The Search Engine Update, June 4, 2001, Number 102


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

+ Site News
+ Conference News
+ New MSN Search Emerges In Beta
+ AOL Search Redesigns
+ Can Portals Resist The Dark Side?
-- (full story online, link provided)
+ iWon, Go Paid Placement
+ Meta Search Or Meta Ads?
-- (full story online, link provided)
+ Lasoo Makes Geosearching Visual
-- (full story online, link provided)
+ .biz Domain Begins Preregistrations
-- (full story online, link provided)
+ Excite Kills Magellan; WebCrawler Remains
+ Alexa To Pay In Privacy Dispute
-- (full story online, link provided)
+ New Search Engine Resources
+ SearchDay Articles
+ Interesting Search Engine Articles
+ List Info (Subscribing/Unsubscribing)


Hello Everyone--

It's been one of those months, with four major services rolling out substantial changes of different types. I've been busy writing everything up in this newsletter, and I'm moving next to doing site updates right afterwards. A completely revised How AOL Search Works page should be posted by Wednesday. Toward the end of next week, a completely updated How MSN Search Works page will also be posted. Watch the Members-Only What's New page, and you'll know when these are ready.

Members-Only What's New

Password Finder

In conjunction with CyberAtlas Research, I'll be writing up the findings of a survey on search engine marketing that is being conducted. I'd love to gather your views on this subject. If you'd like to participate, just use the URL below. Everyone who participates and leaves an email address will get a free copy of the report's executive summary.

Search Engine Marketing Survey

By the way, I'm still planning on doing a different survey on search engine optimization firms that I mentioned a few issues ago. I got good feedback from people on the questions they would like asked, and I hope to set this up for July. More news when it comes


SES August Conference Agenda Available

The agenda for the next Search Engine Strategies conference is now LIVE! Coming to San Francisco on August 16th and 17th, the conference features a day devoted to search engines and promotion issues. The second day offers panels on promotion, sessions for web developers and two tracks featuring panels designed to help Internet searchers better understand how to use the search tools available to them.

Already confirmed are speakers from FAST Search, Google, GoTo, Inktomi, MSN Search and Netscape/The Open Directory. Exhibiting companies include Web Ignite, EasyAsk, WebSeed, Inceptor, Position Technologies, LexiQuest and

Those interested in sponsoring or exhibiting should contact Frank Fazio Jr,, for more information. Attendees can find the agenda or sign-up for the conference via the URL below. Do so by July 18th, in order to save up to US $200 on registration.

Search Engine Strategies: San Francisco 2001


New MSN Search Emerges In Beta

MSN Search has released a new beta version of its service that offers a number of handy features, including upgraded spell-checking, improved query refinement and integration of information from Microsoft's Encarta Enquire reference service.

Some users of MSN Search may already be encountering the new service, which went live last week, as about 5 percent of traffic to the regular site is being diverted to the beta site for testing purposes. The beta should go fully live on the regular site within the month, and many of the changes will also appear on country-specific versions of MSN Search for Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

One of the most notable changes is with spell checking. MSN Search has had "always on" spell checking for some time. However, there are occasions when users may not want their spelling changed. Because of this, MSN Search may now warn you when your spelling is being changed, allowing you to override its good intentions.

For example, search for "broccolli." You'll see that the term gets changed to "broccoli" in the results. However, you'll also discover a link under the search box that says, "Spelling Corrected! Do not correct my spelling. Search for broccolli." Be selecting that link, you can force MSN Search to run your query with the incorrect spelling.

Unfortunately, the override link doesn't always appear. For instance, an incorrect search for "geneology" is corrected and changed to "genealogy," but no option to use the incorrect spelling is offered. Of course, you probably don't want the incorrect spelling, but you do want consistent behavior with how spell checking works.

Let stay with "broccoli" to see how MSN Search's new integration of Expedia content works. In a search for the vegetable, you'll see that the first link is "Broccoli (Encyclopedia Article)" followed by an Encarta icon. Selecting the link brings you up a match from Microsoft's Encarta Enquire research service, which is primarily made up of information from the Encarta encyclopedia.

