About The Update
The Search Engine Update is a twice-monthly update of search engine news. It is available only to Search Engine Watch members. Please note that long URLs may break into two lines in some mail readers. Cut and paste, should this occur.
In This Issue
+ Search Engine Strategies Coming To London, San Jose
+ Report Takes Critical Look At Google's Porn Filter
+ Inktomi & Google Win In Recent Relevancy Test
+ SearchDay Articles
+ Search Engine Articles
+ List Info (Subscribing/Unsubscribing)
As many of you have probably seen, Search Engine Watch underwent its first major redesign ever. I'm going to guide you through all the changes in the next newsletter. First, I need to go back in and finish up some of the work involved in transitioning the web site. It was a major move. We've well over 1,000 pages of content, and the new design will eventually help us expose more of this to readers.
We've put in a huge number of redirects, so that you should be able to get to all your favorite bookmarked pages just as before, plus clicking from article to article shouldn't bring up 404 errors. However, I'm using "shouldn't" loosely, for the moment. Despite our best efforts, there are the inevitable glitches. That's part of the clean-up work I mentioned!
Some older pages accidentally got rolled out as part of the transition, and I'm made it a priority for the Jupitermedia developers to get those updated. I've also come across a few pages where only some of the content is visible. In addition, there are redirects that aren't working properly.
If you come across a funny page or can't find what you are looking for, please do feel free to send me feedback. You can do so by emailing email@example.com. I'm also going to work hard over the next week to stamp out the remaining problems, so that hopefully you won't need to send that feedback at all.
Thank you all for hanging in there through this transition period. It will be a good thing for Chris Sherman and I in the long-term, because the new content management system means we'll be able to spend more time writing content, rather than managing it! I also promise not to redesign for another seven years :)
Because of the transition, I've held off on a longer piece I'm working on about recent changes at Yahoo. However, many of the essential details were covered in a SearchDay article about the "new" Yahoo, which you'll find further in the newsletter below.
Also, I've written two articles as part of today's newsletter that will also appear in SearchDay later this month. I apologize if you also receive that newsletter and will read the stories again in the coming days. I'm still coming to grips with our new content management system, and it was simply easier to include the stories in today's newsletter rather than link out to them. Plus, I figured readers of this newsletter might like an advance peak at these. Since these are intended for SearchDay's HTML format, where links are embedded in the story, I've placed the links within parenthesis so they will work in the text-only version of this newsletter.
Next stop for Search Engine Strategies will be London, on June 3-4. An agenda for our popular show about search engine marketing has now been posted. You can find more details or sign-up for the event via the URL below.
Search Engine Strategies London
Dates for our next US show have also been announced, including our first-ever four day event, August 18-21, in San Jose, California. More details and information will be posted on the conference web site in the near future for this and for our planned Munich and Chicago shows. In the meantime, you can visit and leave your email address, to be notified when details have been posted, via the URL below.
Search Engine Strategies
Report Takes Critical Look At Google's Porn Filter
Google's SafeSearch porn filter (http://www.google.com/help/customize.html#safe) was found to exclude non-porn sites such as the American Library Association, in a recent test conducted by the Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
Google admits the porn filter isn't perfect but says (http://news.com.com/2100-1032-996417.html) the test wasn't perfect, either. The porn filter, when engaged, automatically excludes any sites Google only knows about through link analysis, rather than by actually visiting the site.
For example, if a site has banned Google and other search engines from spidering it, Google might still return a link because it sees links to that site on other pages. However, since it hasn't actually crawled the site itself, Google excludes the site when SafeSearch is switched on, because it doesn't know if porn content might be present or not. More discussion of this from Google, as well as comments on the report from search engine marketers, can be found in a recent WebmasterWorld.com thread (http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum3/11532.htm) on the issue.
Sadly, the Harvard report didn't compare Google's filtering to that done by other search engines. Google might be performing better or worse than its competitors, but that's not covered.
The focus is also primarily on how non-porn sites might get accidentally blocked, rather than a look at how well the porn filter works to keep out explicit content. This is addressed rather briefly, to say mainly that even when the porn filter is engaged, it isn't 100 percent successful.
