The Search Engine Report - May 2, 2001 #54

May 2, 2001 - Number 54

By Danny Sullivan
Editor, Search Engine Watch
Copyright (c) 2001 corporation

About The Report

The Search Engine Report is a monthly newsletter that covers developments with search engines and changes to the Search Engine Watch web site,

The report has over 165,000 subscribers. You may pass this newsletter on to others, as long either part is sent in its entirety.

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In This Issue

+ Site News
+ Conference News
+ NBCi Down, Probably Out
-- (full story online, link provided)
+ AltaVista Europe Debuts Helpful Search Features
+ Avoiding The Search Gap
+ Google Improves Newsgroups, Makes Inroads To Japan
+ Excite Next To Go?
+ iLOR Makes Google Even Better
-- (full story online, link provided)
+ New Search Engine Resources
+ Interesting Search Engine Articles
+ List Info (Subscribing/Unsubscribing)


Hello Everyone--

It's been a busy past week for me You can put the blame on babies.

The first baby is SearchDay, the new daily newsletter from Search Engine Watch. Written by new associate editor Chris Sherman, SearchDay will be bringing you original content about searching better. It will also provide search engines headlines from around the web, provided by

I'd encourage you to take SearchDay, even though you already receive this newsletter. SearchDay will have entirely different content that I know you'll find informative. SearchDay launches next Monday and comes out each day during the work week. You can sign-up for it now, via the URL below.


While SearchDay is close to my heart, the other baby is even closer -- my second son Rhys, who was born last Friday.


Conference News

The next two-day Search Engine Strategies conference comes to San Francisco on August 16th and 17th. It will again feature the first day focusing on search engines and promotion issues, with the second day featuring panels designed to help Internet searchers better understand how to use the search tools available to them. A preliminary agenda should go up within the next week or so. Those interested in sponsoring or exhibiting should contact Frank Fazio Jr,, for more information. Attendees can sign-up to be notified of when more session information is available via the URL below:

Search Engine Strategies: San Francisco 2001


NBCi Down, Probably Out

The future of the NBCi site as a search resource is now very much in doubt, given the decision by US television network NBC -- which is NBCi's largest shareholder -- to close its spinoff company. The full story can be found below:

NBCi Down, Probably Out, April 19, 2001


AltaVista Europe Debuts Helpful Search Features

Normally, US-based search engines tend to try out cool new features on their flagship sites before exporting them months later to their various international editions. AltaVista Europe has reversed this truism, rolling out a helpful search management feature and new thumbnail images that appear next to some search results.

"MySearch" is a search management tool that will automatically record your most recent 25 searches via its "Search Tracker," plus allow you to easily save them into a "My Favorite Searches" area, so that they can easily be rerun in the future.

This is ideal for anyone who runs the same searches on a regular basis -- by using the Favorites list, you can easily get back to a particular search query that you ran before. Of course, it's also helpful to remember that this functionality is built into any browser.

For example, after performing a search at AltaVista, simply bookmark or add the results page to your favorites list. Your search query will be stored in the bookmark link, so that when you next load it, the search will be rerun. You should find this technique works with most any major search engine.

What you can't do within your browser is store individual results easily into a custom list. That's another feature that MySearch offers through its "My Search Results" area, and it's proving to be the most popular option.

"Of the three [MySearch features”, that's the one that is getting the most usage," said Seth Socolow, AltaVista Europe's European marketing manager.

For example, let's say you do a search for "foot and mouth." You'll see below each listing a "Save to MySearch" link. Just click on that link to save the search result into the MySearch center.

By doing this, you can filter out all the likely pages of interest, to visit when you are ready. To access your saved results, you simply need to visit the MySearch center. A link to this appears near the search box at the top of the results page and also on the home page of the various AltaVista Europe web sites.

The MySearch center also allows you to email any search results that are stored, and this is also something you can do by using the "Email to a friend" link that appears below each listing on the regular results page.