Certainly, this is Microsoft promoting its own content through its search service, but that doesn't negate the fact that it is good information. Many users will benefit by the new integration. Exploring the Encarta links, when they come up in response to relevant searches, will lead you to high-quality information.

Webmasters may notice that many Encarta articles have a "Best Web Sites" area with links to external web sites. Obviously, having your site appear here can be helpful, given the new traffic the Encarta articles are likely to receive from MSN Search.

These links are added by Encarta editors, so you'll have to suggest your site to them. At the moment, the best option is to use the Encarta Online Support Form (link below). I would be sure to note that your suggestion is regarding the Encarta Site (versus the CD-Rom), and note the name of the article and its URL that you want to be listed on. Then, succinctly explain why your site would be appropriate as a Best Web Sites link. Don't forget to provide your own site's title and URL.

Branching out from broccoli, let's next try a search for "vegetables," to explore how query refinement has changed at MSN Search. In response to that search, you'll find a section under the search box on the results page called "POPULAR 'vegetables' TOPICS." In this area are links, designed to help you narrow in more specifically on a particular topic. They are similar to links that appeared in this area before, but one of the main changes is that you'll now see the links more often.

"I think a number of people will find that this is a good way to zoom in," said Bill Bliss, general manager of MSN Search.

For instance, the "vegetables (food)" link brings up matches that are relevant to vegetables as something to eat, while "vegetable gardening (gardening)" link changes your search to bring back sites relevant about gardening. In both of those examples, the query in the search box will stay as "vegetable." However, behind the scenes, the link you chose transmitted other information that helped you get a more refined list relevant to the topic selected.

Don't misinterpret these popular topics as corresponding to particular categories at LookSmart. Instead, selecting a topic simply reruns your search to pull back matches from across information the entire LookSmart database that MSN Search uses, as happens with a regular search at MSN Search. LookSmart information remains displayed under the "Web Directory Sites" heading, and Inkomi's crawler-based results appear for more unusual or obscure queries, under the "Web Pages" heading.

Also be aware that it remains true that for any query on MSN Search, its editors may have hand-picked good sites to come up well at the top of some results. They may even have rewritten the site's description, which is why you may find your site has a different description that what appears at LookSmart itself. That's also a good sign, as it means you've probably been hand-picked as a good response to a particular query.

While Popular Topics are intended to narrow users into a particular direction, new "Broaden Your Search" links that may appear at the bottom of results are intended to help you look more widely in new directions.

For instance, in a search for "vegetables," a Broaden Your Search link called "Vegetables > Guides & Directories" appears. Selecting the "Guides & Directories" part of the link takes you to a categorized list of sites called that comes from LookSmart. You can then use the "breadcrumb" trail highlighted in yellow at the top of the page to work your way up the category levels to see the broader topics that are available.

In other changes, MSN Search has added new support for queries about movies. For example, a search for "Shrek" brings up a synopsis of the movie and the ability to view its trailer. You'll find similar presentation for other movies.

Those in East Asian countries will also find that the sorting of sites within directory categories at MSN Search has been improved. Since some languages like Japanese lack a concept of alphabetical order, the results were essentially listed randomly, MSN Search says. Now you should find more popular sites appearing at the top.

MSN Search Beta

MSN Search

Excite Gets Search Refinement Feature, Paid Listings Coming
The Search Engine Report, April 2, 2001

Past article that covers the state of spell checking offered by several major search engines.

Encarta Online Support Form

Use this form to suggest sites to Encarta.


AOL Search Redesigns

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.

AOL Search

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

Password Finder


Can Portals Resist The Dark Side?

The battle now raging over profits in the search space may not be as dramatic as the Star Wars epic, but there's definitely an element of the Dark Side as two more search engines -- iWon and -- have shifted over to using paid placement listings. Will other search engines follow this trend, which was begun by earlier this year? The full article is below.