Overall, the porn filter comes off sounding like a terrible thing to use. However, some real world perspective is in order. I remember writing about the first porn filters for crawlers back in 1998. They weren't perfect, but many readers were happy to have them. My article (http://www.searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2166351) from that time started out with an example of a teacher who did a search for something innocent only to get porn sites showing up in front of her entire classroom.
Flash forward to today, and search for "dolls for girls" on Google without the porn filter. Among the top listings is "Blood Dolls: Gothic Girls in erotic, nude, & fetish photos." That's not something you may wish your seven year old daughter to see. With SafeSearch's "strict filtering" switched on, the site disappears (strict filtering means filtering of both web and image results. By default, "moderate" image filtering is always on).
As I said back in 1998, if you are trying to do proper research and are afraid the results might bring up porn, push the kids out of the room and don't engage any search engine's porn filter. However, if you must search with them present and want some protection, the porn filters will give you some options. But as the latest findings from Harvard aptly point out, the trade-off is that some important non-porn sites might get accidentally filtered.
For more help, Search Engine Watch maintains a list of kid-friendly search engines (http://www.searchenginewatch.com/links/article.php/2156191), as well as a guide to engaging porn filters (http://www.searchenginewatch.com/facts/article.php/2155971#filter) at search engines. Chris Sherman has given this information a quick update, and he's also currently in the process of a planned look at child-safe searching for a future edition of SearchDay (http://www.searchenginewatch.com/searchday/).
Inktomi & Google Win In Recent Relevancy Test
In December, my In Search Of The Relevancy Figure (http://www.searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2165151) article called for search engines to get beyond the hype of who is biggest or freshest and develop a commonly-accepted means of measuring actual relevancy. In it, I wrote of third-party tests that had been commissioned in the past to get at this. Now, the first such third-part test like this in ages has been done.
VeriTest was commissioned by Inktomi to conduct the test. It found (http://www.veritest.com/clients/reports/inktomi/) that in raw scoring (where URL position wasn't taken into account), Inktomi came out tops -- but just barely. Inktomi earned 1630 points, with Google just behind at 1597. That's so close that I'd essentially consider the services tied. Behind the leaders came, surprisingly to me, WiseNut at 1277, followed by Teoma at 1275, AltaVista 1222 and AllTheWeb at 1173, another big surprise for coming in last.
Critics will immediately assume that since Inktomi commissioned the test, it would naturally be in Inktomi's favor. Google itself suggested as much along with others in a recent WebmasterWorld thread (http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum5/2153.htm).
"It helps a lot to pick the ground rules, what queries to throw out," Google posted to the thread, pointing out that past tests conducted by the VeriTest on behalf of AltaVista and Ask Jeeves found those services had ranked tops. Not mentioned by Google was that a past test (http://www.veritest.com/clients/reports/google/) also commissioned by the firm on behalf of Google in September 2000 found -- wait for it -- Google to be the most relevant.
So is it really just whomever pays for the test gets the best ratings? Not exactly. About two years ago, I moderated a panel involving VeriTest (then known as eTesting Labs). It turned out that some search engines had funded tests where they were NOT found to be the best. In these cases, they didn't allow the results to be publicly released.
Absolutely, one needs to be critical of any report funded by only one company. All the more reason why I'd hope the search engine industry as a whole would get behind a common set of tests. Let them all pick the "ground rules" and agree that results, favorable or not, will be published for everyone.
As for this particular test, either I or Chris Sherman will likely do a detailed review of it in the near future. But in the meantime, here are a few more details.
There were 100 queries randomly selected from a set of 1 million real ones provided by Inktomi's search logs. The top 10 editorial results for each of the search engines tested were reviewed. Sponsored listings were not counted. Three judges then reviewed each of the URLs to determine yes or no whether they were "acceptable" relevancywise in relation to the query terms. A raw score as well as two weighted scores based on the position of URLs were then calculated.
From my preliminary review, the main criticism of this method is the "binary" choice of saying whether a document is relevant. Consider a search for "cars." Any number of pages about cars in some way could be considered relevant. However, how do you know if these are the best documents of the entire set of those possibly relevant? A binary test doesn't measure this.
