The Search Engine Report, Nov. 5, 1997, Number 12

Search Engine Watch

Nov. 5, 1997 - Number 12

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Site Changes

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What's New

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Search Engine News

MSN To Add Search Services

It's official. Microsoft has entered the search engine game. It announced in October that it would be partnering with Inktomi to add search to its existing web properties, starting with MSN.

Inktomi is the company that powers HotBot and several other search engines, worldwide. It does the crawling and maintains a central index that all of these services tap into, though each service may tweak how it returns results or may implement customizations to make it distinct from the others.

Microsoft's entry poses two big questions: will it make searching the web uniquely better, and related to this, will it adversely affect the major search engines? The answers seem to be no.

Technologically, HotBot and Microsoft's search service will be close cousins. True, they will have different interfaces, and they may tweak results differently. Custom crawling may even produce slightly different indices.

But Microsoft is not adding any special search technology to the mix. There is no killer search app that will be created. This may occur in the future, but at launch, it will remain more of the same.

Of course, many people love the results that Inktomi-powered HotBot provides. Inktomi has stepped up its crawling activity significantly over the past year, and it remains committed to maintaining a large, comprehensive index to the web. So it's not that Microsoft's search engine will be unimpressive. It's only that nothing radically new is planned.

If there is no technological reason for people to flock to a Microsoft search service, they still may come depending on how it is marketed. But the current plan is not to position a search-enhanced MSN as a new search engine.

"Our goal is not to make the number one search site on the Internet," said Ed Graczyk, MSN's lead product manager. "Our goal is to make the number one site on the Internet, period. And search is a key component of that."

To understand why the addition of search may be less of a threat to existing services than many might think, it's useful to look at two other publishers that offer search: AOL and CNet.

AOL opened AOL NetFind earlier this year, a stand-alone search service that is powered by Excite. Do the same search on either, and you will receive the same results.

When NetFind launched, no one said that AOL's search engine was going to drive the others out of the marketplace, as with predictions of Microsoft's entry.

This is for good reason. NetFind is not positioned as an alternative to the major search engines for the general Internet audience. It is listed on Netscape and Microsoft's search pages and has a few other alliances. But NetFind really depends on its built-in audience of AOL users.

So why bother having a NetFind? AOL could have stuck with using Excite, without the NetFind look and feel. But this way, it can exercise complete control over the ads that are delivered. It can also more easily blend NetFind into the overall AOL experience.

Plus, having a NetFind cloak over the Excite results makes it easy for AOL to switch search providers without disrupting things for users. did the same thing earlier this year, when it dropped AltaVista in preference to Infoseek for its results. And given a growing rivalry between Excite and AOL, such a move wouldn't be surprising.

So AOL provides search, but to consider it a major player in the search engine came would be overstating things. NetFind is not constructed or positioned as a serious alternative to online searching.

The situation is somewhat similar with CNet. It uses a licensed version of Infoseek to power both and Snap's search service. is obviously positioned to be a search service to challenge the others. But in reality, it's the other CNet properties that point traffic its way. It serves mainly an audience already coming to CNet sites, rather than as an alternative to the major search engines.

As for Snap, search exists as a core component of the service. But again, as with AOL, this is designed to serve those already with Snap, or those coming to it for the wide variety of services it offers.

So while there are search-enhanced online services, these are not heavily promoted as the place to go for those with a specific need to search. Instead, search is provided as one of the many features they offer.

It would also be fair to say that users in general do not think of these services as they place to go for when they just want to search. Instead, they flock to Yahoo, Excite and the other majors.

Ironically, many of the major search engines have made moves to become "online services" to challenge the AOLs and MSNs. But they remain search services at their core and in the minds of many of those turning to them.

The specifics of how search will be integrated into the public and subscription-based MSN areas are still being planned. But search is planned to be prominent.

"It's safe to say that it will be very evident on the site, so that if someone is coming to for the sole purpose to search, they will be able to do that very easily," Graczyk said.

HotBot and MSN will draw from the same Inktomi database. In fact, initially, submitting a site to HotBot will add it to the Inktomi index, which in turn means it will appear in MSN, according to Kevin Brown, Inktomi's marketing director.