Can Portals Resist The Dark Side?
The Search Engine Report, June 4, 2001


iWon, Go Paid Placement

Two more portals -- iWon and -- have switched over to using paid placement listings, following a similar move that made in March.

Previously, iWon had provided access to mixture of search results. Crawler-based information from Inktomi, human-compiled results from LookSmart and "popularity" results from Direct Hit were all presented on its results page. Now searches simply bring up paid listings from, euphemistically called "Partner Search Results." The switch occurred in mid-May.

The changeover is sad because iWon had been working to distinguish itself as a viable search alternative for those dissatisfied with other portals. Indeed, it has been seeking to trademark the motto "Best Search On The Web." Perhaps that application should now be amended to, "Best Search On The Web, Which You Can Also Find At GoTo Or Many Of GoTo's Partners."

iWon says that the move is temporary, part of its regular testing to see what users like and dislike.

"From time to time, we change around the format of sections of the site and then survey the users to get their feedback. This is what you are currently seeing with our search. The users have given us some great feedback over the past couple of weeks, and we are going to be reformatting the section again. It will probably be more like the search format we used to have," said Erica Bates, director of public relations for iWon.

Personally, I suspect that if many users don't have a problem with the current results, then the revenue-generating format will likely stay. That's also fine, if you are a current iWon user and like what you are getting. However, if you feel the quality of results has dropped over the past weeks, the switch to paid placement results is probably to blame. Register your dissatisfaction with iWon or seek another search engine.

Information from iWon's other search partners does remain available, but users have to go out of their way to reach these results. Instead, if you want access to LookSmart and Inktomi information, consider another look at the just improved MSN Search.

By the way, the current changeover also means iWon loses the key distinction it offered over other search sites. Previously, any link you selected from the main search results gave you points for winning the prizes iWon offers. However, iWon no longer does this.

From a webmaster point of view, the iWon changeover is good news for those with paid listings at The new emphasis on GoTo results means GoTo advertisers will probably see even more traffic coming their way.

Along with the good comes the bad, primarily for those who listed well with Inktomi. Inktomi has been ousted as the main provider of iWon's results, meaning you'll likely only encounter Inktomi listings if doing a search for unusual or obscure terms. That means those who were doing well for popular terms with Inktomi can expect a fall in traffic from iWon.

Similarly, usage of LookSmart information has also been downplayed. Category links no longer have a prominent place in the main results, so traffic to LookSmart listings is likely to plunge.

If the change at iWon is sad, the switch has made is absurd. Previously, depended primarily on crawler-based results from Inktomi. It also had an option that allowed you to narrow the results so that they were more oriented toward Canadian web sites.

In mid-May, began using meta search results from Dogpile. As Dogpile makes heavy use of paid listing search engines, this has essentially turned into a paid placement service. Of the 35 listings you'll receive on the first page of's results, 30 of them -- 86 percent -- are paid listings.

In addition, there's no ability to narrow listings to Canadian-specific sites. Regionalization options aren't always perfect, but they are nice to have, especially when doing a search for something that isn't inherently regional.

For instance, I tried a search for "auto insurance" at The results that came back seemed oriented towards those seeking auto insurance in the United States. That's not surprising, given that the vast majority of advertisers on the paid placement services that Dogpile lists are based in the United States.

Ideally, an option to limit results to Canadian information would get me sites specific to Canadian auto insurance. Google just launched a new Canadian edition, and it has such a limiting option next to the search box, on its home page. Unfortunately, the results there didn't feel any more Canadian. Nor did the results from AOL Search Canada. At Excite Canada, it failed to filter to Canadian web sites even though I selected the option on its home page. Instead, I had to choose the "Canadian Sites" link at the top of the results page -- nor were the results that impressive.

I did find the listings at AltaVista Canada, MSN Search Canada and Yahoo Canada to be more hopeful. They certainly felt better than those at, so consider these as alternative options. However, even the other Canadian search engines I named should be considered. After all, I only tried one test query. You might find them to be much better for other searches. At the very least, they are all making more of an effort to present Canadian results than You'll find links to all of these services below.

