The Search Engine Update - Number 149
By Danny Sullivan, Editor
May 21, 2003
In This Issue
+ Search Engine Watch News
+ Search Engine Strategies Coming To London, San Jose
+ Reader Q&A: May 2003
+ Search Engine Resources
+ SearchDay Articles
+ Search Engine Articles
+ About The Search Engine Update
Search Engine Watch News
I've just come back from a trip back to California, where I caught up with folks at Google, Yahoo and Overture. I'll be bringing you news from all these places in the next newsletter, once I've recovered from jet lag. In the meantime, there's plenty to keep you busy with the usual recap of search engine news below. I've also been working through reader feedback, and answers to some questions that have come in can be found in the Reader Q&A feature, below.
As for changes to the site, I've created a new More About Search Engine Advertising page. This page is a compilation of links to articles that focus primarily on getting more out of paid listings. Many of these articles were previously on the More About Search Engine Optimization page, but as they've grown so much, a new page was warranted. You'll find it via the URL below:
More About Search Engine Advertising
Search Engine Strategies London is only two weeks away, coming to England on June 3-4. The conference focuses on search engine marketing tactics and issues, featuring sessions about improving both editorial and paid listings on search engines.
Leading sessions will be experts in search engine marketing, as well as confirmed search engine speakers from AllTheWeb, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, BBCi Search, Espotting, Google, Inktomi, LookSmart, Lycos Europe, Overture and Yahoo.
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
Reader Q&A: May 2003
Among other things, readers have recently asked me:
+ Is it better to have a homepage that is static or is it OK to have a homepage that contains product offerings that change periodically?
+ A newspaper article ranking well on Google is destroying my practice. Can I overwhelm its ranking?
+ I got my site added to the Yahoo directory but it refuses to show up in the search results. Why does it?
+ I saw a product called which is supposed to protect my web site content from being copied. It looks good, but I'm concerned that it will affect search engine rankings.
+ How do I get a little icon to appear when people add my site to their favorites list, in the way Search Engine Watch does?
+ How Google does figure out the clickthrough rate of an ad? Also, why doesn't Google allow for cigarette ads?
+ Our domain was sold accidentally to someone else. How do I let search engines know of this error?
+ What do you think of meta robot tags? Are they crucial for getting your site indexed in the top search engines, such as Google?
+ Are multisubmit services really helping me or overcharging?
Answers to these questions, as best I can provide, can be found via the article below:
Reader Q&A: May 2003
The Search Engine Update, May 21, 2003
Search Engine Resources
GoogleGuy is a Google employee who regularly participates in the WebmasterWorld.com forum. Yes, he really does work for Google. His proclamations at WebmasterWorld have become gospel to many. This new site is designed to help you easily find his past sermons on many topics, which can easily be lost in the noise of some threads. Unfortunately, there's some debate in the WebmasterWorld Supporters Forum over whether it is legal for this site to have compiled GoogleGuy's utterances like this. You can read the debate here, http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum78/1257.htm, if you are a forum supporter, which I recommend. You have access to high quality and less noisy threads, plus you help support this great resource. Given the controversy, it may be that GoogleGuy's compiled teachings will eventually be removed. If so, one alternative is to view his profile, http://www.webmasterworld.com/viewprofile.cgi?action=view&member=GoogleGuy, which shows recent postings. Unfortunately, you'll need to then dig through the actual forum threads to see what's been said. A better, long-term solution might be for WebmasterWorld itself to produce its own compilation of GoogleGuy's posts, as done with this thread about GoogleGuy comments on the current Google index update: http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum3/13088.htm
Papers Written By Googlers
Nice item spotted from Search Engine Guide (http://searchengineguide.com), this page lists research papers written by those working for Google. Happy reading!
Search Engine Flash Viewer
Want to see how search engines interact with your Flash files? The tool purports to show you what HTML they are able to see.
This tool installs into your browser and then shows information related to the page you are viewing. It's billed as "contextual search," but I'd call it more a discovery tool along the lines of the Alexa toolbar, http://download.alexa.com/. In other words, you don't search using it, but you may discover new sites related to those you like. It will suggest directory categories and actual web sites from the Open Directory that are deemed related to the page you are viewing. So, if you are listed in the Open Directory, you may show up in front of those using this tool. "Elite" listings get you a guaranteed placement -- these come from being the top bidder with FindWhat. More on regular and elite listings can be found at http://www.ucmore.com/services1.htm. The tool also claims not to be spyware, http://www.ucmore.com/product5.htm, but content owners may not be happy to have it suggesting other sites to their visitors. Similar criticisms have been levied against Alexa, in the past.
