The Search Engine Report February 3, 2000 – Number 39

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 117,000 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

• About The Search Engine Watch site
• Search Engine Strategies Conference

• FAST Gets Bigger, Partners With Lycos
• Voila Covers Europe, Reaches To The US
• iWon Wins Users
• LookSmart Launches Express Submission Service
• Go Going Elsewhere, Loses Logo
• Ask Jeeves Asks Direct Hit

• New Specialty Search Engines Launched
• Meta Search Packages Updated; BullsEye Made Free
• Octopus Gives New Views To Information
• AltaVista Free Access Grows; Excite Also Offers It
•AltaVista Opens Affiliate Program, NOT Its Source Code
• Inktomi Measures The Web
• Excite Enlarges Index

• Search Engine Articles
• Subscribing/Unsubscribing Info

Site News

Hello Everyone–

After the relative peace and quiet of December, search engine related news has returned in full force. You’ll find lots of coverage in this issue of the newsletter, plus many updates have been made to the site. Specifically:

• A new StatMarket Ratings page has been added, which shows how search engines rank against each other according to the traffic they send to web sites.

• A new section called “No Software Needed Solutions” has been added to the Search Engine Software page. The new section lists services that will spider your site remotely, making it extremely easy to make your own site-specific search engine.

• The Search Utilities page, which covers meta search software, has been updated. Products now actually reside within the Search Links area of the site, in the Search Utilities category. The old page continues to exist, and that’s where reviews will reside.

• The Search Engine Features For Webmasters chart has been updated with information about FAST.

• The Search Assistance Features page now shows the “Related Searches” feature that Yahoo recently added to the bottom of its results page, plus it provides a recap of similar features at other search engines.

• The Search Engine Alliances Chart has been updated. For those not familiar with the chart, it shows important partnerships that can generate traffic for the various search engines. There have been some notable changes since my last review of alliances in mid-1999.

In particular, GoTo is the only service that has managed to gain significant partnerships in four key venues: Netscape’s Net Search page, as an Internet Explorer option, and as a referral link from Yahoo and Snap. Not surprisingly, GoTo’s traffic has also shown an increase over the past year. Also, GoTo-clone is one to watch, having added partnership links from Netscape and Snap.

Meanwhile, Direct Hit is not content to just gain users indirectly via its partners. It has negotiated links to pull users to its site directly from three important places, none of which currently use its results. In this way, Direct Hit has managed to spread its presence across seven important search sites, to some degree.

Other notable gains: Ask Jeeves with a presence at Netscape, and Yahoo, of all sites, being a referral link at the bottom of Snap results.


Conference News

The next Search Engine Strategies seminar is only about a month away. It will be held on March 9th, in New York City, and conference details are online at the URL below. The one day conference features both experts on search engine marketing issues and panelists from many of the major search engines, including confirmed speakers from AOL Search, Direct Hit, FAST, LookSmart, Northern Light, The Open Directory and Snap. I’ll also be doing two presentations and moderating throughout the day.

The last conference got rave reviews from attendees — honest! — and it also sold out prior to the event. If you are thinking of attending, be sure to book early. Plus, if you do so by Feb. 11, you save on the registration fee.

Sponsorships are also still available, and information can also be found at the conference web site. And thanks to those sponsors who are already participating: SearchButton, IntelliSeek, Northern Light, Planet Click, and Voila.

Search Engine Strategies New York 2000


FAST Gets Bigger, Partners With Lycos

FAST Search set a new benchmark in January, when it went unveiled an index of 300 million web pages. This makes it the largest search engine on the web, based on self-reported numbers.

As always, size isn’t everything — but size isn’t all that FAST is offering, in its latest release. The search engine has also recently made some noticeable relevancy improvements, and a new partnership with Lycos will allow both companies to take advantage of their strengths.

Advanced search results at Lycos have already come from the FAST index for over a month. In the coming weeks, FAST information will also be merged into the main Lycos search results, Lycos says.

Exactly how FAST will be integrated into the main results remains to be determined. The current mixture of Open Directory and Direct Hit results are to be retained, as are the occasional matches from Lycos spidered index. It seems likely there will either be a separate section for FAST answers on the Lycos results page or FAST information will appear when the other data sources have no matches.

The addition of FAST will go a long way toward making Lycos into a more comprehensive service. Twice, Lycos has come in last for web coverage according to NEC studies. FAST’s results will make it far more likely that those looking for unusual and obscure material may find it when using Lycos.

The partnership also helps FAST. It has increased its relevancy primarily by making use of link popularity measurements, but it still doesn’t stand up well for popular and general searches when compared to competitors such as Google or search sites that make use of human categorization.

