Infoseek Promotes Directory
Infoseek now prefaces its raw search results with a "Best Bets" list of topics from its associated directory. Previously, these topical suggestions had appeared as "Related Topics," running along the left-hand side of the screen.
It was easy to miss them in this old position. The new, more dominant position increases the chance that the average user will use the directory. Infoseek confirmed that more people are now clicking through to it.
Infoseek's directory is about half the size of Yahoo's. It has 400,000 listings in 12,000 topics. However, the intent is to present only the best picks, as Infoseek has its search engine results to fall back on for comprehensive searching.
The best sites receive two red checkmarks next to their names and are listed first, in alphabetical order. Then one checkmark rated sites follow, then come those that are considered good but not worthy of a checkmark.
Reviewing sites is a time-consuming process, one that involves 80 or more people at Yahoo. Infoseek won't say how many editors it has, but it receives far fewer submissions than Yahoo. That's natural, as most people submit to its search engine rather than its directory. Infoseek product manager Jennifer Mullin said this lower pace, along with some technological tools Infoseek has developed, allows its staff to keep up.
In response to a search, Infoseek will automatically suggest categories from within the directory that it thinks are relevant. For example, a search for "cars" brings up the categories below:
Best bets: Used cars | Pedregon, Cruz | Subaru reviews | Travel services | Shopping for cars | Mitsubishi reviews | Auto humor | Automotive maintenance & repair | Buy a car | Vehicles by type | Car collectibles | BMW reviews | Consumer protection | Auto insurance | Used car buying tips
Choosing a category takes the user to a page, where top choices listed. For example, "auto insurance" lists insurance providers such as GEICO, along with information resources such as insurance tips from the Better Business Bureau.
Infoseek also sandwiches advertiser-related links between the Best Bets area and the raw search results, in some situations. Returning to the "cars" search, this line appears below the Best Bets links:
Automotive links: New & used pricing information | New models | Loans & leases | Provided by Auto-By-Tel
Auto-By-Tel is one of Infoseek's content partners and similar lines appear in other categories, for other partners. It's a good way of providing those who pay the bills with prominence while also maintaining a separate editorial area.
The Infoseek directory can also be browsed. To enter it, simply enter any channels from the Infoseek home page. You'll then find directory listings relevant to the channel appearing in a box called "Web Sites," on the left-hand side of the page.
As you navigate through the directory, your path will appear just below the Infoseek page header, such as:
Automotive > Driving tips > Traffic & driving schools
This makes it easy to work forward and backwards within the directory, as you explore the listings.
Some pages may display a "Spotlight" area just above the listings. These are HTML ads, available to any advertiser, thought there is an emphasis on providing them only to those sites with quality content that complements the directory.
Beyond the directory, Infoseek also says it has implemented an algorithm change meant to improve the relevancy of its search results, especially for single-word searches on popular topics. Examples include terms such as "cars," "travel" or even some more specific searches, such as "car rental."
(Note: in May 1998, after this was written, Infoseek put a name to its new algorithm: ESP, for Extra Search Precision)
These types of queries are problematic for search engines, because there is so much competition among webmasters to do well for them. Everyone wants to be in the top ten for "travel," but those competing and getting in are not always the best choices for the general user. Likewise, good sites may be missed because they lack relevant text or a host of other factors.
Infoseek's change does seem to help, in spot checks that I performed. Both Epicurious and Preview Travel made it into the top ten for "travel." Both are good sites that the average user might like. A search for "cars" brings up selections such as Avis Car Rentals and Car and Driver Magazine.
The changes at Infoseek obviously have impacts for webmasters. First, being listed in the directory has become much more important, as more users will be making use of it.
To be considered, Infoseek says it is best to send a message to the channel editor appropriate for your site. A list of addresses can be found via the Feedback link, below. If you are uncertain which channel is best, then send to email@example.com.
As for the algorithm change, Infoseek wouldn't discuss any of the factors now coming into play. However, being listed in directory used to provide a small relevancy boost. It now seems much more weight is attached to this. Many of the top picks for single word searches could also be found as double or single checkmarked sites within the directory.
"Web authors they just need to create quality pages that people want to go to. That is all, nice and simple," advises Infoseek's Mullin, about getting to the top.
You'll find contact addresses for channel editors on this page.