Cam Balzer has been a popular speaker at the "Doing It In House" session we've had several times at the Search Engine Strategies conference, which focuses on how to handle search engine marketing as an internal activity. Now he's launched this new site designed to provide more advice about doing SEM from within a company. The site is still growing, so in-house specific content at the moment is fairly sparse. However, it's worth a visit by anyone in-house or not, for some of the interesting content in the Tips & Tricks section, including a nice article on using CSS as a replacement for tables.
The Domain Purity Test
Here's a great Google Hack from Google Hacks coauthor Tara Calishain. Enter a domain name, and the test will find the first 50 pages for that domain listed by Google. It will then do the same thing using the Google SafeSearch filter. Both results are compared to see how pure your domain is. If you have 10 or less "bad" URLs, these will be listed. Interestingly, I checked playboy.com and found the site was considered 30 percent pure. Well, maybe Google only reads the articles. You'll need your own Google API key to use the test. Don't be afraid -- follow the link on the form to reach Google, fill out the Google API request form and you'll get a simple code you can enter into the box.
Documentation of Gator Advertisements and Targeting
This literally came in moments before I filed, so I've yet to look at it in-depth. From Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, the site is designed to explain how Gator targets ads against specific web sites and allows for online testing of what ads appear without having to install the Gator software.
Here are some recent articles that may be of interest, from Search Engine Watch's daily SearchDay newsletter:
Behind the Scenes at the Daypop Search Engine
SearchDay, May 21, 2003
Daypop is a unique search engine, for a number of reasons. It's primary focus is on weblogs, news sites and other sources for current events and breaking news -- currently scouring more than 35,000 of these sources.
Virtually Attending the 12th W3C Conference
SearchDay, May 20, 2003
The Twelfth International World Wide Web Conference begins today in Budapest Hungary. Can't make it? Many of the conference proceedings and papers are already online.
Help Test the Wondir Search Engine
SearchDay, May 19, 2003
Wondir, a unique and powerful new search service, needs your help during a concentrated beta test of its system.
Paid Placement Alternatives to Overture and Google
SearchDay, May 15, 2003
In an online advertising world dominated by 900-pound gorillas Overture and Google AdWords, what do second-tier pay-for-placement engines such as Ah-Ha, FindWhat and Search123 bring to the party?
How to Succeed as an Information Professional
SearchDay, May 14, 2003
Ever dreamed of being paid to search? A new book provides a comprehensive roadmap for turning your dream of being a professional searcher into a successful reality.
Managing a Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing Campaign
SearchDay, May 13, 2003
How do you choose a firm to manage your pay-per-click (PPC) search engine marketing campaign? The CEOs of four well-known search marketing firms offered valuable insights and tips on making the choice.
The World of Google
SearchDay, May 12, 2003
Puzzled by PageRank? Dying to be invited to the 'Google Dance?' A new directory features links to hundreds of resources covering all aspects of the world according to Google.
Web Marketing Pioneer Jim Wilson Dies
SearchDay, May 09, 2003
Founder of one of the web's oldest search engine communities Jim Wilson has died after a battle with heart disease.
Search Engine Marketing and Branding
SearchDay, May 8, 2003
Search engines are recognized as one of the best ways to generate qualified leads online. Should search engine marketing be considered as part of a brand-building campaign? Search Engine Watch members should follow the link at the top of the story to the member-only version of this article.
The Google Alphabet
SearchDay, May 7, 2003
What happens when you type a single letter -- whether accidentally or intentionally -- into Google? The Google alphabet shows the first result you get (in English) for each letter.
Want to receive SearchDay? Sign-up for the free daily newsletter from Search Engine Watch via the link below:
Search Engine Articles
PC World, June 2003
Article has 25 tips on using Google in ways you might not know about.
Search Engine Consolidation Ending: Report
Web Host News, May 20, 2003
The Yankee Group has issued a new report declaring that the web search market has reached a final consolidation to three major players, Yahoo, Overture and Google. Seems a bit premature. MSN is a search powerhouse that by rights needs to be counted as a fourth player. Of course, MSN lacks its own in-house search technology. It seems likely the company will rectify this situation by building internally or perhaps purchasing. And if it purchases, either LookSmart or Ask Jeeves would make easy targets -- so there may still be some consolidation to come.
Lycos, Bizrate Launch Shopping Site
InternetNews.com, May 19, 2003
Lycos has launched a new online shopping site, powered by BizRate.