In contrast, FAST will be shielded from having to cope with these types of queries at Lycos. They will probably be answered by material from the Open Directory or Direct Hit. FAST’s information will more likely be used exactly when a comprehensive look across the web is needed, allowing it to play on its strength.

Remember — this isn’t the situation yet. To access FAST at Lycos now, you have to go to the Lycos advanced search area, “Lycos Pro.”

There, you’ll be prompted to choose the type of search you wish to perform, such as for FTP files, MP3 files or Multimedia. By default, “All The Web” will be selected, which lets you search for web documents in FAST’s 300 million page index.

These choices are made on the Lycos Pro “Content” tab, which you’ll see listed on the left-hand side of the screen. You can search right from this tab, or you can choose one of the other tabs below it to access some advanced features specific to FAST Search.

“Page Field” lets you perform a title, URL or domain search, as described further in the Power Searching article listed below. “Language” lets you find documents that match one of 25 different languages. “Link” allows you to find pages linking to your web site.

Of course, you can also perform searches at the FAST site itself. All the same advanced search features are available there, nicely organized onto one page. The page also has an option to increase results up to 100 at a time.

On the crawling side, FAST says it plans to increase its index to 400 million pages by the middle of this year. It also aims to refresh the index every two to three weeks, downloading new versions of pages as needed. Some pages that change often may be revisited even more frequently than this.



Voila Covers Europe, Reaches To The US

Most of the major US-based search engines have established European editions over the past three years. Yahoo France, AltaVista Sweden and Lycos Germany are just some of the many examples. But one European player has been just as busy: Voila.

Backed by France Telecom, Voila is a crawler-based service with editions for countries such as France, Denmark and The Netherlands. At any of its European editions, you have the choice of searching across the entire world or just within that particular country or country’s language.

At the core of Voila is a 150 million page index. Voila filters out country-specific results from this index primarily by examining the language of a web page or its domain. Thus, a page written in German but hosted within the non-geographic .com domain might still appear when searching for German web pages. Similarly, a page written in English but hosted within the .de German domain might also appear in the German results.

Aside from its main index, Voila maintains a special index of 10 million French web pages, in order to provide especially deep coverage for French speakers.

Beyond Europe, Voila also operates US-oriented, but that site isn’t meant to challenge the existing US-based search services. Rather, the company maintains for users of its other sites that wish to perform an “American” search.

“We need to have an American element to compliment the European effort, said Julie Paratian, managing director of Paratian estimated that about 10 percent of requests at Voila’s non-US sites are aimed toward American content.

To satisfy this, presents human-compiled information from LookSmart in response to many queries. For instance, search for “travel,” and the results in the “Top Matching Channels” area are LookSmart categories. Similarly, the top listings in the “Matching Web sites” area are out of the LookSmart database.

You can also use the icons next to each listing as a guide. LookSmart content is identified by little eyes, while Voila crawler-based results all have a world icon next to them.

A unique feature of Voila are its “Thematic Search Engines,” or TSE. Basically, you can think of these as specialty search engines for particular subjects such as Star Trek, movies and James Bond. In general, only pages about these subjects should be within each TSE.

For instance, a normal search for the television show “ER” on yields no relevant crawler-based results. But search for “ER” using the television TSE, and all but one of the top results is about the popular medical show.

Voila also offers a useful “Highlight Keyword” feature. This option appears below each page that it lists. Select the option, and Voila will present the page with all your keywords highlighted.



iWon Wins Users

If you’ve got to search, why not have a chance to win some money at the same time? That’s the premise behind iWon — a portal that gives cash prizes to its users. And it’s a model that’s seems to be working. The service launched in October, and only two months later, it had jumped into Media Metrix’s Top 50 web site list. That’s the fastest rise for any search-oriented service that I can recall. It usually takes new, successful services many months to make it into the list.

Cash is one draw for the site, and its partnership with US television network CBS is another. CBS has a majority stake in iWon and promotes the portal to its viewers.

The idea for a giveaway came about over a lunch in January 1999, between iWon’s two founders and co-CEOs, Jonas Steinman and Bill Daugherty. They were brainstorming an Internet product to produce.

“We thought the best model out there was the portal, so we started talking about the existing portals, Steinman said. “The real weakness is that they are all in this game of matching each other tit for tat for functionality, and it was basically a commoditized product. This shouldn’t be commoditized. Our instincts were that there should be a way to differentiate the product. Pretty basic stuff, and here we are.”

The differentiation comes in the form of $10,000 daily prizes, $1 million monthly prizes and a $10 million annual prize that will be given away on April 17.

