HotBot Integrates Popularity Into Top Results
Direct Hit is now powering most of HotBot's top results, a change that means clickthrough data is now heavily responsible for what appears in response to a search.
HotBot has not dumped Inktomi, but when there is relevant data from Direct Hit, those matches are presented on the first page of results, then Inktomi matches are listed next.
"We see this as a way for us to combine the true benefits of both of these technologies and provide people with the most accurate results," said David Pritchard, HotBot's marketing director.
Direct Hit is a system that measures what pages users select from search results and roughly how long they spend visiting these pages. In a very simplistic explanation, the more "popular" pages as measured by these factors rise to the top of the list.
HotBot had allowed users to view Direct Hit results in the form of a "Top 10" option that was presented along with Inktomi-powered results. If users selected the option, Direct Hit results were displayed in place of Inktomi's results. Now, Direct Hit data will appear in response to queries by default.
"We've made the change first and foremost because of the reaction we've had from our HotBot users. We had almost unanimous and unequivocal reaction from HotBot users praising the program and saying they greatly value this set of results," Pritchard said.
What if you don't like Direct Hit results? Professional researchers especially may not want user data interfering with complex queries they may construct. Generally, if you begin to use any of the advanced controls at HotBot such as field searching, Direct Hit won't have enough data to refine the results. Instead, you'll get all-Inktomi listings.
Aside from HotBot, Direct Hit also has debuted at ZD Net, where it is refining site specific searches. I was particularly impressed with how helpful it was when I came across the Direct Hit option last week. I was looking for articles about laser printers and was overwhelmed with the results that came up. But once I selected the Direct Hit option, I got a dramatically better set of results -- much more noticeable than the difference between Inktomi and Direct Hit results at HotBot. I wonder if Direct Hit's real strength may be in improving site specific searches, which are often woefully inadequate.
To use Direct Hit at ZDNet, just look for the "Top 10 Most Visited ZDNet Pages" link that appears just above the actual search results.
Finally, Direct Hit has always been a system that works with an existing search service, not one that can stand-alone. That's about to change. The company has developed its own crawling system, which means it can gather the raw data for customers without an existing search partner and then refine those results using its popularity measuring technology.
Getting Away From Words-On-The-Page Relevancy
The Search Engine Report, March 3, 1999
A sidebar to the above article that talks about the trend in getting away from words-on-the-page as a means of improving relevancy.
A Direct Hit on Inktomi?
Red Herring, Feb. 22, 1999
Some media have taken the Direct Hit-HotBot announcement as another slap against Inktomi. I think that's a bit strong. HotBot is not abandoning Inktomi, but the company will see a significant short-term drop in traffic from HotBot due to the Direct Hit changeover.
Searching In Dolby
Forbes, Feb. 20, 1999
Direct Hit is on a roll, and its main hurdle is that all the recent portal mergers push back the completion of deals.