The blog clog myth
The Guardian, May 19, 2003
Consider it Googlebombing Part II, Googlebombing being the idea that emerged last year that blogs can put anything they want into Google's top results through their ability to link. Absolutely, blogs have power. But they still do not remain all powerful about what Google may or may not list. Nevertheless, this perception persists among some bloggers and blog critics. This article recounts a recent panic among bloggers who fear their content may be removed from Google because they add too much "noise" to the results. That was inspired by a Register article speculating on a Reuters report that Google was going to launch a new blog-specific search engine. If so, the Register suggested that blog content would be pulled from the main web search index. Google has given no indication at all that this would happen, nor would I even expect it to happen. In addition, Google told me last week that there's no particular timeframe for when a blog-specific search feature will appear. It's something the company expects to emerge eventually but not necessarily in the near future.
Yahoo Kicks Off Wide-Ranging Search Campaign
InternetNews.com, May 19, 2003
Northern Light, now defunct, was the last search engine to run search-specific television ads back in 2000. Now search returns to TV as part of a new advertising campaign to be run by Yahoo. Ads are coming to billboards and the internet, also. Those interested in past TV moves by search engines should see the Promoting Search Engines page, http://www.searchenginewatch.com/_subscribers/factfiles/article.php/2152861. For Search Engine Watch members, it is a compilation of articles about how search engines have promoted themselves to the public, in the past.
As Google Goes, So Goes the Nation
New York Times, May 18, 2003
I never got to the entire "Googlewashing" debate last newsletter, so here's a good summary of what happened. A Feb. 17 New York Times article used the phrase "second superpower" as a reference to world public opinion. Over a month later, Harvard fellow and blogger James F. Moore used the same phrase to refer to the internet's "shared collective mind." The New York Times article is apparently no longer on the web (and hence inaccessible to Google) while Moore's blog entry is. Moore's blog entry also gained links from many bloggers pointing to it, helping create the impression that Moore's reference was first or perhaps the most popular. The article then goes on to examine whether this is a good or bad thing, when for relatively specific and unusual queries, popularity among one particular group might make that particular group's "view" in the dominant one search results.
Search engine secrets revealed
BBC, May 18, 2003
After studying over 600 user queries, Penn State University researchers advise that the best strategy is to become familiar with one search engine and use its more advanced features to restructure your queries, rather than try other search engines. I haven't read the study myself yet, but I still wouldn't discount the value of trying other search engines.
Search Results Clogged by Blogs
Wired, May 16, 2003
Sounds terrible. Blogs are clogging up search results, apparently making it hard to find information. But from a close reading of the story, it ain't necessarily so. For example, one blogger found he was getting clicks from Google for "birthday card special agent," not exactly a popular search topic. Other examples also seem to be fairly specific queries where blogs find it "easy" to rise. Of course, non-blog pages also rise for both specific and popular queries, as well -- often just as easily. As for one of the two "secrets" to blog success, the "freshness" of information is NOT something that search engines take into account for ranking pages. If that were the case, search engine results would be flooded with spam from those who simply repost material to get a freshness boost. As for the other secret, links, that is very much is something that helps blogs overcome other problems that might otherwise bury them in search engine results (described more in my recent article, Loving Each Other More: Search Engines & Blogs, http://www.searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2175261). Fredrick Marckini, quoted in this story, says it exactly right. It's not that blog content gets a free ride in search engines. It's good content that gets rewarded in general, blog or not.
Knock, Knock -- Yahooligans! There
eMarketer, May 16, 2003
Yahooligans, Yahoo's web property for children, says its third most popular feature is its human-edited list of kid-safe web sites.
Why Try to Out-Google Google?
O'Reilly Network, May 16, 2003
Why is every search engine trying to out-google Google? Because Google has a massive audience that's worth millions in paid listings revenues. But can they do it by simply imitating the current Google? No, says Google Hacks coauthor Tara Calishain. Google's a moving target, so the search engines that seek to compete with Google need to look ahead.
How to do this? None of the suggestions offered are necessarily that compelling to me as a way to get the average searchers that have turned Google into a synonym for search. RSS feeds are wonderful but still seem far from how the typical person gets their web information. The Google API has done a huge amount to make Google popular among the influential web tech community, but it's hard to say that Google wouldn't be as popular without it. As for involving information publishers, Google and the other search engines already do a lot of outreach.
The most compelling suggestion, an all-in-one search page, is something that all the search engines are looking at, sort of. But the average searcher will not want the version as described in this article, where you get matches from all of Google's databases, at the same time. This assumes that you always want images, newsgroup matches, product search results, web page matches and directory matches -- a model we actually used have with some search engines in the past and an overall mess that forces you to dig to find the important stuff. Well, what about letting people tickbox the search results they want? Past experience has shown that users don't do this. Heck, many users still have no idea that Google has tabs or how to use them.
