Direct Hit is a system that, in the most simplest terms, measures what people are clicking on from the results at major search services from across the web. It can also determine how long people are spending at the sites they visit. Using clickthrough and visit duration data, along with other information, Direct Hit can show you what it considers to be the most "popular" sites for various search topics.
Direct Hit is owned by Ask Jeeves and used to be available as a standalone web site. In addition, Direct Hit's results were distributed in the past to a variety of partner search engines, in various ways.
Today, the Direct Hit site itself no longer operates and among major search partners, Direct Hit results only appear at the Terra Lycos-owned web sites of HotBot and Lycos. A partnership to make Direct Hit results available as an option at MSN Search ended in September 2002.
At HotBot, you'll know if Direct Hit information is being provided because the Direct Hit logo will appear at the bottom of the search results page. The text next to the "Web Results" label above the search listings will usually also say something like "Showing Top 10 Matches" rather than a very specific number of total matches.
At Lycos, look for the "Ask Jeeves" link at the bottom of the search results page. Clicking on this will bring back Direct Hit results.
Ask Jeeves also owns the Teoma search engine, and while the company has said that both Direct Hit and Teoma results will be offered to partners separately, it seems likely that eventually, the independent Direct Hit database will be closed entirely. However, the Direct Hit technology of refining results based on clickthrough may be integrated into Teoma.
For searchers, the decline of Direct Hit is no loss. The results originally showed promise, but the technology was not well maintained and improved, as even Ask Jeeves has admitted.
For search engine marketers, the concern about Direct Hit will primarily be because they want to be listed in order to appear in the top results at HotBot. Unfortunately, there is little for search marketers to do. HotBot is scheduled for a major overhaul in late 2002, according to Terra Lycos. The company has not publicly stated if the Direct Hit technology will continue to be used, but this seems unlikely.
Instead, it seems more likely that the primary results at HotBot will probably come from FAST, which Lycos has a close partnership, or Inktomi, which currently provides backup results to HotBot, or perhaps Teoma. Because of this, web site owners are better advised to worry about these crawler-based search engines, rather than trying to "submit" and "optimize" for Direct Hit.
For general advice about submitting to these crawlers, see the Submitting To Crawlers page. Search Engine Watch members also have access to detailed submission information for these crawlers. In addition, Search Engine Watch members can read detailed information about how Direct Hit has previously worked.
So Long Direct Hit, Hello Teoma
The Search Engine Report, Feb. 4, 2002
More information about Ask Jeeves transitioning from Direct Hit to Teoma.