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0203-swiki.html

Want to share and publish your own web search knowledge? Sign up to help with the Searchers' Swiki, a collaborative web site that hopes to become an extensive knowledge base for searchers.

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A Niche Search Engine for eBusiness
SearchDay, Jan. 30, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0130-ebiz.html

eBizSearch is an experimental search engine that focuses on a very small niche: academic and commercially produced articles and reports about e-Business.

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Searching for Public Records
SearchDay, Jan. 29, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0129-pubrecs.html

Many governments have put public records online, but all too often in Invisible web databases that can't be found by search engines. The Search Systems Public Records Locator can help.

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Listen to the World
SearchDay, Jan. 28, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0128-radio.html

It's easy to use the Internet to listen to news, public affairs and entertainment programming from around the world -- if you know how to find online radio stations. Here's how.

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What if Amazon Were Free?
SearchDay, Jan. 27, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0127-onlinebooks.html

Online Books has links to more than 18,000 English works in various formats that are all free for personal, noncommercial use.

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The Gateway To Associations
SearchDay, Jan. 23, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0123-associations.html

The Gateway to Associations is a specialized searchable database with links to over 6,500 professional and scholarly associations located around the globe.

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Searching for Happenings Around the Globe
SearchDay, Jan. 22, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0122-events.html

Discovering information about thousands of events and happenings taking place around the world can be difficult and time consuming. Whatsonwhen, a specialized searchable database, makes it easy and even fun.

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Teoma Releases Version 2.0
SearchDay, Jan. 21, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0121-teoma.html

In some ways still the new kid on the search engine block, Teoma hits puberty today as "version 2" of the search engine is formally rolled out to the public.

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The Value of Non-Commercial Web Directories
SearchDay, Jan. 16, 2003
http://www.searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0116-directories.html

Along with the many commercially built web directories available on the web, several non-commercial options exist which offer the searcher well organized collections of high quality resources.

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No Charge: Public Libraries Provide Full-Text Access to Databases!
SearchDay, Jan. 15, 2003
http://www.searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0115-databases.html

A persistent myth says that you can find "everything" on the web. Not even close! Fortunately, many public libraries offer free access to a wealth of online databases that are often much higher quality than what you can (or can't) find on the web.

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Searching for Public Records
SearchDay, Jan. 14, 2003
http://www.searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0114-pubrecs.html

Many governments have put public records online, but all too often in Invisible web databases that can't be found by search engines. The Search Systems Public Records Locator can help.

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Library Lookup: A Simple but Powerful Search Tool
SearchDay, Jan. 9, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0109-liblookup.html

Trying to decide whether to buy or borrow a book? Use the Library Lookup bookmarklet to instantly search your local library at the same time you're viewing pages at any online bookstore.

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Visualizing the Web with Google
SearchDay, Jan. 8, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/03/sd0108-touchgraph.html

The TouchGraph GoogleBrowser shows you what the web 'looks like' to the search engine, visually displaying the linkages between your favorite web sites.

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On the archive page below, you'll find more articles like those above, plus have the ability to sign-up for the free newsletter.

SearchDay Archives
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/archives.html

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Search Engine Articles
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Yahoo expands Overture relationship - analyst
Reuters, Feb. 4, 2002
http://biz.yahoo.com/rc/030204/media_yahoo_overture_1.html

Yahoo is experimenting with a way to run paid listings sidebar-style, along the side of its search results page. Such a move would allow it to place even more Overture paid listings on its page. Of course, it might decide down the road to fill these boxes with listings from its own in-house paid placement program, similar to what Lycos does now, yet still maintain a partnership with Overture. Haven't seen the boxes? Screenshots and discussions from those who spotted them first can be found at http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum35/1107.htm

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A Nation of Voyeurs
Boston Globe, Feb. 2, 2003
http://www.boston.com/globe/magazine/2003/0202/coverstory.htm

"The first tool truly to make sense of the white noise that is the Internet," this article says about Google, in yet another rewriting of history. Gosh, what did we do from 1994-1998, stumble around blindly? No, we used good tools like AltaVista and Yahoo to efficiently locate information everyday. Google absolutely raised the bar on relevancy, but we were far from blind before it appeared.