Instead, we want search engine mind reading coupled with high-quality specialty search databases. Go to Ask Jeeves and search for "what does DNA look like?" In response, the first "listings" are actually pictures of DNA, rather than written web page matches. That's good mind reading. And "san francisco weather" on Yahoo brings up the actual weather report for that city right in your search results. Both are example of Google being out-Googled in real, meaningful ways that may capture users.
Tara also suggests that things like Google's sense of humor, its "willingness to share" and a sense of the internet's culture have helped form Google's success. They've certainly added to it, but its Google's clear relevancy that emerged at a time when competitors were lost in the morass of being portals that has made it the current king of search, in my view. The average searcher indeed does care about Google's great search technology much more than PigeonRank jokes or funny logos. When I've talked with average searchers, this is what they remember about Google -- great results. To out-Google Google, its competitors are going to have to offer not just great results but better-than-great results.
Make Sense of Search Engine Terminology
Microdoc News, May 16, 2003
Trying to understand some search engine jargon? Here's a nice article that lists a variety of search engine dictionaries that may help.
Overture Ignites on Buyout Rumor
The Street, May 16, 2003
The "Yahoo's going to buy Overture" emerges once again.
Ask Jeeves: Why did you junk Espotting for Google?
The Register, May 16, 2003
Following on last year's move by the US-based Ask Jeeves site, Ask Jeeves UK now will be showing paid listings from Google, bumping out those from Espotting.
Overture Partnership Key for Yahoo
InternetNews.com, May 16, 2003
How important is Overture (and thus, paid listings) to Yahoo? Overture's listings generated nearly one-fifth of Yahoo's overall revenue in the first quarter of 2003.
Two-and-a-Half Point Online News Manifesto
Traffick, May 14, 2003
Andrew Goodman finds Yahoo News isn't keeping up in the face of competitor Google News. Solution: acquire, then improve, Moreover.
Researchers Develop Techniques For Computing Google-style Web Rankings Up To Five Times Faster
National Science Foundation Press Release, May 14, 2003
Two Stanford University students will present a paper at the 12th Annual WWW Conference explaining ways to speed up the calculation of PageRank -- NOT the ranking algorithm behind the Google search engine but rather one component of that algorithm. The "topic sensitive" calculations sound a lot like the system that Teoma uses. It's also good to keep in mind that no one knows exactly how Google currently calculates PageRank. This research is based on a 1999 paper about how Google operated and is not necessarily indicative as to how things work today.
DealTime and Epinions Complete Merger
Ecommerce-Guide.com, May 13, 2003
Shopping search engine DealTime completes its acquisition of consumer reviews site Epinions.
Thinking Global, Google News Goes Local
InternetNews.com, May 12, 2003
Google unveils a variety of country-specific news web sites, for Canada, the UK, New Zealand and India. Ironically, no "US" news site is released, though some feel that the main globally-oriented Google News site may have a US slant to coverage.
Court draws a line for online privacy
News.com, May 12, 2003
URLs that contain embedded search terms are found to be "content" by a US Court of Appeals and thus require US law enforcement agencies to jump through more legal hoops access such information. For more about such embedding and the fears some privacy advocates have had about it, see my past article, Google & The Big Brother Nomination, http://www.searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/2175251#retains data.
Case Study: PoolandSpa.com
Ecommerce-guide.com, May 12, 2003
Dan Harrison has been selling pool and spa supplies for 10 years, but no advertising venue comes close to driving qualified leads compared to search engines. "It all boils down to the search engine stuff," he says, in this interesting case study. His PoolandSpa.com site, which made $7 million in revenue last year, focuses on free natural or organic traffic, with the site following a strategy of offering a library of content related to pools, rather than just offering product information. Paid listings and paid inclusion via XML feeds are also pursued. I especially enjoyed the comment that Inktomi's XML feed is working for the company to give it top listings because it thinks, "Dan paid us all this money." Inktomi constantly says that its paid inclusion program does not guarantee results. Nevertheless, this customer certainly has the impression it helps, and you wonder if he's gained that impression in part from a sales pitch for paid inclusion. In either case, he certainly feels it is paying off.
Overture plays on in push for Web search success
Reuters, May 12, 2003
Overture's not on the defensive -- it's playing offense, says CEO Ted Meisel, in this interview. But developing a quality editorial listings product is taking longer and costing more than Overture expected, the company admits. A combined AllTheWeb/AltaVista index is expected by the end of the year, with paid inclusion for both services to be unified within the next 90 days.