The change is also more bad news for those scoring well with Inktomi, as those results are gone. LookSmart information remains available to those who browse from the home page. However, as most people generally prefer to do keyword searching rather than browsing, this means the LookSmart representation isn't as important.

Best advice to appear at Purchase links with GoTo, FindWhat or Sprinks, since those are all represented on the first page of results. Also be aware that with any of these services, you will be unable to limit your appearance to just That means, unfortunately, you'll end up paying to target both the US and Canadian markets.

If Canada is really important to you, consider instead getting listed on some of the other Canadian search engines that I've mentioned. In general, the key tips here are to have your pages hosted on a Canadian domain and to submit to each of the Canadian editions listed. See the More About Countries and Languages page below, for further advice.

Google also reports that in addition to looking at domains, it also checks on the location of IP addresses. So, if your web site is hosted at an IP in Canada, it could potentially be considered Canadian even if it uses a .com domain.


Google Canada

Canadian Search Engines

More About Countries and Languages

Password Finder

iWon Less But At Least More Often, May 2, 2001,,12_757371,00.html

There will be more winners, but less paid out, as iWon tightens up on its cash payouts.


Meta Search Or Meta Ads?

A review of meta search services by Search Engine Watch shows that some are providing results where more than half of their listings are paid links. A guide to what's paid, what's not and how to get the most from your meta search service, can be found via the URL below:

Meta Search Or Meta Ads?, May 23, 2001


Lasoo Makes Geosearching Visual

We've had "geosearching" available through Northern Light for over a year, but it's moving to a new level with the recent launch of Lasoo, which lets gives you geovisual results. Geovisual? Imagine if your search results were overlaid upon a map. It would be a useful view to have for geographically-related searches. Find out more about Lasoo via the review below:

Lasoo Makes Geosearching Visual
The Search Engine Report, June 4, 2001


.biz Domain Begins Preregistrations

The first of the new top level domains is open for business, sort of. Trademark holders can now officially lay claim to a .biz domain. But just to be confusing, registering a claim doesn't guarantee that you will get the domain name of your choice. The article below takes you through what's happening, if you are interested in getting one of these new domains. Search engines should have no problems accessing them.

.biz Domain Begins Preregistrations
The Search Engine Update, June 4, 2001

Password Finder


Excite Kills Magellan; WebCrawler Remains

Excite@Home's Magellan search service, long abandoned by users and Excite itself, was finally put out of its misery and quietly closed about two months ago.

Magellan was once a contender in the web-wide search space. Back in 1995 and 1996, it was counted among the major players, a primarily-human powered directory to the web.

Excite acquired the service in July 1996, then later went on to acquire WebCrawler in November of that year. That gave the company three major search engines, in all, and Magellan quickly became the neglected sibling among the lot. In recent years, Magellan has essentially had Excite's search results, albeit with a different look and feel.

With hardly anyone going to the site any longer, Excite@Home decided to close the service in April. Users trying to reach the former site are now directed to

"Usage of Magellan has decreased considerably over time. The total page views accounted for less than 0.5 percent of our total search traffic. We felt it no longer made sense to continue to operate Magellan as a separate service, and that we could offer our users a better experience by redirecting them to Excite," said Lynne Mariani Pogue, who oversees search for Excite@Home.

Why not kill WebCrawler, which itself has been neglected in past years?

"WebCrawler is a different story. While WebCrawler's traffic is less than Excite's, it is still significant and contributes to our network page views and reach. Search is the most frequently used feature of WebCrawler, and we are in the process of redesigning the site to make it more search and directory oriented," Pogue said.

Be aware that while the look and feel of WebCrawler may be different, but the search results are exactly the same as from Excite. For webmasters, that means if you are listed with Excite, you'll also be showing up at WebCrawler.

By the way, Excite itself is undergoing some relevancy improvements this month, so you may see some changes over in the coming weeks. I'll be looking more closely at these, when work has concluded and the final release is in place.



