Those using the RealNames links on AltaVista are more likely to be taken directly to an appropriate web site, now that the RealNames system has greatly expanded its listings.
RealNames is an alternative web site address system, and links to its listings appear at the top of AltaVista search results, for any search of four words or longer.
Selecting a RealNames link will take people directly to a site, if the search phrase matches a registered RealName. If a name is not registered, then users are presented with results from the RealNames search engine, which shows the best matching choices from paid listings, editor selections and picks found by a web crawler.
Ideally, RealNames would like people to always be taken directly to a web site when they click on a link. Thus, editors have worked over the past few months to create RealNames for thousands of products, stock ticker symbols, American sports teams and radio stations.
For example, "kleenex" leads to the Kleenex tissue web site. "YHOO" brings up the stock quote for Yahoo. "Lakers" leads to the Los Angeles basketball team's web site, while "KIIS" brings up the LA radio station with those call letters. All of these are editorially added entries.
"We studied queries, and based on that study, have added segments to serve the patterns of usage we have seen," said Ted West, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
In all, there are now about 1 million RealNames resolving to web sites, and the number climbs to 3 million when domain names are included.
Domain name resolution is another new feature of the service. Entering a domain name such as "www.yahoo.com" takes people to the site, just as if they had entered the domain name properly into the browser address box.
This is an extremely helpful change, because many novice web users mistakenly enter domain names into search boxes, when trying to reach web sites.
It would be even better if AltaVista itself, along with the other major search engines, also made this change. Only WebCrawler is currently smart enough to ask a person entering a domain name if they want to visit the site, assuming the URL is preceded with an http://.
RealNames makes its money from those who pay for names, so it seems odd from a business standpoint to have editors undermine the system by creating so many "free" names. Only about 5,000 names in the listings have been purchased.
However, CEO Keith Teare sees the enhancements as strengthening the system for users. If they make it more usable, and thus popular, he believes companies will see value in registering their own names for $100 per year.
"We've got to hope that if the changes produce a greater user experience, then that becomes a magnet," Teare said.
RealNames also plans to push paid registrations more heavily, now that listings have been enhanced. A number of RealNames resellers will be announced shortly.
RealNames says the usage of its system via AltaVista has also increased dramatically over the past two months. RealNames links are selected about one million times per day at AltaVista, giving the system just over a three percent clickthrough rate. That's up from 300,000 per day, when the RealNames launched on AltaVista in May.
Key to this improvement has been altering the text associated with the RealNames links. Previously, the text used to read "Subscribe your company, brands and trademarks to the Real Name System." Now it has been changed to say "Click above for the RealName, the easy web address for company and product names."
"We virtually removed the RealNames branding on July 30th," said West. "That increased the traffic immediately."
RealNames also expects even more people to begin using the system in the near future, as it continues to seek new partnerships.
"Quite soon, we'll be announcing another distribution partnership which will increase our traffic by 30 to 50 percent again," said Teare.
Real Name Tops At AltaVista
The Search Engine Report, June 3, 1998
Details on how the system works.