Overture Readies New Search Products
InternetNews.com, May 9, 2003
Overture plans to release a combined paid inclusion product for AllTheWeb & AltaVista in the next three months. I'll come back with more details on this next newsletter, but from my recent visit to Overture, you'll essentially be able to purchase once and show up in both indexes -- and probably at a price fairly comparable to what you pay to be just in one of the indexes, at the moment. Overture also expects to release its contextual ads product -- now dubbed "Content Match -- in the same timeframe. A local search product, allowing advertisers to target geographically, is slated for the end of the year.
Google to fix blog noise problem
The Register, May 9, 2003
As said earlier, I think the "blog noise" problem is overblown as an issue, but the Register would beg to differ. Short on specifics about actual blog damage, this piece suggests that if a "blog" tab is eventually added to Google, blogs themselves would be removed from the main web page index to increase relevancy. As proof of this, the Register says this is what happened to Usenet posts after Google "acquired Usenet groups" from Deja." First of all, Google didn't acquire Usenet groups -- no one owns Usenet groups, any more than anyone owns the web. Instead, Deja had archives of posts made in those groups. Google acquired those and then began crawling Usenet to add to the archives. To my knowledge, Usenet information had never been part of the web index, so there was nothing to "pull." So if a blog index is created, it's not a given that blog content would be pulled. Indeed, Google has not pulled directory or news listings from the web index even those both types of content can be found via their own tabs.
Overture sued over Fast acquisition
News.com, May 8, 2003
MRT Micro is suing Overture, claiming it owns some of the search technology that Overture acquired as part of its AllTheWeb purchase.
Overture to trim staff, integrate units
Reuters, May 8, 2003
Overture is cutting 100 jobs, mainly people in sales and finance that came to the company through its recent acquisitions of AltaVista and AllTheWeb.
In Search Of Profits
News.com, May 8, 2003
I like the spin some try to place in this article of contextual ad links as some new way to "search." Contextual links have nothing to do with search at all. People don't need contextual links as a way to search better. Instead, contextual ads reside in content, which may (or may not) answer their questions. The only reason search gets involved is because the major search players have loads of advertisers that want more inventory. Contextual links offer a way to get these advertisers before a wider audience. That's not necessarily a bad thing for content owners, readers or advertisers -- but neither is it a "search thing." Best part of the story is the nice chart showing estimated search revenues from 15 major companies, as compiled by US Bancorp Piper Jaffray.
Paid Inclusion Hot, LookSmart Not
InternetNews.com, May 6, 2003
LookSmart has lowered forecasts for its yearly profits by almost half, to $13 million, down from the $22 to $25 million it had previously estimated. Reason? Need to spend more on product development.
Google CEO Has No Near Term Plans for IPO
Reuters, May 5, 2003
Google CEO Eric Schmidt told a technology conference that the company has no plans to IPO now nor would he offer speculation as to what would prompt Google to do so. He also said Google would offer blog-specific searching soon, though Google later told me in a follow-up that this is not planned for the near future.
Search Engine as OS
eWeek, May 5, 2003
Can you program Google? Google's API program makes it more likely that people should view the search engine as an operating system that they can program applications for.
Poynteronline, May 1, 2003
I see the types of mistakes mentioned in this article made all the time. If you're going to cite how many matches Google (or other search engines) come up with, you need to be very careful that you understand what exactly happened when you conducted your search.
Reveries.com, May 2003
Interview with Tim Armstrong, Google's VP of advertising. He describes Google as the first company to have a large scale ad network, thinks banners will still survive despite the growth of paid listings, comments on the Blogger purchase as being a "natural" fit with existing efforts by Google to distribute ads on content and says Google will ultimately remain best known as a search engine rather than an ad network.
Web Search For A Planet: The Google Cluster Architecture
IEEE, March-April 2003
Written by Google engineers, this PDF-document provides details about the computer hardware effort involved in processing Google's millions of queries. For a nice excerpt of this document, see this article: http://www.microdocs-news.info/newsGoogle/2003/05/19.html#a627
About The Search Engine 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.
How do I unsubscribe?
+ Follow the instructions at the very end of this email.
How do I subscribe?
+ The Search Engine Update is only available to paid members of the Search Engine Watch web site. If you are not a member and somehow are receiving a copy of the newsletter, learn how to become a member at: http://www.searchenginewatch.com/benefits/article.php
How do I see past issues?
+ Visit http://www.searchenginewatch.com/_subscribers/updates/
How do I change my address?
+ Send a message to email@example.com
I need human help with my membership!
+ Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. DO NOT send messages regarding list management or membership issues to Danny Sullivan. He does not deal with these directly.
I have feedback about an article!
+ I'd love to hear it. Use the form at