But despite a shared core, the two services will be distinct and may perhaps grow more so. Interfaces will be different, and custom crawling may be used to enhance the main index. Eventually, new technology may be developed to suit the particular needs of an Inktomi partners.

"My expectation is that we're going to continue to work with both of these guys, and they're both going to have their own views on searching," Brown said.

While it would appear HotBot is be most threatened by the partnership, it feels comfortable that it has a different audience that what Microsoft is after. HotBot's appeal is toward those looking for pure search, while Microsoft is mixing search into its other offerings.

"The fact that the audiences are different will probably play out in how the services are offered," said David Pritchard, HotBot's marketing director.

The choice of Inktomi is a real boon for the company, which sprung out of the Inktomi search engine developed at UC Berkeley. It developed a new search engine to power its first partner, HotBot. Later, it partnered with companies in Australia, Japan and Brazil.

Beyond search, MSN is also enhancing its directory through a deal with Yahoo.

MSN has cut a deal with Yahoo to recreate the Yahoo directory within MSN. Existing MSN reviews and classifications will be added, but Yahoo's 500,000+ listings will make up the bulk of the directory.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the Internet Explorer 3 search page and the IE4 search page. Agreements to list various search engines in these important places were formalized a few months ago. Dumping the search engines would be the ideal way to drive traffic to a more search-oriented MSN, if the goal was to make it a search center.

However, a different division within Microsoft handles those placements. To date, there are no plans to change things. Graczyk said its quite possible that Microsoft might be semi-competitive with the search engines in terms of MSN, while continuing to partner with them in terms of browser positioning.

Finally, what's the new search engine to be called? The project was code named Yukon, but no formal name has been selected.

Microsoft-Inktomi Press Release

MS launches search engine, Oct. 20, 1997,4,15392,00.html

Microsoft Network muscles into search engine business
MSNBC, Oct. 20, 1997

Inktomi lines up alliances, Oct. 20, 1997,4,15460,00.html

More details about the company powering HotBot and Microsoft search services. It does more than just search technology.

Microsoft-Yahoo Press Release


Welcome To SearchEngineLand

Excite stopped calling itself a search engine earlier this year. Instead, it has billed itself as an online service, similar to AOL. To back its claims, it quickly began adding non-search services, such as chat and free email. These were integrated into its directory listings, which themselves were organized into channels.

The goal was to create interesting places for people to hang out. Search engines are like the airports or train stations of the web. People go through them, but they don't stay for long.

Instead, Excite is trying to turn itself into a destination, rather than a transit point. In a way, it wants to be an online theme park. People can come to ShoppingLand, or EntertainmentLand, where they can talk to others online, participate in discussions or read news stories. Excite wants people to stay awhile, which gives them the ability to dish up more ads.

If Excite has become ExciteLand, then YahooLand, LycosLand and InfoseekLand aren't far behind. All three companies made moves in October putting them firmly on course toward the online service model that Excite has been pioneering.

Yahoo is no stranger to extra services. It has offered chat since January of this year, four months before Excite. Now it has added free email to its offerings. Discussion boards continue to be beta tested.

Lycos had more catching up to do. It did so in one swoop, adding chat, discussion areas and free email on the same day.

As for Infoseek, it remains without free email. But it has added chat and unveiled an attractive new channel structure (see story, below).

But just adding services is not enough to transform a search service into an online service. To attract and keep visitors, the extra services and other content need to be properly integrated to make a destination worth visiting.

Here is where Excite really shines. Its channels, introduced in April, pull all of its topically related options into central locations.

For example, a visit to the Entertainment channel offers news headlines, a summary of live chat and bulletin board topics, a local television schedule, movie listings and video releases, all on the same page. Far from being confusing, everything is organized in an easy-to-read fashion.

Web reviews are included, and way down at the bottom is a search box. Its position emphasizes that your visit is not about searching, then leaving Excite. Instead, you're intended to stay and participate.

In contrast, Yahoo's services live in their own worlds. They are easy to miss, tucked in a small font size under the search box. Nor are they integrated into the site.