“We’re really rewarding people for what they do online. If you are going to read the news at Yahoo, read it at iWon. We’re providing you the same thing that other people provide you, plus the chance to win,” Steinman said.

Once registered as an iWon user, everything you click on within the site potentially earns you entries toward the prizes (if you are a US resident). Each link is prefaced with a number, like this:

10> Email

That indicates that clicking on the email link to reach your free iWon email account would earn you 10 entries. Do a search, and that’s worth 7 entries. Click on one of the listings in a search result, that’s 1 entry. You can earn up to 100 entries per day toward the different prizes, and your totals constantly appear at the top of the screen.

The sharp-eyed will see that iWon’s sweepstakes period ends on March 31. Does this mean the giveaways will stop? No. It’s only to comply with legal requirements that say every sweepstakes must have a defined beginning and end, Steinman said. A new giveaway program is to be announced, since that’s core to what iWon is about.

“Without the winnings, iWon is not the right name for the site,” Steinman joked.

Behind the fun and games are the things you would expect from a portal: email, news, a personalized start page and, of course, search. At iWon, Inktomi gets to roll out its entire suite of search products: shopping search, crawler search and directory search.

As with places such as Yahoo and LookSmart, you’ll find web sites organized into categories, which you can browse from the home page. Web pages are categorized automatically by Inktomi’s “directory engine” product.

I would say that humans still do it better, and even Steinman admits, “We’ve had to do some editing,” but the automated guide certainly is functional.

When you search, matching categories from the directory are shown first. After that, the “matching web sites” area displays web pages from Inktomi’s crawler-database, just as if you were to do a search on another Inktomi-powered search engine.

Overall, iWon has a gimmick, and the company knows that. But if the gimmick matches your interest (and cash is usually a winner), and if the information satisfies your needs, then there’s every reason to use the site.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for one of the search engines to introduce what I’d call “themes.” For instance, I can imagine Star Trek fans flocking to a site that uses the look and feel of one of the Star Trek computer consoles. Similarly, fans of rock stars or movies might get to choose a theme that interests them. Advertisers might even consider branding a site for a day. While gimmicks like these don’t improve the quality of search, they can improve the overall search experience — and that’s also important.



If iWon Wins, Do Portals Lose?
Fortune, Feb. 7, 2000

But can iWon survive and thrive financially? A look at some of the numbers. One negative that this analyst finds is that the “just add water” approach that iWon used to build its portal means a possible low barrier of entry to imitators. But this overlooks the fact that not everyone can unite with a major television network, as iWon did with CBS. ABC is with Go, NBC is with Snap, and that leaves just Fox for any portal to partner with.

CBS’s iWon Portal Play: Will Bribery Pay?
BusinessWeek, Oct. 6, 1999

An earlier article from BusinessWeek, dated in parts, but still helpful for understanding the CBS connection.


LookSmart Launches Express Submission Service

LookSmart is currently testing a new submission service where by paying a fee, you can get a fast answer as to whether your site will be listed.

Called Express Submit, the service costs $199 and only guarantees that an editor will review your site within 48 hours. It does not guarantee that your site will be listed nor be bumped up in the rankings, if accepted.

Nevertheless, anyone with a decent web site can pretty much expect to be listed by using the service, LookSmart says. That has certainly been the case with the similar Yahoo Business Express service, which launched a year ago. For $199, the service guarantees that Yahoo editors will review your site within a week and respond as to whether you’ll be listed. The vast majority of sites that use the service are accepted.

Of course, normal submission remains an option at LookSmart. Additionally, LookSmart started a Check Status service a few months ago that has been very effective. Of course, I did notice that the email response that the status service now sends out promotes Business Express. Nevertheless, if you can’t pay the fee, submit normally and use the Check Status system after 6 weeks, if you still are not listed.

But by all means, anyone who can afford it should definitely take advantage of both LookSmart’s and Yahoo’s express submission services. They will save you time, help you generate traffic more quickly, and probably are the most essential web marketing expense after that of registering a domain name.



Go Going Elsewhere, Loses Logo

Go is planning to shift from being a general appeal portal to concentrate instead on featuring entertainment content, it was announced last week.

Exact details about how the Go Network will be transformed are still being developed, but Go had to go public with its plans now because a former employee leaked news of its change in strategy.

Go’s public relations manger Shelly Greenhalgh said that general search capabilities will continue to be retained, but that a more entertainment-targeted search is likely to be promoted.

The change in direction is meant to build the Go brand among web users and offer a compelling reason for them to visit the network. Ironically, Go had an excellent brand that it has done its best to kill — Infoseek.

