THE SEARCH ENGINE UPDATE
July 17, 1998 - Number 33
Editor, Search Engine Watch
About The Update
The Search Engine Update is a twice-monthly update of search engine news. It is available only to those people who have subscribed to Search Engine Watch, http://searchenginewatch.com/.
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In This Issue
It's been a nice, quiet month so far -- a welcome respite, and one I'm using to continue with site updates. I expect to have revised pages within the subscribers area posted around August 1, along with an updated version of the downloadable edition of the guide.
FYI, the Search Engine Update has now moved to a new mail server, but most of you shouldn't notice the change. There are different instructions if you wish to unsubscribe, and these are at the end of the newsletter.
In the main site, the Company Name Test results have now been updated. These show how well search engines respond to a search for a company name or web site. Excite was the big winner this time for search engines, while Yahoo came out on top against other directories.
The MetaCrawler Top Search Terms page has also been updated with June 1998 terms.
Company Name Test
MetaCrawler Top Search Terms
Search Engine News
A number of people have noticed that Yahoo's Inktomi-powered web results are different from those that appear when the same search is performed at Inktomi-powered HotBot. Likewise, some minor differences also appear at other services where Inktomi provides results.
HotBot was the first Inktomi-powered service, and so that's the benchmark most people are using to compare the Inktomi results on other services. It pulls its results from the Inktomi database in California.
In contrast, Yahoo is pulling its results from a new database that Inktomi has been building in Virginia, according to Inktomi marketing director Kevin Brown.
These results appear after matches from Yahoo's own listings, or if a search is performed and the "Web Pages" link at the top of the results page is then selected.
The Virginia database is roughly half the size of the California database, which is why Yahoo's web searches often yield a smaller number of matches than at HotBot. It was decided to use the Virginia database for Yahoo temporarily, in order to satisfy the huge traffic demands of the popular service without impacting Inktomi's other partners, Brown said.
The database will be expanded over the coming months until it is a mirror of the California index. Then Inktomi will spread queries from all its partners across both databases, in order to balance the load, Brown said.
Even when this happens, there are still likely to be differences between results at the various Inktomi-powered services. This is because Inktomi gives its partners the ability to make various tweaks and changes to the way results are ranked, a crucial part of marketing the same database to competing companies, Brown said.
A good example is at GoTo.com. Its Inktomi results, which come below paid listings, look identical to HotBot's with one important exception: only one page per web site makes it into the top results at GoTo.
This is similar to the clustering feature at Infoseek, where matching pages in the top results are grouped together and only the best page is presented. It allows more web sites to have a shot at the top 10 -- or the top 40, in GoTo's case.
At Snap, you may notice that multiword queries bring back more results than at HotBot. This is because Snap performs a broader "match any word" search, while HotBot performs a "match all words" search. Changing HotBot's settings to "match any" brings the count up to Snap's level, though top results usually remain the same.
As with Yahoo, results from Inktomi appear after Snap's own listings. However, you can also query the Inktomi database directly from Snap's advanced search page.
Overall, it's best to remember that each service that Inktomi powers is distinct, even though they use the same core database. Brown says that over time, the services may grow even more distinct, as different features are enabled. Inktomi also plans to segment its database, which will produce differences.
For example, a portion of the database might contain pages only from high-quality web sites. One partner may decide to use just this segment, which would be cheaper than querying the entire database. Another partner may decide they want to be comprehensive and so tap into the entire database each time.
As a reminder to webmasters, the best way to ensure you are listed within Inktomi's database is to submit to HotBot. Just keep in mind that this is not a guarantee you'll appear in Yahoo or elsewhere, or that your rank at HotBot will be the same as elsewhere.
Snap Advanced Search
AltaVista Canada has expanded its Canadian index to more than 14 million web pages, it was announced July 13.
The service launched in January and operates two indexes: a worldwide one, which is a mirror version of the AltaVista index, and a Canadian index, which is created through a custom crawl of Canadian web sites.
The service has a system that automatically finds Canadian web sites, even if they are hosted under non-Canadian domains, such as .com or .org. AltaVista Canada manager Sandro Berardocco declined to specify how exactly this is done, but he said it is effectively finding Canadian sites that would otherwise be missed if only sites in the .ca Canadian domain were crawled.
In contrast, the recently launched Canada.com service, which is powered by Inktomi, relies on domain filtering in order to produce Canada-specific results. When enabled, only sites from within the .ca domain are listed. In a worldwide search, any Canadian sites are noted with a Canadian flag icon.
There is no way to submit a site to AltaVista Canada. If your site isn't listed, the service suggests notifying it via email. A long-term solution is to register a .ca domain, which are free from the Canadian government, Berardocco said.
AltaVista Canada produced locally by Telus Advertising Services, a subsidiary of the Edmonton-based Telus Corporation, Canada's third largest telecommunications company. The subsidiary also publishes phone directories and provides other informational services, targeted primarily at Alberta businesses.
Canadians and those visiting Canada may also find Alcanseek of interest. It is a directory of Alaska and Canada-related web sites created in May 1997 and recently relaunched.
WebPosition is already an outstanding software tool for checking positions within search engines, but now the package is being taken a step further with the addition of page creation, submission and tracking features.
The various tools are bundled into a suite called WebPosition Gold, which will be available in full release on August 30. However, a beta version is available for download now, via the link below.
The page creation tools will probably be of interest to most people initially, especially with the marketing pitch of a guaranteed top ten ranking and a product press release that talks of "backwards engineering" search engine algorithms.
The product is heavily in beta, and the Page Generator tool isn't working completely in my version. But the key thing is that it won't magically create top ranking pages for you. Instead, it is really designed to help guide people through the many rules that can help improve a page's position.