For example, clicking on Entertainment brings up a standard Yahoo listing page. If you want to view headlines, you have to click to a new page. Chat discussions are not mentioned.

Lycos occupies a middle ground. It has organized its Top 5 reviews, headlines and other material into WebGuides. Now it has added links to its chat areas.

Infoseek is the newest of the search engines to dump the old search/directory structure and move toward a more content-organized channel format. Its implementation poses a real challenge to the model that Excite has fine-tuned.

It will be interesting to watch these search engines as they continue along the path toward destinations. A survey by NPD earlier this year found 95% of search engine users wanted services to provide quick and relevant search results. In contrast, only 56% to 69% said that it was important for a site to be interactive.

If channels are not the way to go, then AltaVista and HotBot may see an increase in usage, as they remain firmly search-centric. However, an entirely new audience may flock to the new search/online services.

Search engines battle over features, Oct. 8, 1997,4,15014,00.html

A rundown on the latest deals to offer email, online retailing alliances and other deals search engines have made.

Lycos, Yahoo add free email in battle for users' loyalty
Ad Age, Oct. 1997

Summary of new additions to Yahoo and Lycos, as they follow Excite's move into adding features to better become destinations, rather than transit points on the web.

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Infoseek Gets New Look, New Life

Infoseek tuned into channels on Oct. 20, and its facelift announced visually that Infoseek is back as a force to be reckoned with.

Infoseek was never really gone. Media Metrix has rated it the third most popular search engine since May of this year, and the gap between it and second place Excite has narrowed dramatically since July.

RelevantKnowledge put it second in its August release, and Infoseek's drop to third in September was due to a change that combines Excite and WebCrawler traffic.

Despite Infoseek's popularity, analysts were discouraged earlier this year by management changes and a seeming lack of direction. There was a lot of doom-and-gloom that made it sound like Infoseek was on its last legs.

Now, recent moves are making even the analysts happy. A PR push has enlightened journalists to the service's popularity. The new channel format puts Infoseek alongside its competitors in the next generation of search presentation. New retailing partnerships have been announced, which should please those looking for Infoseek to bring in revenue beyond banners.

As if to punctuate its return, Infoseek's first television ads aired last Sunday during the X-Files season premiere in the US. They were quite funny, spotlighting two thugs who wanted to know how their captive knew so much about them. "Infoseek," the poor soul tried to tell the dim-witted duo, his words blocked by tape over his mouth.

Infoseek's new channel format has a lot to offer searchers. It rivals Excite in terms of breadth and compelling organization. Infoseek's channels also goes beyond Excite by dynamically appearing in response to certain searches.

When you enter Infoseek, you can choose to browse a channel, in the way you used to browse its directory listings (which are now part of the channels). Selecting Entertainment, for example, brings up a page with news headlines, web sites, links to chat areas about entertainment, and more.

The same thing occurs if you choose Excite's Entertainment channel. But with Infoseek, channels also appear as part of the search process.

Imagine that you search for "movies." Infoseek will place what it calls a "channel wrapper" around your results. In this case, the Entertainment wrapper is used.

Down the left-hand side of the page are samples of some of the content available on the full Entertainment channel page. However, search results remain the focus. In this way, channel content can suggest alternative sources of information without interfering with the actual search results.

"Our competitors still have the search and browse functionality isolated from each other, and we feel very strongly that search and browse are kissing cousins," said Infoseek Executive Producer Lynn Forbes.

Infoseek creates the wrappers by mapping certain phrases to certain channels. So "airlines" brings up the Travel Channel wrapper, while "computer" brings up the Computer channel. Of course, not all words are mapped. "Cheese," for example, just brings up a generic wrapper, though related directory topics, company pages and news stories do appear in the left-hand column.

Infoseek's best innovation is its results clustering, which will be more familiar as the "More results from this site..." message that appears at below some listings.

In the past, it was easy for some sites to dominate the top ten search results, either inadvertently, because they had many relevant pages, or intentionally, through spamming attempts. Infoseek's clustering is a unique way to sidestep the problem, and its completely unmatched by any other search engine.

After a search is performed, Infoseek looks through the top pages of results to see if any site appears more than once. If so, then it lists only one page from that site and makes the rest available through the "More results" link.

