Introducing "Ask the Search Engine"

With all the myths and urban legends surrounding search engines, sometimes it's important to get the facts directly from the source. Today SearchDay is starting a new feature to do just that, called "Ask the Search Engine."

As a longtime observer of the world of web search, I've been struck by the number of times I've seen so-called "information" appear online or even in the mainstream media that's either incorrect or blatant nonsense. These factoids range from confused statements about how search engines work to "secret" methods for achieving high rankings in search results, and all manner of other blather.

(Pedantic aside: The widely misused word "factoid" means "a piece of unverified or inaccurate information that is presented in the press as factual, often as part of a publicity effort, and that is then accepted as true because of frequent repetition," according to Exposing and debunking search engine factoids is precisely what this new feature is all about.)

Ask the Search Engine will take the form of a single question posed to a representative of a major search engine or directory, with his or her reply. I'm asking each respondent to provide a factual response, avoiding sales and marketing lingo, and to make the answer as non-engine specific as possible. The exception will be for those questions that relate to a unique feature of a specific search engine or directory.

Over time, I'd like to open this feature up to reader questions, but for now, I'll be posting questions based on my own observation of misunderstood issues or incorrect information I see being passed off as facts. While I will consider suggestions for questions via the feedback form (link below), I won't be able to respond to them given the volume of email I already receive.

Tomorrow's SearchDay will feature the first installment of Ask the Search Engine, and it will cover a topic that is not only confusing to many people, it's one that causes unnecessary concern or even fear that search engine results are somehow being diluted by crass commercial forces. Stephen Baker, Director of Business Development & Marketing for Fast Search & Transfer, will answer the question: "What's the difference between paid inclusion and paid placement?"

Stay tuned: Stephen's response is both enlightening and thought-provoking.

New Search Engine Statistics

Search guru Greg Notess has made several new additions to the Search Engine Statistics section at Search Engine Showdown. Greg writes:

"I have updated my Relative Size Showdown and the Total Size Estimate analyses with data from March 4-6, 2002. Using 25 search terms, and verifying the actual number of hits available for the largest search engines, Google has maintained a solid first place, followed by WiseNut (a surprise to me) and then AllTheWeb.

"I also updated the Database Change Over Time page which compares the same searches run on the search engines at various times. In addition, I have posted two new pages on Google: the Google Database Components which compares the components of the Google Web database based on the statistics analysis and one on Google's Unindexed URLs which has an explanation and example of Google's barely-indexed URLs."

See for links to all the new pages on Search Engine Showdown.

LookSmart Buys Wisenut

LookSmart, best known as one of the Big Three web directories compiled by human editors, has purchased Wisenut, a relatively new crawler based search engine.

"As we integrate WiseNut's search technology over the next few quarters, LookSmart will be able to offer our portal and ISP partners a full service solution that includes a scalable billion document index infrastructure, next generation search relevance and strong listings revenue," said Evan Thornley, chairman and CEO of LookSmart. "By acquiring WiseNut, LookSmart becomes the first company to have both high quality scalable search technology and strong listings revenue generation."

Danny Sullivan will be taking a closer look at LookSmart's purchase and its implications in the next issue of Search Engine Report. If you're not a subscriber, sign up for your free subscription using the link below.

Wisenut, the Google Killer? Nah...
SearchDay, September 5, 2001
The media is heralding Wisenut as the scrappy underdog that's supposedly going to topple Google from its "throne" as the king of web search. Not likely -- here's why.

The Search Engine Report
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Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

Online search engines news
Google hit by link bombers...
BBC Mar 13 2002 11:16AM GMT
Online access news
ISP finds backing in fight with gaming giant...
ZDNet Mar 13 2002 10:05AM GMT
Online search engines news
The SEO Scoop on Inktomis Search Submit Pay-for-Inclusion...
High Rankings Mar 13 2002 4:42AM GMT
Online portals news
AOL test ignites talk of dropping Explorer...
Seattle Times Mar 13 2002 2:51AM GMT
Online search engines news
LookSmart to Buy WiseNut...
Internet News Mar 13 2002 0:05AM GMT
Domain name news
Mixed Signals at VeriSign...
Business Week Mar 12 2002 1:02PM GMT
Online search engines news
Looksmart to acquire WiseNut search engine...
ZDNet Mar 12 2002 11:27AM GMT
Domain name news
Transatlantic battle to stop sale of .brit and .usa domain names... Mar 12 2002 11:26AM GMT
Online portals news
Yahoo pushes premium Web hosting services... Mar 12 2002 9:23AM GMT
Online marketing news
Savoring Spam: A true story...
CNET Mar 12 2002 6:12AM GMT
3 Web Sites Closed in Spam Inquiry...
New York Times Mar 12 2002 5:16AM GMT
Online portals news
AOL Tests Netscape Internet Browser...
Washington Post Mar 12 2002 4:24AM GMT
Top internet stories
Napster cuts workforce after deals get stalled...
San Francisco Chronicle Mar 12 2002 0:14AM GMT
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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was's Web Search Guide.