To be fair, the test did try to address some nuances of quality. Judges were told to mark only pages they considered using their own judgment to be "excellent" or "good" to be "acceptable" relevancywise, while pages deemed only "fair," "poor" or other criteria would be rejected. Judges were also told to ask themselves questions such as, "If a friend of mine was interested in the subject of this query, would I email them this URL?," among others.
Here are some recent articles that may be of interest, from Search Engine Watch's daily SearchDay newsletter:
Link Popularity and the Myth of the Guestbook Link
SearchDay, April 15, 2003
Link popularity is crucial for your pages to rank well in search engines, but the value of guestbook links is questionable, at best, and potentially lethal, at worst.
Searching Images of Popular Culture
SearchDay, April 14, 2003
Want a look at a Time Magazine cover from 1923? How about album covers for Blue Note records, or Chateau Mouton Rothschild Wine Labels? A searchable image database lets you view all of these, and more.
Data Mining the Lycos 50
SearchDay, April 10, 2003
Dig deep within the Lycos 50 list of most popular search terms and you'll find a wealth of fascinating information that not only reveals trends but serves as a goldmine for search engine optimization efforts. Link is to the Search Engine Watch members edition of this story.
Monitoring Web Pages 24 Hours a Day
SearchDay, April 09, 2003
If you regularly visit web pages looking for new or updated information, you'll save countless hours by automating the process with software that tracks changes for you -- even while you sleep.
SearchDay - Happy Birthday, Ask Jeeves!
SearchDay, April 08, 2003
Ask Jeeves, an online question answering service that has gradually morphed into a search engine, officially launched its site six years ago.
SearchDay - Yahoo Moves to Revitalize Search
SearchDay, April 07, 2003
Yahoo today rolled out changes designed to speed up and enhance the search experience, marking its most significant departure yet from its traditional roots as a web directory
Help LookSmart Crawl the Web
SearchDay, Apr. 3, 2003
LookSmart is taking a new approach to discovering web content, offering a free downloadable screensaver program that also crawls the web when your computer is idle. Link is to the Search Engine Watch members edition of this story.
Want to receive SearchDay? Sign-up for the free daily newsletter from Search Engine Watch via the link below:
Search Engine Articles
Overture Fleshes Out International Plans
InternetNews.com, April 14, 2003
Overture plans to launch in seven new regions this year. South Korea will go live within the next two weeks. Italy happens by the middle of this year, with launches to follow in Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Scandinavia. Also notes new estimate that the paid search market should generate $2.1 billion this year, rising to $7 billion by 2007, according to U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray.
In Searching the Web, Google Finds Riches
New York Times, April 13, 2003
Reports from insiders say Google's revenue will rise from $300 million in 2002 to $750 million or more this year. The company now has 800 people employed. The story suggests that Microsoft might try to challenge Google by adding search capabilities to the Windows operating system. Microsoft effectively did that years ago, making its own search engine the default choice within Internet Explorer. That has helped make MSN Search one of the most popular search engines on the web -- but Google has thrived, in spite of it. Story recaps more of the growth of Google and competition in the market, all likely a familiar story already to readers of this newsletter.
Overture joins scumware company
Pandia, April 11, 2003
Some are upset that Overture has partnered with Gator, software that some consider to be scumware. See more about the partnership in a further article, below.
Ready for Its Future?
ClickZ, April 11, 2003
As Yahoo continues to evolve its search, it may make sense to explore the many ways to be found at the service. Kevin Lee outlines some broad strategies as well as specifics.
Yahoo sits on $2 billion hoard
News.com, April 10, 2003
Despite Yahoo recently acquiring Inktomi, the company has plenty of cash still on hand in case it wants to go shopping for more.
Analytics boost Discovery.coms search engine traffic by 300%, sales by 35%
InternetRetailer.com, April 10, 2003
I've said it many, many times. Small, simple changes to make your site more friendly to search engines can sometimes have a big impact on traffic. Discovery.com saw a 300 percent in traffic from Google. Did they buy links from sites with a high PR value? No. Did they get involved with a sophisticated link swapping service? No. Were customized doorway pages and cloaking involved? No. All the site apparently did was change the home page from being served dynamically into a more search engine friendly HTML design.
