Page Written: September 3, 1999
|100%||Company home page was listed first or was listed within the first category presented.|
|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.|
- Scores are as of August 31, 1999.
- Change shows change in score since the last test, June 25, 1998.
- Links to all the directories tested are on the Major Search Engines page.
Netscape, MSN Search Tie For First
Netscape Search is classified as a directory because most of its results come from the Open Directory. However, Netscape also blends data from its Smart Browsing database into its results -- and this information is what landed it a perfect score. In all cases, a link to the company's home page was clearly presented first within the "Official Sites" area:
I think it would be nice if descriptions had also been provided, but many users would still easily find any of these companies via Netscape Search.
Like Netscape, MSN Search's new beta service blends information from different data sources. I classify it as a directory, because the most predominant information comes through a partnership with the LookSmart. However, it is information from the RealNames database that gave MSN a perfect score.
While I didn't count RealNames links when testing AltaVista, I felt that at MSN they are given equal weight to the other results. Here's an example of how they appear in the "Featured Sites" section at the top of results:
About the only change I'd like to see would be for Featured Sites to perhaps be called "Featured & Official Sites." That might better flag these important links to users.
FYI, I tested the beta service because it will supplant the existing MSN Search service in the very near future.
Ask Jeeves, Yahoo Take Second Place
Ask Jeeves and Yahoo tied for the second place spot, but Ask Jeeves gets a slight edge for more clearly directing users to the right place. For instance, here's the result for "ebay"
Yahoo just missed getting a perfect score because its Full Coverage link for eBay came first, rather than the eBay category itself. While the eBay home page is listed in Full Coverage, it's not very prominent.
Yahoo does deserves kudos for making the home page links much more prominent when you enter a category about a company, something I complained about in the last test. Look at this example for the Amazon category:
Two For Third: Snap and the Open Directory
While Snap and the Open Directory that tied for third, Snap just missed scoring much better. In some cases, the first category listed was for financial information about a company, as here with eToys:
This pages lack one important thing: a link to the actual company itself. Had these been present, Snap would have scored 100 percent. Despite this near miss, Snap put in a solid performance. I also especially like the descriptions its editors provide.
Lycos showed a great improvement since the last test, thanks to it now being powered primarily by the Open Directory. However, it would be nice to see them putting more official sites in the "First and Fast" area, as with eBay:
As for LookSmart, the service once again ranked last for this type of search. It was especially poor for the more important terms of "microsoft," "netscape" and "geocities." These sites were lost among the mass of listings. The situation was much better when searching for search engine sites. In most cases, it was easy to spot the home page listing high in the results.