Excite has finished making changes to its search interface, mostly minor alterations that that service hopes will improve usability. Here's what you will find that's different:
+ More emphasis on the "Zoom In" search refinement tool.
+ Results are now numbered, to help those who wish to remember their place when returning to the search results page.
+ Search page numbers are now at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to jump directly to the second, third or tenth page of results, should you desire.
+ Site listings now put more of an emphasis on title and summary.
+ Page clustering is now automatically performed, so that only one top page per web site is displayed.
+ The site ranking algorithm has been tweaked, to take the proximity of search words into greater account.
Excite is also working on tightening up its spam detection, in particular to watch for mirror pages or those who run multiple web sites in hopes of dominating the top results. This has been a big problem for Excite over the past year or so. In addition to automatic detection, Excite says it also depends on customer reports of spam.
"It does help us a lot for people to report when they find spam," said Lynne Mariani Pogue, who oversees search for Excite@Home. She cited one extreme example where someone reviewed the top 750 URLs that appeared for a particular search, calling out specific examples of spam.
"That's definitely above and beyond the call of duty, but it was helpful to us," Pogue said.
Should you wish to report spam to Excite, note the search term, the URL in question, its position and a succinct explanation of why you think it is spam. Send this using the Excite feedback form, below.
Excite also refreshed its index in the middle of June, and it hopes to stay on a four to six week refresh schedule going forward. Directory listings from LookSmart are now also updated each week.
By the way, Excite is not reading frames, as I said it was to do back in March. That was originally supposed to be the plan, but working on making this possible hasn't finished.
In other news, Excite@Home's WebCrawler service is to transform this month into a more pure search service. Chris Sherman will be following up on the change in Search Engine Watch's SearchDay newsletter. You can sign-up for it via the URL listed below.
All this work on the search front might seem a bit odd, given that Excite@Home has sent out past signals that it might dump its portal properties to concentrate on broadband access. Despite those signals, search apparently remains important.
"It's a confusing time, but there's definitely a strong commitment to support the search product," said Pogue. "There will be more clarity at the earnings call in July. [Search” is one of our company's main assets, and we are investing in it and moving forward."
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Good News, Bad News for Excite@Home
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Despite Excite@Home's ISP operations rising, usage of its search engine has plunged, according to search referral traffic measured by StatMarket.
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In June, Excite@Home said it would close all but its Italian and UK operations in Europe. This articles covers rumors that the UK site would also be closed, which Excite@Home denies.