Manufacturer Tests Launching 3 Different Sites & PPC Ads to Improve Circuit Board Sales
B2BMarketingBiz.com, April 9, 2003
To generate more leads, ECD created new, branded sites focusing on different circuit board products it sold. They drove traffic through both organic and paid search engine marketing, even running some ads on certain networks, believing those networks had an audience more suited to a particular product. A key finding was that positions 2-4 in paid listings provide "bigger bang for the buck."
Yahoo Revises Estimates Upward, Reports Profit
InternetNews.com, April 9, 2003
Yahoo reports a first quarter profit of nearly $50 million and predicts yearly revenue will be up to $1.3 billion. Paid listings have been a key factor in the growth.
Styling Your Copy for Search Engines AND Visitors
SearchEngineGuide.com, April 8, 2003
Want to be found for "widget manufacturing?" Then it helps to use those words naturally in your copy. A short illustration on how to do just that.
Online Marketing Idol
eMarketer, April 8, 2003
Q&A with search engine marketer and ClickZ columnist Kevin Lee on changes and developments in the search engine space.
Survey Results on Google's New 'Content Targeted' Ads: Low Clicks, Iffy Conversions
ContentBiz.com, April 7, 2003
MarketingSherpa surveyed its readers about Google's new contextual links and found general agreement that clickrates from these links are much lower than when they are search-targeted. But as the article points out, this is pretty much a non-issue. It would be nice if the ads got more clicks, but any click gains at all is traffic you didn't have before. The real question is whether those content-targeted clicks convert as well as search-targeted ads. Those surveyed didn't have enough information to say, so the article turned to two tracking firms for advice. ClickTracks reported for its own advertising, conversion seemed lower. Did-It found the quality to be good in some cases but advised anyone to closely monitor conversion metrics. Conclusions? Stick with the contextual ads program to build brand or if you find the conversion rate is good enough. More advice is also offered -- be sure to read this good article.
Search Engine Friendly URLs with mod_rewrite
DevArticles, April 7, 2003
How to make dynamic URLs search engine friendly using the Apache web server's mod_rewrite command.
A Beacon of Hope for MSN
BusinessWeek, April 7, 2003
MSN is gaining audience and making money in Europe
Overture signs deal with Gator
News.com, April 4, 2003
Overture has made it official and signed a three year deal to distribute its paid listings through Gator's new SearchScout program. Those who run Gator, an application that stores passwords and form data, will be shown SearchScout results via pop-under windows when they do searches at other search engines, such as Google. Gator's system of delivering contextual ads has upset some site publishers in the past, while some users consider the software to be "scumware," claiming it gets installed unknowingly -- something Gator itself strongly denies. The main issue for Overture advertisers, however, is really one of conversion. Will the ads convert as well as those that are search-targeted? Gator and Overture say yes. It may be so, but it would be nice to see Overture offer an opt-out to advertisers who don't want contextual placement via Gator or other distribution partners, in the way that Google provides.
Search and the Buying Cycle
ClickZ, April 4, 2003
Just because your visitors aren't ready to buy today doesn't mean they are worthless. Understanding that they need to move through the buying cycle may help you better reach them for when they are ready to purchase.
Overture Jumps as Yahoo Grabs Cash
The Street, April 4, 2003
Is Yahoo assembling cash to buy Overture? No one is saying, but cash-rich Overture certainly doesn't need to be "rescued" with a buyout, write George Mannes.
Google Inks Amazon to Comprehensive Search Deal
InternetNews.com, April 3, 2003
Google's giving Amazon both web search capabilities and Google's contextual links
Call for OFT inquiry into search listing price rise
New Media Age, April 3, 2003
Overture UK upped its minimum bid in February, then fierce rival Espotting did the same. Bring in the regulatory Office Of Fair Trading, says one advertiser of Overture (and probably Espotting, but the story doesn't say). Sorry, says the OFT so far, we don't see a problem.
