THE SEARCH ENGINE UPDATE
September 2, 1998 - Number 36
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, http://searchenginewatch.com/.
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In This Issue
+ General Notes
+ Search Utilities Go Beyond Metasearch
+ RealNames Expands Listings
+ LookSmart Adds Editors
+ Search Term Analysis More Affordable
+ Search Engine Notes
+ Subscribing/Unsubscribing Info
Note: Yes, this issue has only one part. This is because the mid-month issue of the Search Engine Update was longer than normal.
I'm currently traveling in my native California, where I'm enjoying Taco Bell, Cocoa Pebbles and people bagging my groceries for me -- things I dearly miss while living in my wife's native country of Britain. Being on the road also means I'm without the proofreading support that my wife usually provides. So, I beg your forgiveness for any typos in this month's newsletter.
Search Engine News
Many people love metasearch services, because they make it easy to send a query to several search engines at once. If you're a metasearch fan, now is a good time to consider going a step beyond by using a search utility.
Search utilities have the ability to send queries to multiple search engines. In addition, they offer the ability to sort results in various ways, such as by URL, page title or search engine. Another common feature is the ability to automatically download the actual pages that appear in the search results. These pages can then be further analyzed or viewed individually, offline.
The timing is right for those wishing to experiment with search utilities. A new program called BullsEye is now available, while updated versions of other utilities have recently been released.
I took a brief look at each of these utilities, to gather some initial impressions. However, I did not exhaustively test them, so don't consider this a review of what's best. Each of the utilities is available for trial before purchase, so I recommend experimenting with them to see which is the best fit for your personal tastes and needs. All are available for Windows 95/98/NT.
BullsEye is a powerful utility that will likely appeal to professional and advanced users, though I suspect novices may find it a bit too intimidating. It offers a wide range of searches, such as news, business, software and, of course, web searching.
Nice touches include the ability to spell check a query or display related words and homonyms. I also liked the way it will highlight the search terms on pages, if they have been downloaded for viewing. It also will attempt to group downloaded pages in similar categories.
BullsEye is an 8 MB download, and the basic version sells for US $49. Also, the program is unrelated to the notorious BullsEye bulk email program of the same name.
In contrast to BullsEye, novices should feel more comfortable with Copernic 98. I found the interface to be elegant and easy to use. Power options are available, but they remain hidden unless you invoke them, which makes getting started easy.
I was also pleased with the breadth of specialty searches offered. Music, Movies, Jobs and Sports are just some of the categories offered, and the sources in each category appear to be of good quality.
The free version of Copernic 98 offers web, newsgroup and email searching. The $29.95 "Plus" version includes specialty search options. Both are 2 MB downloads.
Mata Hari is supposedly designed so that you can learn one set of power search commands, which the program will then translate for each search service, as appropriate. I didn't test this, and I suspect it is something other search utilities will also do, especially BullsEye. But if you perform complex queries often on multiple services, then this may be another program worth investigating. It is definitely not a package for novice users.
Mata Hari is a 1.6 MB download and sells for $34.95.
Looking for fast and simple? Then WebFerret is a good choice. It does only web searching, via an extremely simple interface. Unlike the other packages, there is no page download option.
WebFerret is free and a quick, 760K download. The same company also offers WebFerretPro, which has additional features, for $26.95. Unfortunately, no trial version of WebFerretPro is currently available for download.
Those using the RealNames links on AltaVista are more likely to be taken directly to an appropriate web site, now that the RealNames system has greatly expanded its listings.
RealNames is an alternative web site address system, and links to its listings appear at the top of AltaVista search results, for any search of four words or longer.
Selecting a RealNames link will take people directly to a site, if the search phrase matches a registered RealName. If a name is not registered, then users are presented with results from the RealNames search engine, which shows the best matching choices from paid listings, editor selections and picks found by a web crawler.
Ideally, RealNames would like people to always be taken directly to a web site when they click on a link. Thus, editors have worked over the past few months to create RealNames for thousands of products, stock ticker symbols, American sports teams and radio stations.
For example, "kleenex" leads to the Kleenex tissue web site. "YHOO" brings up the stock quote for Yahoo. "Lakers" leads to the Los Angeles basketball team's web site, while "KIIS" brings up the LA radio station with those call letters. All of these are editorially added entries.
"We studied queries, and based on that study, have added segments to serve the patterns of usage we have seen," said Ted West, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
In all, there are now about 1 million RealNames resolving to web sites, and the number climbs to 3 million when domain names are included.