The best thing about MySearch is that no software is required. Everything is stored with AltaVista, so you can be up and running right away. AltaVista uses a cookie to identify you when you revisit the site, in order to recover your information. However, this is fairly anonymous -- the service only knows that you are coming from a browser on a particular machine, not your name, email address, etc.

Because cookies are involved, you have to also be careful. If you clear your cookie, you'll lose your MySearch information. AltaVista says there's no way to retrieve it. This will also be the case if you use a different browser on the same machine or if you use a different computer. The cookie will be tied to one browser and only one browser.

MySearch is supposed to be available on all of AltaVista Europe sites, including AltaVista UK. It's also at AltaVista Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and India. In fact, the only place is doesn't appear is AltaVista's main US-based service,

"We're really in the process of using Europe as a test market for things," said Socolow, explaining that may get MySearch if the experience on its non-US editions proves successful.

AltaVista Europe has also begun including images as part of its regular search results. Known internally as Image Enhanced Results, or IER, this is where some listings in search results have images associated with them. Try a search for "london" at AltaVista UK or "eiffel tower" at AltaVista France to see examples of this.

The thought is that including images can help improve relevancy -- or at least the user's ability to judge results more relevant to their query than others.

"Now, the user has almost a human eye to actually determine if a result is relevant or not," said Karl Gregory, head of marketing for AltaVista UK.

In some cases, this works well. For instance, it's easy to spot that one of the results for "hadrian's wall" at AltaVista UK has nothing to do with the Roman fortification near the England-Scotland border, because unlike the other images showing the ancient wall, this one shows a logo for an indoor-climbing facility.

Unfortunately, the usefulness of the feature is reduced by the images sometimes being a bit too small to be clear, as well as the larger problem of them inconsistently appearing.

AltaVista is obviously keeping the images small in order to reduce download time. To further mitigate concerns about delays, the textual results are loaded first. There's also a "Hide images" option that appears just below the search box on the results page, which can be used to prevent images being loaded on future searches. AltaVista's Customize option also lets you disable images permanently.

As for the inconsistency, this comes from AltaVista automatically selecting images from the pages its lists. It essentially has to guess at which image that it thinks best describes the page, in relation to the search term, and it may not always get this right. Moreover, not every page may have a good image to display according to AltaVista's algorithms, which is why some pages have images, while others don't.

In other changes, those trying to reach AltaVista's US-based site from outside the United States may now find themselves redirected to a country-specific version. For instance, those in the United Kingdom are being automatically redirected to AltaVista UK, even if they specify

There are certainly advantages to using AltaVista's country-specific versions. However, there are also times when people may indeed want to visit the US-based site. To still get there, look for the "Go to US site" link at the top right-corner of the home page of the non-US AltaVista edition you are using. You can also use the "United States" link at the bottom of the home page. AltaVista says it may introduce a permanent URL that can also be used by those who specifically want to reach the US site without going through redirection.

In more AltaVista news, RealNames links at AltaVista were also dropped in April, as AltaVista and RealNames could not reach agreement on a new deal. AltaVista was the first major search engine to add RealNames links to its listings back in May 1998.

A longer version of this article is available to Search Engine Watch members.
Learn more about becoming a member at

AltaVista International

Links to all AltaVista's various editions can be found here.

Using RealNames Links

Illustrated guide to how RealNames links appear at its major search engine partners. I haven't yet removed the references to AltaVista and Go, but that will happen shortly.

AltaVista Drops RealNames, Promotes GoTo Link
The Search Engine Update, April 19, 2001

This article is available to paid Search Engine Watch members and provides more details about the RealNames situation with AltaVista, plus how new links from GoTo have been added to AltaVista in addition to its own, new paid links program. To learn more about becoming a paid member, see the signup page at


Avoiding The Search Gap

Are you a victim of the search gap? You could be, if you've focused all your efforts on getting people to your web site via search engines rather considering what happens after they arrive.

Study after study over the past years have consistently found that search engines are one of the most popular ways that people find web sites. Despite this, some new studies have also provided the apparently conflicting view that only a small percentage of a web site's traffic comes from search engines.