Microsoft Covets Google's Niche
Reuters, April 2, 2003
I couldn't help but be amazed at the fallout from the "news" that Microsoft considers Google a competitor. The company has been saying this for nearly a year now. The latest frenzy got sparked by a report that Microsoft is upping its investment in search. Sure -- but no one should think for a moment that Microsoft has been neglecting search prior to this. The MSN team diligently rolls out regular, incremental improvements to their search engine. They are very Microsoft in this way, making each release slightly better, in the way that Microsoft constantly improves its software (well, in the case of FrontPage XP, they made some terrible backwards moves, says this long-time FrontPage user).
It's interesting also to see some people posting in forums that now we've got to look out, because Microsoft has the money and know-how to build its own internal Google-killer. The same words were said back in 1997, when Microsoft first launched its own search engine (see my past article, http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2165701). Some people assumed that the game was all over then. Five years on, Microsoft remains in a very competitive market. No doubt, they're going to continue to be a huge player in the space, as they've long been. However, they are not simply going to knock aside the other large players they are up against.
Microsoft Denies Paid-Search Plans
InternetNews.com, April 2, 2003
No, says Microsoft, we aren't planning our own paid listings network to replace Overture. Investors worried about this rumor brought Overture's shares down in early April. It came out of a research note from SoundView's Jordan Rohan, who cited an interesting internal memo about Microsoft's plans to invest more in search. Microsoft spun the official word that such investment isn't aimed at paid search products.
Report: Microsoft eyes paid search
News.com, April 2, 2003
As per the story above, but the focus is more on Rohan's report, suggesting that both Yahoo and Microsoft will eventually wean themselves from Overture. Has denials from both Overture and an unnamed Microsoft source, who also says investment will be in improving and building Microsoft's own search technology.
A question of answers
The Age, April 2, 2003
Profiles those who work for Google Answers, Google's pay-for-answers service. I like the person who was "tipped" $160 for an especially good answer about the composition of shampoos.
Analyst: Jeeves to sell enterprise unit
News.com, April 2, 2003
Ask Jeeves may be getting out of the enterprise search game, according to Forrester Research.
What makes a good search engine?
ComputerUser, April 1, 2003
Q&A with Teoma's head of research and development Apostolos Gerasoulis and Steve Berkowitz, president of Teoma-owner Ask Jeeves. Focus is on Teoma's "community-oriented" approach of determining relevancy.
Overture Expanding Globally With MSN Korea
InternetNews.com, April 1, 2003
Overture will be providing paid listings to MSN Korea through December 2004.
Making Search Fun with Internet Scavenger Hunts!
About.com Web Search Guide, April 2003
Want to teach students how to search better? Why not send them on an internet scavenger hunt? Information on how these work and ways to find existing ones you can tap into.
Pay-Per-Click Strategies for Search Engine Marketers
SearchEngineBlog.com, April 2003
Three marketers share thoughts about selecting cost-per-click paid listings providers, in this fourth part of a series of articles. Follow the links at the top of the article to also read previous parts of the story, which touch on selecting keywords, balancing PPC and organic unpaid SEO.
Taxes.com wins right to criticize rival
News.com, March 31, 2003
Taxes.com wins back the right to criticize its rival J.K Harris. A court previously had granted a preliminary injunction saying that Taxes.com's use of the J.K Harris name constituted trademark infringement, as it was seen as causing Taxes.com to rank well for "J.K. Harris" in search engines. Taxes.com had used the name frequently, a key issue as why the injunction was originally granted. However, a higher court didn't find the references "gratuitous" but instead necessary to make statements about J.K. Harris.
Wall St. Frets At Google IPO Stall
New York Post, March 31, 2003
I like the investment banker quoted at the top of this story saying the technology sector really needs Google to go public. Of course, there's no compelling reason for Google itself to go public right now. There's no indication that it needs the money, and anyone at Google watching how Overture's stock gets ping-ponged about can't be looking forward to the same happening to Google. At some point, Google will need to IPO to help its investors recoup their money. But it doesn't need to rush into it now, just because Wall Street would like it.
Google, SportsLine.com Ink Search Pact
InternetNews.com, March 31, 2003
SportsLine.com is getting editorial and paid listings from Google. Oh, did I say editorial? Let me use financial analyst speak: algorithmic and paid listings.
Google Secures Scandinavian Deal
InternetNews.com, March 31, 2003
Google is to provide editorial results to Scandinavian portal Eniro.
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