The Search Engine Update – Number 163 – Dec. 16, 2003

In This Issue

+ Search Engine Watch News
+ SES Returns To The Big Apple
+ Search Engine Articles By Danny Sullivan
+ SearchDay Articles
+ Search Engine Articles
+ Search Engine Resources
+ SES Coverage
+ About The Search Engine Update

Search Engine Watch News

Hello Everyone–

I’ve just come back from the Chicago Search Engine Strategies conference, and the best way I can describe it was overwhelming. It’s normally our smallest US show of the year. This time, it looks to have been our largest in terms of paid attendance.

Search engine marketing is clearly growing at a speed that amazes even me — though the last Google update certainly added to the attendance. There were plenty of people looking for answers about what to do if they lost rankings on Google.

However, I like the conferences because they can also give you perspective. I surveyed an audience of about 600 people about how they did with the latest Google changes. About 1/3 said they’d dropped, while another 1/3 said they rose. The remaining 1/3 said they hadn’t noticed any shifts. Certainly there were concerns about Google and its free listings — but clearly there were people who rode through the storm or even benefited from it.

In a section of the newsletter below, there’s a round-up of conference coverage, for those who weren’t able to make it.

Aside from that, Happy Holidays to everyone as we head into a new year. I hope you all find time to take a break from the search madness to enjoy time with your friends, families and loved ones.

In our household, the festivities have started early. I never owned a DVD player until a month ago, not really watching movies much except through pay per view. But when I was back in the US for the Chicago show, I came across both a Speed Racer DVD and one with all the Schoolhouse Rock cartoons. Indoctrination of my three and five year old boys has now begun, and I’m happy to report they consider the Mach 5 to be very cool.

Finally — this just in — the much rumored Google book search feature has turned out to be a reality. Details here: Discussion and first spotted from, More to come from Search Engine Watch shortly.


SES Returns To The Big Apple!

The first Search Engine Strategies show ever to be held on the US East Coast was in New York, in 2000. Now, I’m happy to say that it’s returning on March 1-4, 2004. I’ll be working up the agenda to be posted toward the end of this month or at the beginning of January. Leave your email at the conference web site below, and you’ll be notified when the program is ready.

Search Engine Strategies New York

Dates for several other Search Engine Strategies events in 2004 have also been set. Find out when it will come to Tokyo, Toronto, San Jose via the URL below:

Search Engine Strategies

Search Engine Articles
By Danny Sullivan

Trusted Feed Listings Ranking Well At AltaVista
The Search Engine Update, Dec. 16, 2003

Just over a year ago, I wrote how AltaVista’s paid inclusion program seemed to be giving a boost to some content submitted through its trusted feed program. Now it appears what was then explained as an “index blending” problem has returned.


Reader Q&A: December 2003
The Search Engine Update, Dec. 16, 2003

Answers to the following questions from readers:

+ Why would anyone pay for inclusion of more than the home page for a crawler like Inktomi, AlltheWeb, Teoma and AltaVista?
+ How do XML feeds to search engines work? And do only some companies have “authorization” to submit these?
+ I have a Flash site and can’t get listed. Help!
+ Are programs that submit to over 3,000 search engines too good to be true?
+ Do search engines analyze the outgoing links from my page to determine what my page is about?
+ I have a competitor who has spammed the Yahoo Directory. How do I tell them this?
+ I have a problem with sites cloning my content to boost their search presence. Should I contact Google?


What Happened To My Site On Google?, Dec. 7, 2003

The outcry from webmasters about Google’s recent ranking algorithm change has been unprecedented. In this article, Search Engine Watch editor Danny Sullivan takes a Q&A-style approach to examine many of the issues and questions that have arisen from the change.


Florida Google Dance Resources, Dec. 7, 2003

A summary of articles from Search Engine Watch and resources from elsewhere that pertain to major changes to Google’s search algorithm that happened in November and December 2003. ‘Florida’ is the nickname that’s been given to this particular wave of changes known as the Google Dance.


Google Dance Case Studies, Dec. 7, 2003

Real life stories of how sites were impacted by the recent Google ranking changes, with an analysis of factors that may be in play.