For example, a recently released study by Booz-Allen & Hamilton found that a healthy 33 percent of Internet user sessions involve searching at search engines and portals. Given this, one might assume that web sites on the receiving end of all this searching ought to get somewhere near 33 percent of their traffic from search engines. Instead, the study found that web sites get a scant 6 percent of their traffic from search engines and portals.

Similarly, a study released by StatMarket last December found that only about 7 percent of web sites get traffic from search engines. Many in the search engine optimization industry were dubious about this seemingly-low number, when it appeared. The people at StatMarket can now feel some vindication, given that the Booz-Allen study backs up their finding.

The high usage of search engines found by past surveys and the low traffic generated by search engines highlighted in the recent surveys are not in conflict. This "search gap," as I'm calling it, comes naturally out of the fact that once someone has found a web site that satisfies a particular desire, they will probably go directly to it in the future, rather than navigate to it via a search engine.

For example, let's say you want to buy a particular book. You do a search at your favorite search engine and find a page from Amazon about the book. You visit the Amazon site, like the price and information you are shown, so purchase the book from them. Thanks to search engines, Amazon has gained a customer.

A month later, you need another book. Remembering your positive experience at Amazon, you go directly to the web site rather than using a search engine to find it. Thus, your second visit isn't credited to search engines. However, it would have never occurred if you hadn't found Amazon via search engines the first time AND had a favorable impression of the site.

So, once people find trusted sites, they return to them directly for particular needs -- thus accounting for the relatively low traffic the StatMarket and Booz-Allen studies say is generated by search engines. However, because our needs are wide-ranging, we are constantly searching for new things -- which accounts for the overall high usage of search engines that other studies find.

It would be a mistake to interpret the search gap as meaning that search engines are not important. They remain a top way users will locate web sites initially and so cannot be ignored. Instead, the real lesson of the search gap is the age-old adage that first impressions count. Make a good impression when people first come to your site via search engines, and they may come back directly to you in the future.

A longer version of this article is available to Search Engine Watch members.
Learn more about becoming a member at

The Great Portal Payoff
Booz-Allen & Hamilton, July/August 2000

A copy of the Booz-Allen study can be found at their web site -- look at the article in the left-hand frame. The download link is at the bottom. The study was released in February and focuses on an analysis of how over 1,000 people accessed the web. The key finding was that portals remain valuable web real estate, being visited in 60 percent of all Internet sessions. The authors then offer suggestions on how portals might better monetize their services, especially by building content and attracting brand name sponsors. Some important notes: the study classified 225 sites as "portals," which goes well beyond the top 10 to 20 players most people consider portals, such as Yahoo and Lycos. Some of these other portal sites were smaller or niche sites that nonetheless offered content and services similar to the major portals, the authors say. In all, the study included over 50,000 sites.

Portal Power
eMarketer, Feb. 27, 2001

Provides some charts out of figures from the Booz-Allen study, including the fact that of the various features that portals offer, search is the most popular, used during 49 percent of visits. In contrast, the second most popular "Telecom/Internet Services" function (which almost certainly includes email) is used in 17 percent of visits.

Search Engine Index

Links to other studies about search engines and how they are used, including the StatMarket study mentioned.


How do you improve the first impression of your web site? ClickZ's columnists offer advice in usability, writing copy that sells, web page design and more. There's lots of valuable information worth reading.

Usable Web

You'll find hundreds of resources here for making your site more usable.


Google Improves Newsgroups, Makes Inroads To Japan

As promised, Google has now made the full archives of newsgroup postings it acquired from Deja available via its Google Groups service. The archived messages, more than 650 million in all, date back to March 29, 1995.

The company has also added new advanced features allowing searches to be limited by date, language, message ID, author, subject or newsgroup. The company also expects to open a web-based newsgroup posting feature later this month.

