FAST Complies with FTC Search Engine Advisory

Responding to recent FTC recommendations, FAST has added additional information about how it crawls web pages and displays search results, including information about paid placement and paid inclusion content.

FAST's AlltheWeb.com has had a long record of being among the more up-front search engines when it comes to disclosing paid placement links. Currently, paid links are labeled "sponsored search listings" and are displayed in a different color than "web pages found" links, which are results based solely on relevance.

"FAST focuses on providing our partners and users the best search experience possible, and given the FTC's advisement to all search engines we want to provide clarity as to the business nature and scope of content within the FAST search index viewable at AlltheWeb.com," said Stephen Baker, vice president of Search Marketing Services at FAST.

Yesterday, AlltheWeb posted additional information about how it crawls and indexes pages, specifically addressing the differences between sponsored search listings and web pages found.

Result links displayed in the 'Web Pages Found' area come from content that has been crawled and indexed by FAST, that are ranked and displayed according to its relevancy ranking algorithms. Some of this content comes from FAST's paid inclusion program, which allows webmasters to submit specific pages to the index, rather than relying on the comparatively random crawling process.

FAST says that fewer than 1% of the current 2.1 billion web pages indexed are from its paid inclusion program. It also claims that these paid inclusion URLs receive no preferential treatment in FAST's relevancy algorithms. In short, these paid inclusion listings will have little or no effect on results in the "web pages found" unless they offer highly relevant content for the searcher.

FAST also displays advertising links, which are labeled as 'Sponsored Search Listings'. These listings are delivered by Overture and are based on keyword search. Overture employs an editorial staff to review these advertising links to assure they are relevant to particular search terms, and the sites are ranked according to how much the advertiser paid Overture for placement.

Information about both types of search results is now available through new links next to the "sponsored search listings" and "web pages found" labels.

"It's great to see FAST take this step," said Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineWatch.com. "Some consumers may have questions about how payment impacts search results. FAST's changes clearly explain where payment does - and doesn't - influence rankings."

"In particular, FAST is the first major service to disclose to consumers how 'paid inclusion' is involved in the makeup of its 'editorial' results in a way that appears acceptable to the FTC," said Sullivan. "This is the major failing point the search engine industry currently has with the FTC's recent recommendations. FAST has now taken a leadership role in developing better disclosure of paid inclusion, and the industry as a whole will benefit by adopting similar changes."

See "Buying Your Way In To Search Engines" on the SearchEngineWatch.com site for more information on paid placement and paid inclusion, including Sullivan's "disclosure rating" for each major search engine.

AlltheWeb.com
http://www.alltheweb.com

AlltheWeb.com - About Search Results
http://www.alltheweb.com/info/aboutresults.html
Disclosure and information about how FAST crawls and indexes web pages, and about third party provided advertising links displayed in search results.

FTC Recommends Disclosure To Search Engines
The Search Engine Report, July 2, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/02/07-ftc.html
The US Federal Trade Commission has made an important recommendation to major search engines suggesting that they better disclose their paid content. This came in response to a complaint made last year by the watchdog group Commercial Alert.

Buying Your Way In To Search Engines
http://searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/paid.html
From Search Engine Watch, this chart explains where paid content can be found on major search engines and surveys whether that content appears to be disclosed in a way the FTC might approve of.

Ask the Search Engine
SearchDay, Mar. 14, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/02/sd0314-ask-fast.html
What's the difference between paid placement and paid inclusion programs, and how do they affect search results? Stephen Baker from FAST Search and Transfer has the answer.

Pay For Placement?
http://searchenginewatch.com/resources/paid-listings.html
Collection of past articles from Search Engine Watch on the topic of paid placement, paid inclusion and paid submission programs at various major search engines.

How Overture (GoTo) Works
http://searchenginewatch.com/subscribers/overture.html
Full details of how Overture works, including past articles about the service from Search Engine Watch, available to SEW site members.

FTC's Letter Recommending Disclosure Practices to Search Engines
http://www.ftc.gov/os/closings/staff/commercialalertattatch.htm

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