And yet again, another article on how Google alone perhaps provides access to too much private information. Hey, lots of this information can also be found in other search engines, as well. This isn't a Google problem -- it's a search engine problem. In fact, it's not even a search engine problem. If information shouldn't be accessible to the public, then it shouldn't be posted to the web, period. If it's on the web, then even without search engines -- people can still find it, albeit with much greater difficulty.

The article suggests that only deep pockets can help get content removed at Google, as alleged to have happened in the Scientology case. Sorry, no -- that was a reaction to US law. Show Google or another search engine that they are violating a law by providing access to certain information, and you too may find it easier to get that information pulled, regardless of your pocketbook.

Best part of the article is when Google cofounder Sergey Brin is asked if he would be comfortable knowing someone could find his home address via Google. "I hope not," he says, saying it would bother him. So perhaps those worried about personal information being provided via Google may find a sympathetic ear in coming up with a solution to remove it from Google. Of course, it will still remain online and accessible through other search engines.

Finally, in case you've forgotten the virtual wonder tour of Google's HQ from upteen billion other articles, you can live the dream all over again, in this one.

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Dot-Coms Turning Into Money Makers
BizReport.com, Jan. 31, 2003
http://www.bizreport.com/article.php?art_id=4121

Paid search revenue totaled an estimated $1.5 billion last year, and the popularity is behind the rise in revenue for players such as LookSmart and Ask Jeeves.

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Google-Opoly: The Game No One but Google Can Play
Slate, Jan. 29, 2003
http://slate.msn.com/id/2077875/

Revisits issues in the SearchKing case and touches briefly on some of the concerns that Google's perceived power raises. In case you missed my earlier coverage on the Googleopoly that some worry about, reality and myth, here's a link: http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/02/09-google.html.

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Shopping Search Engine Users
BizReport, Jan. 29, 2003
http://www.bizreport.com/article.php?art_id=4102

A survey of 1,100 DealTime.com shopping search engine users in late-December 2002 found that the main reason for using shopping search services was to compare prices quickly (73 percent), followed by wanting to compare products (54 percent) and to find stores selling the products they were interested in (45 percent). Story also cites stats showing which search engines sent shopping search engines the most visitors: Google, Yahoo, MSN and AOL.

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Yahoo Hires Key Executive From Search Partner Overture
Dow Jones Business Wire, Jan. 28, 2003
http://biz.yahoo.com/djus/030128/1335000786_2.html

Overture loses an executive to Yahoo, causing speculation that Yahoo plans its own paid placement program. Sure, it could definitely happen. It's more likely that Yahoo plans to use him more for better monetizing the paid inclusion program it will offer, when the Inktomi acquisition is completed. Indeed, perhaps we could even see a hybrid system where paid inclusion content is separated from "free" listings and turned into Yahoo's own version of a paid placement program. None of this means that it has to drop its lucrative partnership with Overture.

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Paid Content Trend Is Dangerous
Editor & Publisher, Jan. 27, 2003
http://www.editorandpublisher.com/editorandpublisher/features_columns/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1804448

If news sites begin pulling content behind barriers, it may reduce the usefulness of news search engines. A look at the potential problems, especially from a news publisher's point of view.

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SearchKing update: preliminary injunction denied
LawMeme, Jan. 24, 2003
http://research.yale.edu/lawmeme/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=863

Google wins in getting SearchKing's preliminary injunction request denied. The judge finds that Google essentially has the right to issue opinions about web sites. A good breakdown of key issues in the ruling.

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Seven Ways to Increase Pay-Per-Click ROI
ClickZ, Jan. 24, 2003
http://www.clickz.com/sales/traffic/article.php/1573721

From tracking to dialogue, ways to get more from your CPC campaign.

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Google Toolbar Alternatives
Pointeronline, Jan. 24, 2003
http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=32&aid=18194

Use Netscape? Here's an alternative to give you quick access to Google, since you can't run the Google Toolbar.

