The Search Engine Update, May 24, 1999, Number 53

Search Engine Watch

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,

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In This Issue

+ General Notes
+ Figuring Out How They're Looking For You
+ Subscribing/Unsubscribing Info

General Notes

Hello Everyone--

A very short mid-month update this month, as I'm busy working through those site revisions. I expect to have new pages going up within a day or so. You'll also notice that within a few days, all the pages within the Subscribers-Only Area will have an orange color running along the left-hand side, rather than the usual blue. This is to help alert you to when you are viewing material within the Subscribers-Only Area.

I've also updated the AltaVista Paid Listings Q&A since the last newsletter with some new information. It can be found via the link below. And should you have forgotten your password, just use the Password Finder, also listed below.

Password Finder

AltaVista Paid Listings Q&A


Figuring Out How They're Looking For You

One of the best things about is the ability to look up how popular any search term is. Using the service's free Search Term Suggestion List, you enter a word, and then you're shown all the searches that contain that term, in order of popularity. For instance, you can see that the word "mp3" was searched for 115,143 times in April, with "mp3 music" as the second most popular term at 12,310 searches, and so on.

The only problem with GoTo is that the service is well behind the major search engines in terms of popularity. For instance "mp3" was searched for just over 1 million times in March on Yahoo -- that's nearly 10 times more often than at GoTo. GoTo's relatively low usage means that for some less popular search terms, you may be less trusting of its data.

Fortunately, the major services are opening up ways to double-check what GoTo tells you. This is the "related searches" feature that many of them have added. Let's see how this feature can help.

First, assume we have a site that deals with sleep issues. How might people be looking for our material? The first stop is GoTo, where we discover that top terms include "sleep apnea," "sleep disorder" and "sleep deprivation."

Next, we head over to AltaVista and search for "sleep." When the results page appears, we'll be shown related searches just under the search box. These are among the most popular terms that contain our original word. We can quickly see that "sleep apnea" and "sleep deprivation" make the top list. But we also find "sleep disorders" is popular at AltaVista, not "sleep disorder" as shown at GoTo -- why the difference?

At GoTo, singular and plural forms are combined. So all the searches for "sleep disorders" are combined with any searches for "sleep disorder" and one total for both forms is shown -- but only the singular form is actually displayed. Thus, it's possible to think something is popular in the singular when in reality, it's the plural you should concentrate on.

This isn't a problem for those buying placement at GoTo, since the service automatically makes any bid applicable to both singular and plural forms. But that's not the case elsewhere, so it pays to know which way to optimize. Double-checking as described above can help you do this.

For further confirmation, you can also double-check terms at HotBot and Infoseek, which have their own related search features that work similar to AltaVista's. The page below provides more details about these.

At AltaVista, you may notice some of the related search terms are shown with capitalization. This does not mean that people are searching using that capitalization. Instead, it merely shows the most common capitalization that AltaVista finds for that term on web pages themselves. In other words, there's no need to target the exact capitalization displayed. Instead, use whatever format you feel is best. Want some help deciding? See the page on capitalization tips, below.

At HotBot, all related search terms are simply shown with the first letter of each word in upper case, regardless of how users search. At Infoseek, all terms are simply shown in all lower-case letters.

Search Assistance Features

This illustrated guide shows how related searches work at different services.

GoTo Search Term Suggestion List

Scroll down to number 3, then click on the link that says "Search Term Suggestion List." Enter any word, and you'll see all searches that contain that word for the previous month, ranked in order of popularity.

How GoTo Works

If you're going to use GoTo's Search Terms Suggestion List often, pay back the service by placing some bids. It's cheap to start, and it's one of the more cost-effective uses for your online marketing dollars (or even pennies). This page will introduce you to the process.

More About Capitalization

Should I use upper-case or lower-case forms on my pages and in my meta tags? This article helps you pick a strategy.



Want to find out if someone is tailoring pages for a specific search engine spider? You can't tell if they are using IP delivery, but if they are merely targeting the spider by agent name, the link above will let you imitate the spider.


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