As a result, it's harder for any one site to dominate the top results. It's a benefit to searchers, who obviously would like to see more options in one glance. But even webmasters benefit, because it gives them more chance of appearing.

The system isn't perfect. Some spammers use several domains, and I could spot examples where duplicate or near duplicate pages were not summarized. But it is very good -- a real improvement that many people will appreciate.

AltaVista and HotBot also try to combat page domination. However, their efforts are oriented toward duplicate and near-duplicate pages. If they spot these, they will only list one of the pages with a description. The others get their URLs associated with this single listing. They can even do this if the pages reside on different servers.

Excite has a "List by Web site" option, but this isn't mean to eliminate page domination in the top results, as with Infoseek. However, it has a useful purpose. By selecting it, top results are organized by web site, with the web site with the most relevant page coming first. In this way, you can see many more results at the same time and get a sense of which sites may have the broadest content.

Infoseek has a few glitches. It is fighting very hard against spammers by refining its ranking mechanism. That can cause some relatively irrelevant pages to appear in the results of very broad searches. Also, a bug has caused Infoseek to report absurdly low results for some broad searches, such as 50 matches for "real estate." This is supposed to be corrected shortly.

Overall, the changes help Infoseek catch back up with its competition. Old and new users will likely welcome its new look and features.

Infoseek Press Release
Infoseek, Oct 20, 1997

Infoseek Replaces Push With Pull
TechWeb, Oct. 20, 1997


AltaVista Expands, To Promote Itself

AltaVista has increased its index to 100 web pages, making it the largest search engine on the web (though HotBot is now nipping at its heels, at 80 million pages). It is also about to launch its first advertising campaign.

AltaVista also says that it has stepped up its anti-spamming efforts. That a search engine would promote its spam-filtering abilities points out what a problem spam has become.

"We receive more than 20,000 URL submissions a day of which nearly half are pure spam," said Barry Rubinson, director of engineering. In the past, AltaVista's spam fighting had been on blocking excessive submissions. Now detectors are searching for overt word repetition and other techniques. Some pages are also flagged for human review.

The new index launch hasn't been without problems. Earlier this month, pages submitted via the Add URL service are not appearing in the main site within a day or two, which is the usual case. They were appearing in the mirror sites, however.

Increasing the index size means that it can take longer to search through all the web pages for a match. This may not be a problem for the mirror sites, since they receive far less traffic than the main site. But the main site may still be dealing with the best way to optimize searching through the larger catalog.

Another thing people sometimes notice is that the number of pages can vary when they perform a "site:" or "url:" search to locate the number of pages from a web site listed in AltaVista. The reason for this is because these types of searches are very processor intensive.

When AltaVista is busy, it may not perform an entire search. It allocates a certain amount of time, then reports what it has found. If you click through a few pages of results, it may continue the search from where it left off, and thus more pages may appear.

To get the best results, do these types of searches during periods of low activity, which is usually late at night in the United States.

Stressing its search power, AltaVista to launch campaign
AdAge, Oct. 27, 1997

Good summary of AltaVista's first-ever advertising campaign.


Yahoo Gets E-Mail, Four11

Yahoo is now offering free email to its visitors.

Yahoo Mail is a free, web-based mail service. It is essentially a Yahoo-edition of the popular RocketMail service. Mail addresses are of the form ""

RocketMail was created by Four11, which also provides online white pages. In a related announcement, Yahoo acquired the company on Oct 23. Yahoo and Four11 have been long-time partners.

Yahoo will issue 1,654,099 shares of common stock for all outstanding Four11 interests. It also expects to book a $4 million charge in its fourth quarter. This is Yahoo's first acquisition.

Yahoo buys Four11 for free email, Oct. 8, 1997,4,15027,00.html

Yahoo Buys Four11, Secures Compaq, Gateway Deals
Wired, Oct. 8, 1997

Yahoo Buys Directory in $93M Stock Swap
WebWeek, Oct. 13, 1997

Yahoo Press Release


Lycos Adds Extra Services

Lycos had added free email and other services to its site, putting it firmly in the same direction of Excite and Yahoo into becoming an online destination.