Domain name resolution is another new feature of the service. Entering a domain name such as "www.yahoo.com" takes people to the site, just as if they had entered the domain name properly into the browser address box.
This is an extremely helpful change, because many novice web users mistakenly enter domain names into search boxes, when trying to reach web sites.
It would be even better if AltaVista itself, along with the other major search engines, also made this change. Only WebCrawler is currently smart enough to ask a person entering a domain name if they want to visit the site, assuming the URL is preceded with an http://.
RealNames makes its money from those who pay for names, so it seems odd from a business standpoint to have editors undermine the system by creating so many "free" names. Only about 5,000 names in the listings have been purchased.
However, CEO Keith Teare sees the enhancements as strengthening the system for users. If they make it more usable, and thus popular, he believes companies will see value in registering their own names for $100 per year.
"We've got to hope that if the changes produce a greater user experience, then that becomes a magnet," Teare said.
RealNames also plans to push paid registrations more heavily, now that listings have been enhanced. A number of RealNames resellers will be announced shortly.
RealNames says the usage of its system via AltaVista has also increased dramatically over the past two months. RealNames links are selected about one million times per day at AltaVista, giving the system just over a three percent clickthrough rate. That's up from 300,000 per day, when the RealNames launched on AltaVista in May.
Key to this improvement has been altering the text associated with the RealNames links. Previously, the text used to read "Subscribe your company, brands and trademarks to the Real Name System." Now it has been changed to say "Click above for the RealName, the easy web address for company and product names."
"We virtually removed the RealNames branding on July 30th," said West. "That increased the traffic immediately."
RealNames also expects even more people to begin using the system in the near future, as it continues to seek new partnerships.
"Quite soon, we'll be announcing another distribution partnership which will increase our traffic by 30 to 50 percent again," said Teare.
LookSmart announced that it has doubled its editorial staff, as part of an effort to increase its site listings five-fold over the next year.
The service currently lists about 500,000 sites in more than 23,000 categories. In contrast, Yahoo lists about 1 million sites.
LookSmart now has about 70 editors, compared to Yahoo's 80 or more editors.
"We believe this team will be able to out-produce rival editorial teams in terms of both quantity of sites described and, more importantly, in the quality, selection, organization and description of those sites," said LookSmart CEO Evan Thronley.
The best way to measure your success with search engines is to examine your web site logs to find the actual search phrases used to reach your web site. This has gotten easier thanks to Marketwave dropping the price of its Hit List Pro log analysis software from US $995 to $295.
Hit List has long been one of my favorite tools, because it can be easily configured to display search phrases for a variety of search engines. By default, it ships with reports for AltaVista, Excite, Infoseek, Lycos and Yahoo. However, I've enhanced my copy to display terms from HotBot, WebCrawler, GoTo, LookSmart, Snap and many other services and metacrawlers.
Many WebTrends users mistakenly believe they also are getting search phrase information for several major search engines, but this is not the case. Instead, WebTrends breaks down search phrases into individual keywords.
For example, if someone entered "income tax forms" into Yahoo and found your site, WebTrends would report that you were found for "income" and "tax" and "forms," not "income tax forms."
That may not seem so confusing with just one example, but imagine what happens when hundreds of phrases are broken down into individual keywords. It becomes impossible to distinguish the exact phrases that brought a site traffic.
If you use WebTrends, don't despair. The company says the next release, due within two months, will correct this problem. The product currently sells for $299, though it is often available for a discount through web hosting providers.
Another option for those interested in search phrases is FlashStats. The program is primarily designed as a real-time, server-side analysis tool, but it can be run locally on a personal web server for offline analysis. It comes preconfigured with search phrase reporting for 16 search engines, more than any other log analysis program that I'm aware of. The price is $99.
Marketwave Hit List
Keyword Analysis Using Marketwave Hit List
Search Engine Notes
Inktomi To Buy Shopping Search
Inktomi has agreed to purchase C2B Technologies, which develops comparison shopping software, for a $90 million stock swap. Inktomi plans to use the acquired technology to create a shopping search service that it can offer to its partners.
Inktomi Buys Shop Bot Shop
Wired, Sept. 1, 1998
More details on the Inktomi purchase.
Northern Light has added 1,100 business, health and consumer publication titles to its searchable Special Collection material, raising the number of total titles to 4,500. Users of the service may search this information, then choose to pay between $1 to $4 to read articles of interest. Searching the web at Northern Light is free.
Below are sponsor messages that ran in this month's issue of the Search Engine Report, which may be of interest to Search Engine Update readers.
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This newsletter is Copyright (c) Mecklermedia, 1998