Infoseek was one of the first major search engines and always one of the web’s most visited sites. But during the portal madness of 1998, it was deemed necessary to assimilate the service into the new Go Network. Vestiges of the Infoseek brand were stamped out as much as possible, with the name being mainly relegated to Infoseek’s corporate search solutions division and its meta search software, Infoseek Express.

Despite this, I still find people referring to Go as “Infoseek.” Indeed, when I speak, I refer to Go in my presentations as TSFKAI, or The Service Formerly Known As Infoseek, to ensure everyone knows what I’m talking about. While the Go brand is struggling, the Infoseek brand still lives in the minds of many web users.

So why fight that? Soon after the Go Network launched, there were some hints that Infoseek might still survive as a search-only section of the network. Perhaps that time is now. Infoseek remains a very good search engine, especially for popular search topics. Stripped of portal clutter, Infoseek might better serve both old and new visitors looking for search.

In other news, Go was forced to again change its logo, after a preliminary injunction against it was reinstated. is suing Go, saying the company’s logo infringes on’s logo. The case goes to trial later this year.

Also, the Go Guides program now has over 10,000 volunteers cataloging the web, it was announced. Similar to the Open Directory, Go Guides invites participation from across the web to create its listings.


Ask Jeeves Asks Direct Hit

In a surprise move, but one that makes perfect sense, Ask Jeeves announced last week that it was acquiring Direct Hit in a $500 million stock deal.

Ask Jeeves’ corporate answer service has been booming, with deals in place to help those searching within sites such as Iomega and Datek. Ask Jeeves editors build a database of answers to common questions for these sites, with great benefits to both visitors and the site owners themselves. (FYI, I’ll be taking a closer look at the Ask Jeeves corporate solutions in a future article).

Still, Ask Jeeves had a problem. Its editors haven’t answered everything, so it needed some type of automated backup for these occasions.

“We wanted to have an intelligent packaging of a Q&A database and automated agent,” said Rob Wrubel, president and CEO of Ask Jeeves.

Enter Direct Hit. The company provides Ask Jeeves with an automated, crawler-based solution, with the added bonus of results that can be refined by measuring what users click on.

Meanwhile, Direct Hit gains a partnership that helps it diversify its business. The company’s strength has been providing refined web-wide search results to various portals. But portals can be a fickle bunch. Tying in with Ask Jeeves allows Direct Hit to more easily be used within the corporate market — nor do the two companies have to face off against each other, now.

As for web-wide solutions, Ask Jeeves plans to incorporate Direct Hit’s results as backup to its own answers at the Ask Jeeves site, similar to how meta search results are provided today as backup. But those meta search results will also be retained. In a 1-2-3 format, a search will bring back first Ask Jeeves answers, then Direct Hit results, and then meta search results, all on the same page.

Meanwhile, expect to see Direct Hit continuing to pursue its strategy of partnering with portals. Additionally, it may either integrate Ask Jeeves answers into its results or take the lead in helping establishing new partnerships for Ask Jeeves with the major portals, similar to how Ask Jeeves provides some data to AltaVista.

“Direct Hit has built that business. It gives them incredible reach, and we will definitely continue that business,” Wrubel said.

In fact, although Ask Jeeves has continued to grow as a top web site, Wrubel says he prefers to see the service work with the major portals rather than try to compete with them in offering the same features.

“It will be more like a personal services portal,” Wrubal said, about how the Ask Jeeves site will evolve. “You’ll start to see Jeeves do things for you, not just provide search, news and chat.”

Such as? “You’ll be able to get your laundry done with Jeeves,” Wrubel said, offering one type of service. “You’ll see us rolling out a set of services as if you had a butler living in your house. He’ll be a very smart butler, helping you learn about something you didn’t know about.”

As for the traffic the Ask Jeeves site has gained, Wrubel chalks it up to a combination of good content and smart marketing. The company has gone from television ads, to a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, to recently placing questions on 15 million apples. Yes, apples.

“That was completely bizarre but great,” Wrubal said. “When you would pick up the apples, it just provoked you. You couldn’t help but say, ‘I’ve got questions, I’ve got to go try this.'”

By the way, Ask Jeeves has done an excellent job in encouraging users to ask questions naturally. But you can and should do this on any of the major search engines. They can handle natural language questions, as well. The key reason why you may get better results at Ask Jeeves is because it has a database of responses compiled by humans, who are specifically looking at the most frequently asked questions and getting answers.

Nevertheless, you should find that if you tell any major search engine exactly what you want, using a natural and descriptive phrase, you’ll get back better answers than by feeding it only one or two keywords.

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