E-mail services are web based and offered in conjunction with iName. Users can have a standard address, of the form "" They can also pay $15 per year to have a specialty domain, such as

Chat and bulletin board services have been introduced, and there is a new personal guide page. It can be customized to reflect personal preferences about news, weather, stocks and web reviews.


Lycos Chat and BBS

Lycos Personal Guide

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GTE Files Federal Suit Over Yahoo-Related Listing

GTE has filed a US lawsuit claiming the US regional phone companies, along with Netscape and Yahoo, have conspired to monopolize the Internet yellow pages market and prevent companies with competing products from reaching Internet consumers. The suit was filed Oct. 7, with the US District Court in Washington D.C.

Perhaps GTE will be able to prove the regional phone companies, or Baby Bells, colluded on this particular project in violation of anti-trust laws. But it will have a tough time showing that the change within the Netscape Guide has limited competition as much as it claims.

The guide, produced by Yahoo for Netscape, has a Yellow Pages section. In this section, there is a map of the United States. Regions are highlighted by color and linked to the online yellow pages offerings from each regions local phone company, or Baby Bell.

GTE claims that the Baby Bells banded together in the Netscape Guide to produce a "national" yellow pages service, rather than compete against each other, as they had been doing.

"The [Baby Bells” couldn't beat us on a level playing field, so they pulled back their own national products, carved up the country into exclusive territories, forced competitors off key locations on the Internet and intend to divide the winnings among themselves," said GTE, in a press release.

Whether a court would agree remains to be seen. The map itself is clearly linked to individual products. It does not present the offerings combined as a single Yellow Pages guide.

More importantly, the changes to the Netscape Guide are not "effectively excluding GTE and other Internet Yellow Pages providers from Internet access points," as the press release describes.

Netscape is an important venue, but it is hardly the only place GTE and others can generate traffic. In fact, GTE SuperPages has exclusive placement deals with Excite, Lycos and WebCrawler, all of which probably produce more traffic than prime positioning in the Netscape Guide will.

Furthermore, while GTE SuperPages is not listed in the Netscape Guide, it does continue to be listed on Netscape's Net Search page's Yellow Page area. If Netscape were being monopolistic, it would hardly continue this listing. Likewise, Yahoo offers its own Yellow Pages listing, rather than a joint national guide made up of Baby Bell offerings. Again, this is not monopolistic behavior.

Earlier this year, GTE filed a similar suit in the Texas court system, where actions are still proceeding. Also earlier this year, online Yellow Pages-provider Switchboard asked the US Department of Justice to also investigate the arrangement, saying that it may violate anti-trust laws.

GTE SuperPages

GTE Lawsuit Press Release

Netscape Guide Yellow Pages

Netscape Net Search Page

GTE Lawsuit Accuses Baby Bells Of Monopolizing Online Yellow Pages
WebWeek, Oct. 13, 1997

Netscape, Yahoo Under Fire Over Guide Listings
The Search Engine Report, Sept. 3, 1997


Excite Expands In Japan

Excite has formed a joint venture with Itochu Corporation to expand and enhance search-oriented services for the Japanese market.

Excite Japan launched in July of this year, but like most of Excite's International editions, it has remained a domain-filtered subset of the main Excite Search service. It does not have channel-oriented content, email, chat or other services that characterize the main Excite service.

The new venture with a local company aims to change this, as well as let Excite better sell the service to advertisers.

"This marriage of our strong Internet brand and services with Itochu's leading local marketing, sales and infrastructure and

DNP's unsurpassed access to local content lets us execute immediately in the rapidly expanding Japanese Internet marketplace," said George Bell, CEO and president of Excite.

Excite Japan -or-

Excite partners for Japan, Oct. 13, 1997,4,15195,00.html


AltaVista Partners With Amazon

AltaVista is now listing links to Amazon-related books in its search results. AltaVista was the last of the major search engines not to have a retailing deal with an online bookseller. In fact, it was the only major search engine not to have a retailing deal at all.


Excite To Acquire Shopping Search Service, Announces New Partnerships

Excite has signed an agreement to acquire NetBot, a shopping search service. It also announced a number of new online retailing partnerships.