Google has also launched a new Google Japan site, as well as having entered a partnership to provide some results to both Yahoo Japan and @nifty, said to be Japan's largest ISP. Google also has an earlier partnership with NEC's Google says that these deals now have it powering the top three Japanese portals.

Google Groups

Google Groups Advanced Search

Narrow your newsgroup searches with the new advanced options on this page.


Chris Sherman will be taking a closer look at the improved Google Groups service in the near future for the SearchDay newsletter. Sign-up now, in order to receive his review.

Google Restores Deja View
Wired, April 27, 2001,1367,43392,00.html

After the grief Google endured when originally acquiring the Deja archives, this reaction piece documents the positive response to the latest improvements from Google.

Google Acquires Deja Newsgroup Service, March 6, 2001

Past article about Google's acquisition of the Deja archives.

Google Japan

The latest of Google's country-specific versions was launched in late April to serve Japan.

Yahoo Japan


Search service aimed at @nifty users. @nifty is said to be Japan's largest ISP.


NEC-backed Japanese portal, with search powered by Google.

Dropped by goo, Yahoo links with Google
Daily Yomiuri, April 17, 2001

NTT-X's Goo is apparently Japan's leading crawler-based search engine, and it has provided secondary results to Yahoo Japan, in the past. That relationship has ended, with Google being picked up as Yahoo Japan's new partner.

Want to know more about Japanese search engines. If you read Japanese, SearchDesk is supposed to be the site on the subject.


Excite Next To Go?

With the Go and NBCi portals having been essentially shuttered, many wonder who will be next to jump out of the portal game. Perhaps it may be Excite@Home, given the signals it has been sending out recently.

Excite@Home has both a broadband Internet access business and runs web properties, such as and Blue Mountain Arts. Given the company's cash crunch, something has to give -- and outgoing chair and CEO George Bell suggested last month that it would be the web properties. His new replacement, Patti Hart, also suggested the same thing, after being named to the post last month.

Action followed these words -- on Monday, another round of layoffs saw 13 percent of Excite@Home's staff cut, with the web properties such as bearing the brunt.

So what's going to happen? Will be closed or sold? It remains to be seen, but Excite@Home clearly intends to continue focusing on broadband, the company says.

"We are considering the sale of certain narrowband media assets. Which assets and when and if they will be sold has not yet been determined. We will make an announcement when there is more to report here. The company is continuing to refine its focus on the broadband opportunity and will consider ways to focus our media efforts on broadband," said Alison Bowman, Excite@Home's director of communications.

A longer version of this article is available to Search Engine Watch members.
Learn more about becoming a member at


Excite@Home lays off 13 percent of staff, April 30, 2001

Details on the latest cuts. Excite@Home remains with about 2,500 employees.

Excite@Home Names Hart Chairman, CEO, April 23, 2001,,8_750341,00.html

Details on the departure of Excite@Home's former CEO and the naming of its new one.

Excite@Home Wants Out of Media Business, April 17, 2001,,8_744781,00.html

Excite@Home says it plans to concentrate on its broadband business, suggesting that its commitment to maintaining the Excite web site may be waning.


iLOR Makes Google Even Better

iLOR is a new search service that takes the power and relevancy of Google's results and adds on some nifty features than many searchers may find useful. You can find a full review via the URL below:

iLOR Makes Google Even Better, April 19, 2001

Search Engine Resources


I haven't had a chance to explore this site yet, but it sounds like one well-worth a visit -- if only to access the free online archives of over 500 US daily newspapers that have just been made available. The site also provides access to hundreds of specialty or "invisible web" resources.


InfoGrid Internet Explorer Bar

Allows Internet Explorer users to change the search button from its default behavior of using MSN Search to instead meta searching at several major search engines via the InfoGrid site. Also provides access to news search services and other resources.


Free Pint

A wonderful newsletter always filled with helpful advice on researching information online. Free Pint now is available via a .com address, in addition to its original domain.



Looking for US population data? This new research portal provides data about children, fertility, marriage and much more.