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Beyond Price/Position: The SEM Strategy Loop
ClickZ, Jan. 22, 2003
http://www.clickz.com/search/opt/article.php/1572601

Forget about your paid placements and other SEM activities in terms of how much they cost or the position you attain with them. Instead, post-click conversion analysis will give you a better perspective about what to do.

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City Ogles Google Impact
Infomation Week, Jan. 21, 2003
http://www.commweb.com/article/IWK20030122S0010

Google's brand recognition and a special price for public entities gets the City of San Diego to shift from Verity to Google for its enterprise search solution.

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Full Boolean at AlltheWeb
Search Engine Showdown, Jan. 21, 2003
http://www.searchengineshowdown.com/newsarchive/000629.shtml

Recaps new boolean support at AllTheWeb.com, along with other changes.

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Tech Predictions for the Decade
Wired, Jan. 20, 2003
http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,57238,00.html

In the future, semantic web agents will find exactly what we want, rather than us having to scour hundreds of off-topic pages on Google, says this prediction of future technology. Yawn. Will these be similar to the same agents that Autonomy and WiseWire touted in the late 1990s that failed to deliver? And is this the same Google that we're endlessly told finds everything we need, now suddenly off topic?

Search is often an on-demand activity. People who want "books about Agatha Christie" -- an example cited in the article -- don't want to wait until agents come back with answers. They want the answers immediately, so they'll still continue to turn to a search engine.

That example is also supposed to indicate the failure of search engines, because if you do it, you get books written by Agatha Christie, rather than about her. Of course, if you simply perform that search with quotation marks, you'll get pages that have that contain that exact phrase. And, surprise, when I tried this at Google, http://www.google.com/search?q="books+about+Agatha+Christie", the first match indeed listed books about Agatha Christie. Guess I can go without my search agent for another year.

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Employees are a lot like consumers in how they look for data. But is giving them Google enough?
Information Week, Jan. 20, 2003
http://www.informationweek.com/story/IWK20030117S0006

Looks at different enterprise search practices being used by companies, including the Google Search Appliance, Verity K2 and iPhrase.

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Google Dominates New Size Showdowns
Search Engine Showdown, Jan. 16, 2003
http://www.searchengineshowdown.com/newsarchive/000625.shtml

Google leads the pack in terms of size, based on the latest estimates from Greg Notess

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Web spec searches for small businesses
ZDNet, Jan. 15, 2003
http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1106-980626.html

Discusses a new idea for allowing small and medium sized businesses to describe themselves to search engines through meta data in XML files. Given the bad history search engines have with meta data, I think it's unlikely you'll see this be accepted.

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Espotting Offers FAST Search
InternetNews.com, Jan. 15, 2003
http://www.internetnews.com/IAR/article.php/1570571

Espotting has signed a deal with FAST in order to provide an all-in-one solution of editorial and paid listings, to partners seeking such a solution. This also puts Espotting links on the AllTheWeb.com site for those viewing it from the UK (and possibly other European countries). For those in the US, it is still Overture paid listings that you should be seeing.

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Will Froogle Be a Google for Shoppers?
BusinessWeek, Jan. 14, 2003
http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jan2003/tc20030114_5644.htm

Google's shopping search engine gets taken for a test ride, and while Business Week writer Alex Salkever acknowledges the service is still under development, he comes away far more impressed with competing services NexTag and PriceGrabber

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The Power of Google
SearchEthos.com, Jan. 14, 2003
http://www.searchethos.com/power-of-google.html

Examines Google's great influence given the traffic it can route to other sites and the possible responsibilities it has.

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Search engines get "Gatored"
News.com, Jan. 14, 2003
http://news.com.com/2100-1023-980572.html

Got Gator? Do a search on Google, and you might be surprised to discover a pop-under page appears containing paid listing from Overture, FindWhat and Lycos. This might be a great way for advertisers to get a new source of search-related traffic, but it could also be that the audience being indirectly solicited this way doesn't convert as well. Can't say either way, so far. It's also pretty likely Google doesn't like the idea. It's an issue I'll try to explore more in the future, from all angles.