Speculation On Google Changes, Dec. 7, 2003

So what’s Google done that’s caused so many sites to drop? The company may be making use of Teoma-like local ranking to filter out irrelevant links that can throw its link analysis system off. Stemming is also a factor, and other techniques may be involved.


What Happened To My Searches On Google?, Dec. 7, 2003

Many webmasters have found that recent changes at Google have hurt them. But does all the hue and cry over Google’s recent algorithm change have any impact on searchers? There are some developments worth noting, and this article takes a Q&A approach to examine them.

SearchDay Articles

Here’s a recap of recent articles from Search Engine Watch’s daily SearchDay newsletter:

How Search Engines Make Money
SearchDay, Dec. 16, 2003

Too often, web entrepreneurs today think of search as a one-way business, focusing solely on how to make money off of the search engines without understanding how search engines also need to make money in order to survive and thrive.


Google Enhances Froogle, Offers New Ad and Search Features
SearchDay, Dec. 15, 2003

Google has beefed up its Froogle shopping search engine, introduced two new ‘quick links’ for searchers, and has added new features to its AdWords program.


Search Engine Forums Spotlight
SearchDay, Dec. 12, 2003

Links to this week’s topics from search engine forums across the web: Do UK Searchers Use or – Introducing AdSenseAdvisor – Top 20 Web Directories – Shopping Search: Any Good? – Froogle New Super Affiliate? – Froogle Links At Top Of Google Web SERPs – AdSonar vs AdSense


A Basket of Shopping Search Services
SearchDay, Dec. 11, 2003

A roundup of other shopping search services worthy of your attention, with links to notable shopping search articles from the past year.


Search Gains Importance at Online Retailers
SearchDay, Dec. 10, 2003

Searching is rapidly overtaking browsing as a primary way people find and buy products online, and the major online retailers have all stepped up their efforts at improving their customers’ search experience.


What’s New in Shopping Search
SearchDay, Dec. 8, 2003

It’s been a busy year for the shopping search and product comparison services. Here’s a look at what’s new at the major players in the online shopping space.


Meta Search Engines are Back
SearchDay, Dec. 4, 2003

It’s been a busy year for the major meta search engines, with a number of notable developments that have restored their usefulness as worthy search tools.


Search Engine Milestones for November 2003
SearchDay, Dec. 3, 2003

Notable news and announcements from the web search world during the past month.


Want to receive SearchDay? Sign-up for the free daily newsletter from Search Engine Watch via the link below:


Search Engine Articles

The Power of Paris Hilton
CPU Review, Dec. 15, 2003

Accidentally coming up tops for a search on “paris hilton sex video” for this web site turned out to be a costly mistake.


Online Sales Lead Methods Rival Offline in 2004, Dec. 15, 2003

Survey says: paid listings buys will rise from 49 percent of respondents saying they do this in 2003 to 58 percent next year, while organic search engine optimization will increase from 53 percent to 63 percent.


Connecting Offline Sales to SEM: A Case Study
ClickZ, Dec. 15, 2003

At the SES conference in Chicago this month, there were a ton of questions suddenly coming up about how to track offline conversions. So this column from Fredrick Marckini is very timely and worth reading. Search engine marketing can and should be measured offline, as well as online. Otherwise, you’re not getting the complete story about conversions.


Search And Destroy
Time, Dec. 15, 2003,9171,1101031222-561499,00.html

Newsletter readers have already seen this type of story before, and you can expect more of them as major news weekly and other publications educate their respective readerships about the coming Google IPO and the competition the company faces in the form of Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon.

There’s a passing reference of Google claiming to now have 4 billion pages indexed. Perhaps this is the sum of the pages they claim to have indexed on the home page plus those in the supplemental index (, a figure for which Google’s never disclosed.


Monetizing Graphical Search, Dec. 15, 2003

Trying to shake people out of the 10 textual search results format, a new version of Grokker provides the ability to “fly” through results items of interest, while Vivisimo has released a new toolbar to let you access “clustered” search topics from its acclaimed meta search engine.


