9/99 Company Name Test: Search Engine Results

9/99 Company Name Test:
Search Engine Results

Page Written: September 3, 1999

NOTE: Click Here for the most current Company Name Test

Scoring Information

100% Company home page was listed first.
75% Company home page was listed among the top results.
50% Inside pages from company web site were listed in top results.
25% Pages from a secondary company web site were listed in top results.

The Results

  • Scores are as of August 31, 1999.
  • Change shows change in score since the last test, June 25, 1998.
  • Go is the new name for Infoseek. AOL is AOL NetFind. N. Light is Northern Light.
  • Links to all the search engines tested are on the Major Search Engines page.
Term amazon priceline ebay etrade etoys Avg Change
HotBot 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 40%
Google 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% n/a
Go 100% 100% 100% 100% 75% 95% 39%
AOL 75% 100% 50% 100% 100% 85% n/a
GoTo 100% 75% 75% 75% 75% 80% n/a
Excite 100% 50% 100% 0% 75% 65% -16%
AltaVista 50% 75% 50% 0% 75% 50% 15%
FAST 0% 50% 50% 0% 0% 20% n/a
N. Light 0% 0% 50% 0% 0% 10% -23%

HotBot, Google Tie For First

Both HotBot and Google produced perfect scores on this test, though HotBot gets the slight edge because its Direct Hit-powered results always had descriptions. In contrast, Google's results often presented only the site's URL. Here's a visual comparison in the case of Amazon:

Shown above: "amazon" at HotBot

Shown above: "amazon" at Google

Go Gets Honorable Mention

Go (Infoseek) also deserves to have its impressive performance noted. Only in one case did the company site not appear first -- and in that search, it was because Go was floating a cobranded eToys page just above the eToys site, as shown below:


AOL NetFind Shows Inktomi Improvement

Earlier this year, Inktomi introduced changes that it said would improve the relevancy of its results. The changes indeed have made a difference, at least with this limited test. Inktomi-powered AOL NetFind had perfect scores for the majority of its queries, giving it an overall score of 85 percent. In contrast, Inktomi-powered HotBot only scored 60 percent on the previous test conducted last year. (FYI, while Inktomi still powers some HotBot results, all HotBot's queries in this test came from the Direct Hit database).

GoTo Proves Paid Listings Do Not Equal Bad Listing

At GoTo, site owners can pay to be listed at the top of search results. It's the only major search engine that allows this, and some critics fear it means that results will be bad. In contrast, GoTo's scored relatively well in this test. The official company home pages were always in the top results. However, they were only at the very top if the company chose to pay for placement. For instance, the official Priceline site appeared in position 11, while these companies that purchased "priceline" as a keyword came first:


GoTo ought to consider allowing companies to have a free and guaranteed top placement for their own names. Such a small change would hardly impact its revenue model, and it would offer a great improvement for GoTo users.

Excite A Toss-Up

Excite could arguably deserve a higher score. The search engine excels at providing company-specific information right at the top of its results, such as this for Amazon.


Amazon's URL (which I've circled in red) is very prominent in this company profile. For that reason, I gave Excite a perfect score for the query. I think it would be even better if the URL was accompanied with words such as "Amazon Web Site." Nevertheless, it is present.

In other profiles, the URL isn't so prominent. Here's the example for Priceline:


In this case and some others, I didn't feel the URL was as easy to find for searchers, so I then gave Excite a score based on the URL presence within its Web Results section.

The Others

AltaVista would have had a perfect score if its RealNames links were counted in this test. However, I didn't feel they were prominent enough versus the main results to warrant this. This is especially so when Go managed to get top scores in addition to providing RealNames information.

FAST and Northern Light are the largest search engines on the web, and this is a case where size works against them. More documents do not help for this type of query. This doesn't mean they are bad search engines -- they might do outstanding for other types of tests. However, it wouldn't hurt for them to look at improvements for this particular type of query, since many users turn to search engines simply to locate official web sites.

As mentioned above, RealNames gained a perfect score in this test. So to did Direct Hit. Both services are enhancements that some search engines have added. If you are looking for official web sites, using these enhancements may get you to the right place. See the Search Assistance page for an illustrated guide to finding these enhancements at the major search engines that offer them.

Directory Results

About the author

Danny Sullivan was the founder and editor of Search Engine Watch from June 1997 until November 2006.

To contact current Search Engine Watch editorial staff, please click here.