I-Search Search Satisfaction Survey

ce Editor, SearchEngineWatch.com
Dec. 4, 2000

In November 2000, moderator Detlev Johnson of the I-Search mailing list asked his readers what were their biggest problems with search engines and directories. The results from 75 responses received are below.

Most readers of the I-Search mailing list are webmasters or web marketers concerned with how search engines list their web sites. Consequently, the survey asked readers to respond from both the "webmaster" and "searcher" perspective.

The Webmaster Questions

The main specific webmaster gripe with human-powered directories was that editors altered submitted descriptions, which can cause a site not to be found for particular terms.

What I dislike most about directories
as a webmaster is...
Editors remove my keywords from submissions 33%
Yahoo Business Express is not widely available 8%
Difficulty becoming a volunteer editor (or to stay an active one) 8%
Other (see below) 51%

"Other" was also an allowable response, and it actually proved more popular than the submission alteration choice. Those choosing "other" were asked to provide an explanation. The explanations generally fell within these wide categories:

  • Poor service: Directories provide little to no interaction with editors or are slow to process submissions or changes.
  • Editors: Not seen objective or experienced enough, and apply inconsistent standards or seem to lack standards at all.
  • Category names: Obtuse and not enough entries available to classify multi-product sites

For crawler-based search engines, the biggest complaint was about page cloaking, where a search engine spider is shown content different than that which a human being sees. Concerns were raised that cloaking let either poor sites rank well or allowed stolen pages to be used undetected ("pagejacking").

What I dislike most about spider-based
search engines as a webmaster is...
Cloaking enables poor sites to attain top 10 and or page jacking 27%
Too much spam to compete on real site merits 22%
Index refreshing and or dumping is seriously problematic 21%
Other (see below) 30%

Again, "other" was the most popular response. Explanations received were classified as follows:

  • Lead time (Takes too long to get listed)
  • Slow respidering
  • Dead links
  • Spam goes undetected

Respondents were also asked the open ended question, "My biggest gripe as a webmaster trying to get listed is...." Below is a summary of responses:

  • Lead time (Takes too long to get listed)
  • Cat-and-mouse game is time intensive
  • Competing with spam artists

The Searcher Questions

The complaints about human-powered directories were much more broadly distributed, as follows:

What I dislike most about directories for search is...
Drilling down the hyperlinks is not intuitive about the ultimate sites found 32%
Listings too small a sample of the site to match my search properly 25%
Category names don't use good search terms 22%
Other (see below) 21%

Here's the summary of "other" explanations:

  • [Poor” relevancy
  • Stale content
  • Alphabetical listings

As for crawler-based search engines, by far the most popular response was about having to try multiple search engines or multiple searches as the same search engine to find the best web sites.

What I dislike most about spider-based
search engines for search is...
I have to try multiple search result listings to find the most accurate sites 42%
Algorithm changes sometimes appear to be for the worse 29%
Sites are not likely to be as good as those found in directories 12%
Other (see below) 17%

Here's the summary of "other" explanations:

  • Dead links, stale content
  • Commercial insertion
  • Spam causes irrelevancy

Respondents were also asked the open ended question, "My biggest gripe as a searcher trying to find sites is...." Below is a summary of responses:

  • Junk, spam, cloaking and stale sites or dead links
  • Relevancy
  • Digging through listings


A must read, this is a moderated mailing list run by AudetteMedia, which operates other well-regarded lists such as I-Sales. Topics include those of interest to marketers and to general search engine users. To subscribe, follow the link above, which also leads to archives.

I-Search Search Satisfaction Survey Responses
The responses provider further details about frustration with search engine, directly from those who participated in the survey.