Rather than a backward engineering attempt, it is more a knowledge base. When finished, it will probably be most useful to novices getting started with web site promotion, helping them build new pages or enhance existing ones to be more search engine friendly.
The Page Critic also is in very rough form, but this is a tool designed more for the experienced promoter. It will analyze a page against known rules for different search engines, and it also allows comparison of a page against other, high-ranking pages.
The rules come from a database on WebPosition's end, where the company is constantly analyzing top pages for various terms, especially those in non-competitive categories, in order to avoid bait-and-switch pages.
The Upload Manager allows pages that have been created or modified to be sent to a web server. Once there, the Submitter submits the pages to the major search engines. It is also designed to warn if a person tries to submit more pages than a search engine allows.
While most people will probably buy the product for the promises of the Page Generator, it is the Traffic Analyzer that will probably be the most valuable new addition to the package. It quickly adds code to web pages, so that referrer data can be tracked.
I'm continually amazed at how many web sites lack access to this crucial information. Referrer information shows the exact links people use to reach a web site, and it can also be analyzed to extract the exact terms used to find a site in a search engine. Marketing without it is like flying blind.
Many people fixate on guessing how their site is being found. Seeing the exact terms will help them better realize when they are being successful for terms they aren't anticipating. It will also stop them from messing with pages that work.
The system is fairly straight-forward. The code causes a tiny GIF file to load from WebPosition's servers. This is enough to cause referrer data to be recorded. It won't work for those visiting with graphics off, but this is a relatively minor problem. It is certainly better than having no log data at all.
Of course, the original part of WebPosition remains, now called The Reporter. This allows you to check your position on the various search engines and features some enhancements that make the tool even better.
Now there is the ability to see all pages that match a term in the summary report, not just the top ranked one. This can also be toggled back to the old style, if desired. You can also export data for any date range without having to rerun a report, an improvement that should be well received.
So what about that top ten ranking guarantee? Actually, it's really an unconditional guarantee that those using the product will be happy, though First Place Software president Brent Winters believes it will help people rank better.
"With all the different methods of analyzing a page, I think they be able to rank well on some keyword phrases," he said. "If they can't get into the top ten for any of their phrases and keywords and feel they got no benefit from the program, than we want to refund their money."
So don't expect WebPosition Gold to put you at the top for "sex" and other popular terms. But chances are, professionals and novices alike will find it a valuable tool, when the final release it ready.
Introductory pricing is $99 for the 10 domain standard version and $199 for the unlimited pro version. Existing users can upgrade for $20 off the prices above. The product is available for purchase now, with a free upgrade to the final version, when ready.
URL Checking Services
A list of other popular position checking services.
Keywords Used To Find Your Web Site
Don't know what a log file shows. Discover how it can magically shows the terms used to find your site.
Search Engine Notes
Netscape Smart Browsing Available
Netscape Communicator 4.5, which has much discussed "smart browsing" features to aid searchers, is now available for download as a beta release.
Netscape Communicator 4.5 Download
Smart Browsers Ease Searching
The Search Engine Report, July 1, 1998
Explains how Smart Browsing works.
Excite Edges Out Others In USA Today Poll
Excite came out on top in a recent IntelliQuest survey conducted for USA Today. Survey participants asked to rank Excite, Yahoo and Infoseek on in terms of entertainment, content, appeal and ease-of-use. Overall scores were as follows:
Excite: 89 percent
Yahoo: 87 percent
Infoseek: 84 percent
The results were featured in the July 1 issue of USA Today. The survey polled 300 people drawn from the Intelliquest technology panel of 30,000.
SearchUK Adds Explore Feature
SearchUK, a search engine for the United Kingdom, has added a feature that lets users see all the pages from within a particular web site. Called "Explore," it appears as a small icon next to each listing in the search results. Clicking on the icon causes all the URLs from the particular site to be displayed.
New Submission and Checking Service Launched
Green Flash Systems has introduced a suite of position checking and submission services, available on a subscription basis. "Outpost" is a position checking service that scans for a site's appearance within the top 100 search results on the major search engines, for up to ten search terms. Reports are run daily and delivered via email. "Top Ten Results" is a daily email alert service that flags new pages appearing in the top results. "Hitman" is a submission service that resubmits the top 100 pages that appear for targeted phrases, in an attempt to weed out dead or bait-and-switch pages. Resubmissions are done quarterly. The services come as a bundle and are priced at $695 per year.
Green Flash System - Service Information
Search Engine Articles
Going Portal in Europe
NY Times, July 14, 1998
Discusses how old media is behind many of the top portal contenders in Europe, as opposed to new media companies that dominate them in the US. The Jupiter Communications-provided chart will please those who've been looking for stats about top search and navigation sites in Europe.
Inktomi searches for Net profits in Europe
BBC, July 10, 1998
Interview with Inktomi chief scientist Eric Brewer, focusing mostly on Inktomi's search technology.
Can AltaVista stand alone?
ZD Net, July 9, 1998
Should Compaq spin-off AltaVista to cash in on portalmania? Some analysts quotes.
One on One with Yahoo
Wired, July 9, 1998
Short interview with COO Jeff Mallett, on Yahoo's current high valuation and ability to compete in the face of new and renewed competition.
Yahoo pioneers say work's the thing
USA Today, July 2, 1998
They're worth millions now, but the Yahoos keep working along as normal.
Whatever happened to MSN?
News.com, July 1, 1998
With all the talk about Microsoft Start, what's the deal with MSN? Looks like it's to become just an access service, over the long-haul.
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