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Google's Gaggle of Problems
BusinessWeek, Jan. 14, 2003
http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jan2003/tc20030114_2858.htm

Another of the many articles that have been appearing that look at the challenges Google faces as the industry leader in search. I'd disagree with the contention that Overture has slowed Google's momentum in the paid listings market. Overture recently won a deal with CNN that's cited as key proof of this, but I'd interpret that as a relatively minor win.

In contrast, Overture failed to win completely the much more important Yahoo Japan account, instead being forced to share the searches with Google. If anything, it is Google that throughout 2002 curbed Overture's momentum as the monster player in the paid listings space, winning the much more sizable deals of AOL and Ask Jeeves. Overture remains a huge player, of course -- but Google provides it with serious competition.

I also don't know where the LookSmart CEO, quoted in the story, is getting the figures to say that Google has "stolen 40 percent" of the search market from AOL, MSN and Yahoo. If anything, those players have all held their audience shares relatively steady, in the onslaught of Google. It's the smaller players such as AltaVista that have really fed into Google.

Very interesting to see that Google declined to be interviewed for the article. A bad move that leaves it with no voice against competitors like LookSmart.

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Differentiation Can Be Brutal in the Web Search Business
Traffick.com, Jan. 9, 2003
http://www.traffick.com/article.asp?aID=129

Andrew Goodman lets fly at the status of how major search engines appear to consumers, in his view. A good read that will be making some of the search engines cringe -- and with good reason.

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More Google Toolbar Issues
Search Engine Optimization Support Forums, Jan. 8, 2003
http://www.supportforums.org/article154.html

Short summary of a discussion from WebmasterWorld.com that finds JavaScript can be used to disable the PageRank meter in the Google Toolbar.

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Google news performing well
Journalism.co.uk, Jan. 8, 2003
http://www.journalism.co.uk/news/story538.html

Newsknife.com rates the quality of news sites such as CNN and the BBC. It has been monitoring how well Google's automated headline service compares since it launched last year. Verdict? Very good, though not perfect -- human edited sites still have a slight lead, so far. Story above covers the findings, while Newsknife itself (http://www.newsknife.com) is one to add to your bookmark list.

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SEM Power Tips
ClickZ, Jan. 8, 2003
http://www.clickz.com/search/opt/article.php/1565511

Tips on leveraging brands, the content of your listings, the content of your landing pages and other advice on getting more out of your search engine marketing campaigns.

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A Visit with FindWhat.com CEO, Craig Pisaris-Henderson
Academy Of Web Specialists, January 2003
http://www.academywebspecialists.com/newsletters/0103.html#nobles

FindWhat.com's CEO discusses how FindWhat serves one billion searches per month through its network, hints at international prospects and adding more US distribution partners and covers issues about getting more out of using the service.

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The State Of Search Engine Marketing, 2003. Google rules the roost.
searchengineblog.com, January 2003
http://www.searchengineblog.com/summary.htm

searchengineblog.com's Peter Da Vanzo ran a series of great interviews with various people involved with search engines in the latter part of 2002, and in this article, he looks back and comments from them all to put together his thoughts on where search engine marketing is going in 2003.

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Interview with Chris Ridings
searchengineblog.com, January 2003
http://www.searchengineblog.com/interviews/interview_chris_ridings.htm

Chris Ridings, author of PageRank Explained, talks about his research into how Google ranks web pages.

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Interview with Ammon Johns
searchengineblog.com, January 2003
http://www.searchengineblog.com/interviews/interview_ammon_johns.htm

Long time search engine optimizer Ammon Johns reflects on the industry and changes.

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Tim Mayer of FAST search & transfer
Enfin, January 2003
http://int.enfin.com/interview/t-mayer.php

Long interview covering things that FAST considers to be spam, hardware and software used by the search engine company, that fact that the company now has 6 million paid inclusion URLs and other topics.

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