Search Engine Articles

Ogle Not Google's Top Scientist
Wired, April 27, 2001,1284,43236,00.html

I've often wanted to do a piece about women in search. It's one industry where you'll find women in many top positions. Case in point: Monika Henzinger, Google's director of research, who was just named one of the top 25 "Women on the Web." Other women of note in search? Arguably the most powerful, given Yahoo's continued dominance as a search resource, is Srinija Srinivasan, vice president and editor in chief of Yahoo. LookSmart's editor in chief is also a woman, Kate Wingerson -- as is the service's cofounder and president, Tracey Ellery. At Excite, Lynne Mariani Pogue heads up search there, and she was preceded by Kris Carpenter.


Keen wins patent for phone-advice system, April 25, 2001

Keen is a search engine with a twist -- you search to find human beings who will provide a custom answer, typically by phone. Now the company has obtained a patent on its system. Don't look for it to be filing lawsuits, however. The company says it got the patent to protect itself against others.


Specialized Providers Zero In On Multimedia Content
Interactive Week, April 24, 2001,4586,2711515,00.html

Profile primarily of streaming media search provider Singingfish.


Terra Lycos to launch mobile search, April 23, 2001

Lycos is teaming up with another company to offer live answers for a fee via telephone.


Searching the Web gets easier with engines that try to read your mind
US News & World Report, April 16, 2001

Now Google saves lives! Someone wondering if they were having a heart attack did a search on Google, found a page explaining the symptoms, then got to a hospital for help. Without Google, "I'd be dead today," he's quoted as saying. A look at various search engines, search technology and tips.


Yahoo Still a Haven to Sex Searchers, April 13, 2001,2198,3531_743051,00.html

Yahoo has never been porn-free, but a recent announcement to expand porn offerings within its shopping area caused the service to come under fire. In response, Yahoo is ousting any stores, classified ads, auctions and banner ads related to pornography. However, the service will continue to list porn sites within its directory listings.


No Bots Allowed!
Interactive Week, April 12, 2001,4164,2707542,00.html

I've written before that the robots.txt file might be crucial in legal cases involving search engines interacting with web sites. This article takes another look at some of the issues involved, with some comments from the original author of the robots.txt standard.


Search engines got you frazzled? This freebie searches smarter
ZDNet, April 12, 2001,10738,2707186,00.html

Review of new search companion for your browser called Clicksearch.


Napster Dances To A New Gigabeat, April 10, 2001,2198,3531_739561,00.html

Filtering out illegally-copied song files hasn't been easy for Napster, so the company has acquired, which provides music search technology.


Search site stumbles in a key area -- simplicity
Detroit Free Press, April 10, 2001

The new version of Copernic's meta search software didn't impress reviewer Mike Wendland.


MSN adds music and 'sounds like' search
InfoWorld, April 4, 2001

MSN apparently has a new music search service that lets you locate songs that sound like other ones.


Your Ego Just Took a Blow
Wired, April 4, 2001,1367,42744,00.html

EoExchange has closed its, Daily Diffs and EoMonitor sites, all of which offered different types of monitoring services.


Misys website tactics may break the law
Sunday Times, April 1, 2001

A large software maker in the UK was found to be including the names of its competitors in meta tags on its site and is now investigating how this happened. Also cites stats from a Computing magazine survey that estimated that Internet retailers in the UK may have lost as much as US $750 million apparently through other sites making use of their trademarks in meta tags. I haven't seen the actual survey, but I find it far fetched that anyone could make anything approaching a realistic estimate of this.


Moreover Tackles Indexing News on the Web
Information Today, April 2001

Long Q&A with Moreover CEO Nick Denton, about the news search service and plans to extend the company's technology in new directions.


InFind Meta Search Closes Temporarily, Perhaps Permanently March 8, 2001

Forgot to list this article last time. InFind was a meta search site with a small but loyal following. Now it's gone. Here's why and a suggestion to try a new, similar service.

My Reading List

Thanks this month to items spotted in....

Netsurfer Digest


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