This is where Magellan used to live -- now it just leads back to Excite.



Alexa To Pay In Privacy Dispute

Are you an Alexa user? Then you might be entitled to receive up to US $40 in a proposed settlement that the company has made over privacy issues. Find out more details in the story below:

Alexa To Pay In Privacy Dispute
The Search Engine Report, June 4, 2001

Search Engine Resources

Relatively new paid placement search engine notable for its distribution partnerships via Dogpile and Dogpile-powered services. There are no unpaid results, though some may be added in early July.


With the holidays coming up and summer trips about to begin, you might want to prepare for your journey by checking out this travel search engine that lets you locate information about destinations.

SearchDay Articles

Here are some recent articles that may be of interest from Search Engine Watch's daily SearchDay newsletter:

+ Hitting the Links at Researchville: Covers a hybrid search site that allows you to enter your query once and sets you up to get results from over 650 sites, including more than 550 newspapers.

+ Search Engine Scuttlebutt: What's going on over at AltaVista? Is HotBot's add URL function dead? How does Yahoo's search algorithm work? These are just a few of the topics of discussion going on at the Search Engine Forums site -- a great place to follow the scuttlebutt attending your favorite web search tools.

+ Fine Art, Fine ADAM: Covers is a searchable catalog of more than 2,500 top-notch fine art net resources that have been carefully selected and cataloged with extensive use of Dublin Core metadata, resulting in spot-on searches virtually every time.

+ Scirus - A New Science Search Engine: Combining a targeted crawler from FAST that focuses only on web sites with scientific content, with Elsevier's massive scientific information resources drawn from thousands of journals and books, Scirus is a hybrid search engine that's useful to amateur and professional alike.

You can find all of these articles and more via the archives page, below. You can also sign-up for SearchDay on that page to get more articles like these during the workweek, along with search engine headlines from across the web.

SearchDay Archives

Search Engine Articles

Make Friends With Competing Search Engine Links
ClickZ, May 24, 2001

This is the core to success with building links in a way that helps with search engines. Find sites that do well for terms you are interested in, which are non-competitive to you, and swap links.


Ask Jeeves Snaps Up eTour, May 22, 2001,,12_770961,00.html

Ask Jeeves has acquired the eTour service, which it apparently sees as a way to extend its advertising reach into email, as well as apparently fees for sending users to sites affiliated with eTour.


Can I Get a Keyword? Web Search Guide, May 21, 2001

Overview on tips, tools and techniques for researching search terms. Beware of the ninth tip, however. Most search engines do not automatically recognize stemming. Use the form you expect most people will be using. But remember -- you have many pages in your web site, so make different pages work for different terms.


Lycos Asia Spends US$2.2m On Campaign For Enhanced Search Engine, May 18, 2001,,6_768611,00.html

Lycos is spreading the word in Asia that its sites there now all feature locally-compiled directories, Asia-wide directory information and crawler-based results from FAST.


SEO Grab Bag
ClickZ, May 16, 2001

It's only been over the past year that I've felt the phrase "search engine optimization" or the acronym "SEO" has begun to mean anything to those outside the immediate industry. Indeed, it has become common enough that it is arguably now the preferred term for those who wish to talk about the activity of gaining traffic from search engines. In this article, Paul Bruemmer suggests that these terms are on the way out, with "search engine positioning" and "SEP" now taking over as the preferred terms. I respectfully disagree.

A check on top searches at GoTo shows that "search engine optimization" remains the most popular way to describe search engine marketing. "Search engine positioning" is also popular, but it is not the leader. Moreover, going back into my records from mid-1999, search engine optimization was well down on the list, far behind the popular choices of "search engine registration" and "search engine submission." Clearly, SEO has risen to become common-place.

In an industry that already has so much conflicting jargon, I think it helps not to bring in yet more terms. Now that SEO is known and out there, I'd say we should stick with it. Also in the article, a recap of top search engines and an overview of software solutions and pricing models, if you outsource.

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