NetBot scans merchant sites to provide comparison reviews, product pricing and other information in response to searches.

Excite is to swap $35 million of stock for NetBot, and its functionality is to be merged into the service later this year.

Excite has also added new retailing partners to its service, including Auto-By-Tel, CDnow and GolfWeb, among others.

Excite says the new deals, along with existing relationships, amount to $80 million, over the life of the contracts. The contracts generally run between two and three years. Excite receives both advertising revenues and a share of the online transactions.


Excite Buys Search-Technology Firm for $35M
WebWeek, Oct. 20, 1997

More details about the NetBot service and how Excite plans to transform it from a software-product to one accessible via the web.


Excite Launches Business & Investing Channel

Excite added a new Business & Investing Channel in October, in conjunction with Intuit.

The channel features content aimed at helping people with investments, banking, mortgages, taxes, planning, insurance and other financial needs.

The channel is also be made available from the Quicken web site and from within WebCrawler.

Excite Business & Investing Channel


Search Engine Financial Results In

The latest quarterly result from three search engines are in. Yahoo comes out on top. The company posted a $1.6 million profit, by far its largest ever. Previous profitable quarters have never exceeded $250,000.

Yahoo: +$1.6 million
Infoseek: -$4.5 million
Excite: -$5.7 million

Yahoo beats expectations, Oct. 8, 1997,4,15053,00.html

Lots of quotes from analysts and from Yahoo on where the company needs to go to stay profitable and successful.

Yahoo: Is There Any Upside Left?
TechInvestor, Oct. 13, 1997

Despite recent profits and strong stock showings, some analysts still have a wait-and-see attitude about Yahoo.

Excite 3Q Positive Surprise For Wall Street
TechInvestor, Oct. 16, 1997

Infoseek beats estimates, Oct. 23, 1997,4,15604,00.html


Ask Jeeves Licenses Services

The Ask Jeeves search service has licensed its technology to the Electric Library and Infospace services. For those unfamiliar with Ask Jeeves, the service is a metacrawler with a twist. It provides matching web pages from various services, but results are usually prefaced by questions aimed at helping users find the information they want.

Ask Jeeves

Electric Library



Lycos Power Panel In Non-Java Version

Now the Java-challenged have a chance to play with the relevancy controls Lycos makes available through its Lycos Pro Power Panel. An HTML version is now available.

The panel lets you control how pages will be ranked by weighting various criteria, such as words appearing in the title or the frequency of words in the document.

Lycos Pro Power Panel (HTML)

Lycos Pro Power Panel (Java)


Encyclopedia Britannica Launches Search Service

The Encyclopedia Britannica unveiled its Britannica Internet Guide on Oct. 14. This is not a service that lets you search the encyclopedia. It is an independent web directory. It loads fast, has some nice results, and it is probably worth a look for those in search of alternatives.

Listings can be searched or browsed. A web-wide search can also be conducted. The guide taps into AltaVista for this.

Britannica Internet Guide

Encyclopaedia Britannica Enters Search Wars
Web Week, Oct. 27, 1997


Submit It! Buys Position Agent Checking Service

The PositionAgent search engine monitoring service has been acquired by the Submit It, one of the oldest and largest site promotion services on the web. The deal was announced Oct. 6.

PositionAgent was the first monitoring service to be offered commercially on the web. It debuted last February, and several similar services have appeared since then.

The services all work in a similar manner. You give them of list of search terms, and then they report back on where your pages are ranked in the major search engines for these terms.

PositionAgent continues to be offered as a separate service. In addition, those with Submit It accounts receive a discount if they add the service.


URL Checkers

Search Engine Articles

The XXX-Files
Washington Post, Oct. 26, 1997

Think spelling doesn't matter? One search engine reports that bestiality appears twice in its top 15 search words, spelled correctly and also misspelled. An interesting article that sheds a little more light on how search terms people use.

Roving Robot Will Unmask Online Music Pirates
WebWeek, Oct. 20, 1997

MusicBot aims to hunt down sites using music samples without permission.

Search engines rev up a stream of revenue
MSNBC, Oct. 1997

Plenty of good details about how search engines stand to benefit from retailer agreements made of late.

