AOL Search is sporting a new look designed to improve how its users interact with the service.
"We felt it had been a little on the cluttered and the dense side," said Eric Wolf, the AOL vice president who oversees the service. "It now has more air and is easier to read."
AOL continues to draw its main results from the Open Directory and Inktomi. However, there's no longer a sharp delineation between the two. Previously, Inktomi information had generally only appeared if you went to the second page of AOL Search's results or selected the "Web Pages" tab at the top of the screen. That tab and others are now gone.
"The tab interface was confusing for members," Wolf said.
Instead, everything in AOL Search's main results is now considered a "Matching Site," regardless of what data source it comes from. For popular queries, this means you'll continue to likely encounter listings from the Open Directory, whereas more unique or unusual searches will tap into Inktomi's listings.
At the bottom of the results page, relevant categories from the Open Directory may also be listed in a "Narrow Your Search" section. There's also a "Most Popular" sites link that appears at the bottom of the page. This reruns your search and shows you the sites considered most popular for that topic among AOL members.
How is this done? AOL knows all the pages that its members visit, so it can understand which pages are more popular. The odd thing here is that it would seem to make more sense for AOL to always present sites ranked by popularity.
Sponsored listing from GoTo also remain at AOL Search, appearing as before, in the clearly labeled "Sponsored Links" section at the top of the page. However, there are now fewer editorial listings appearing on the page than in the past, only five site links versus the 10 from before. To appear in one of the three links displayed in the Sponsored Links area, you'll need to be one of the top three links at GoTo for your desired terms.
Of course, to appear in AOL's editorial listings, you need to submit to the Open Directory, Inktomi or preferably, both. Links to pages explaining how to submit can be found below. By the way, AOL says that it refreshes its Open Directory information every two weeks or less.
If you are an AOL member, remember that the chief advantage AOL Search offers to you is the ability to search across the web and AOL's own proprietary content at the same time. If you search from within your AOL software, you'll get both relevant internal AOL links and web-wide links. However, if you search by visiting the AOL Search web site, then only web-wide links are displayed.
How AOL Search Works
This page will be fully updated by Wednesday and provide a step-by-step guide to getting listed with AOL Search.
How Inktomi Works
How The Open Directory Works