Search engines: The next generation
Network World Fusion, Oct. 20, 1997

An interesting look at the emergence of specialty search engines, though it incorrectly calls metacrawlers an emerging tool. Metacrawlers have been around for ages -- there are just more of them, now.

Search Engine Notes

Relax, Excite Does Index Tables

Excite customer support recently began reporting that it did not index text contained in tables. That caused me to get a number of messages from concerned webmasters. Be concerned no longer -- the messages were mistaken. Excite will index text contained in tables.

However, Excite did clarify that it will not crawl frame links. I was told previously by Excite that they were frames-capable, and I actually found that the crawler seemed to get pages that had no overt links to them. But Excite says that its spider can't follow frames links.

So, as with most of the other major search engines, you should ensure that you create an alternative way for spiders to find your inside pages. The Search Engines and Frames page within Search Engine Watch covers this topic in depth.

I also reaffirmed that Excite does not index comment text. Many people are under the impression that they can use text within comment tags as a method of "priming" Excite to control the description it returns. This is not the case. Comment text is ignored, as is ALT text.

Search Engines And Frames


HotBot Instant Add URL Sluggish

HotBot's instant Add URL service is supposed to add pages submitted to the index within 48 hours. However, this has not been the case in recent weeks. Keep watching your pages and try again at a later date if they fail to appear, to see if the problem gets resolved. Tips on checking for your URL can be found on the page below, which now features screenshots from HotBot to make the explanation a little easier.

Checking Your URL


Infoseek Meta Tag Limits Unchanged

Infoseek has reaffirmed that there is no particular limit over the number of times a word may be repeated in the meta keyword tag.

In September, Infoseek's customer support started saying there was a new "three word limit," despite the fact that there are no posted limits at all. Infoseek product manager Sue LaChance Porter said this was a mistake.

"There is no hard and fast rule about the number of keywords allowed in these tag fields. At some point, we'd just stop counting. Ranking depends on several factors, including the body the web and the query itself, not just the number of occurrences of words."

Many people have assumed that seven is the magic number not to exceed in meta tags. Infoseek has not had a "seven word limit" regarding meta tags since Sept. 1996. From that date on, they have simply said not to be excessive, with no specific recommendations.

Despite this, a myth has developed around not exceeding seven repetitions, and some even have assumed it was applicable to all search engines. As with Infoseek, none of the search engines provide a precise number.

I've always told people that the best guideline is to use common sense and just not to overdue it. They key thing to avoid is repetition without any particular reason, such as apple, apple, apple, etc. Infoseek says the same:

"The best advice is for web page publishers to create a high quality page, and to use meta tags that they feel define or describe that page," advises Infoseek product manager Sue LaChance Porter. "If they follow that rule they aren't spamming, even if it means they have similar descriptors such as apple recipes, apple pie, apple cider, apple dumplings."

Of course, Infoseek may well have a three-word rule, a seven-word rule, or some other limit they aren't specifying. Sue La Chance Porter said that seven is as good a number as any to live by, but she stressed again that there is no particular number.

But if you want to be paranoid, you can stick with three words and assume that the tech support people weren't mistaken but really were telling the truth, and now Infoseek is back-pedaling.

Perhaps that is true, and no doubt many people have seen their pages drop in Infoseek over the past month. But Infoseek is doing many different things to deter search engine spamming, which it particularly comes under fire from, since it has the fastest Add URL mechanism.

Because of this, you can't assume that it's just your meta tags causing the drop.

Remember, the best tags are not the ones repeating the word the most, or the ones with every single possibility you can think of. The best tags are ones that simply reinforce what is already on your pages. And as always, simply adding tags is never a guarantee of achieving a ranking.


Microsoft Active Channel Guide Better Out Of Beta

Last month, I talked about problems I encountered using the new Microsoft Active Channel Guide. Upon revisiting the guide with the final version of Internet Explorer 4, I found things to be much, much better. I expect to have more details about how the guide is compiled and can be used in the next Search Engine Report or posted as a page within the site. Keep your eye on the What's New page.

Microsoft Active Channel Guide

End Notes

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