Digital revolution leaves Google feeling quite flush
San Francisco Business Times, Dec. 14, 2003

More information than you ever wanted to know about new digital bidets at Google. The real question is whether they can project current searches happening at Google on the stall door while you, um, wait.


Google generation needs fun toys
USA Today, Dec. 14, 2003

Ugh. Just when you thought Google couldn’t be put on a higher pedestal, now we get an attempt to christen an entire “Google Generation.” These are kids and teens used to being able to access facts (remember, some facts, not all of them) quickly via search engines (of which Google is but one).

Not so sure of the attempt to then tie this into buying the right toys. However, the idea that there’s a generation that assumes everything is on the web and only a search away is correct — and somewhat sad. Most of the world’s knowledge is not on the internet, so if you want to be hip and hot about locating information, you’ll understand how to use other information resources such as, hmm, a library.


Tracking for Decisions in SEM
ClickZ, Dec. 12, 2003

Be aware that not all buying happens online, nor can every action be precisely tracked. In short, while search engine marketing provides much more precise tracking than other types of media buys, you can’t measure everything. Do the best with what information you have, and don’t worry if you only have 90 percent accuracy — that’s far better than with some other forms of advertising you may do.


Track Spider Activity on Your Site
Search Engine Guide, Dec. 12, 2003

Review of Robot Manager Pro, which creates robots.txt files and monitors spidering activity on your web site.


Internet start-up plans first local IPO in years
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter, Dec. 12, 2003

Marchex ( has filed to go public. Marchex? The company founded by former Go2Net/InfoSpace executives owns Enhance Interactive, the recently renamed ah-ha paid listings service. Enhance also provides paid inclusion listings to various InfoSpace web sites, such as Dogpile. Marchex also owns search engine marketing firm TrafficLeader, which resells paid inclusion and paid placement listings, as well as provides other services.


Google Launches New Search By Number Options, Direct Links to Access Airport Delay Info, Dec. 12, 2003

Google has introduced a feature letting you get specific answers when entering shipping tracking numbers from UPS and FedEx, US patent numbers, FAA registration numbers or FCC equipment IDs. You can also check for airport travel delays by entering the airport’s three letter code followed by the word airport, such as “sfo airport” or “sna airport.” That brings back a hard to miss “view conditions” link at the top of the search results page. However, it didn’t work for London’s Heathrow airport (lhr airport), so it may be for only US airports. More info from Google at:


An Exclusive Google Interview
WebProWorld, Dec. 11, 2003

WebProWorld catches Google’s director of consumer web products running for a cab but manages to get in a few questions about ranking well at Google. Controversial is the advice that comes back:

“If you dropped in rankings, go back and look at who you linked to and who’s linking to you. If any of these people are using spam techniques, they’re the reason your site no longer appears on Google.”

Does this mean you might now be harmed by those linking to you — something that’s outside your control?

No, Google tells me. “Google’s position has always been that links to a site wouldn’t hurt you; you can’t help who links to you. That position hasn’t changed,” I’m assured by a Google contact.

Instead, what the original quote was referencing seems to be the idea that links from sites that are spamming Google may no longer be helping you as much as they have in the past. That’s much different than the idea that a porn or other “bad” site might link to you and cause you to drop in ranking.

WebProWorld asked me for thoughts on the original Google comment before I’d had a chance to contact Google. If you want to explore those comments further, see

Note that I do say it’s possible that Google might use who is linking to you as a reason to penalize in some unusual circumstances. What I was referring to is a situation where perhaps someone sets up 50 or 100 web sites with no purpose to exist other than to be search engine fodder. In that case, I could see Google and other search engines as perhaps spotting the unusual linking and taking action — and this would be something much more in your control. (permalink to this item)


LookSmart Search Engine Losing Two More Partners
eWeek, Dec. 11, 2003,3959,1411427,00.asp

Shortly after the new year, LookSmart listings will no longer be offered through the Sprinks web site or integrated into Inktomi’s paid inclusion listings. The company also recently closed its UK operations and is planning to cut half of its workforce elsewhere. The company has also signed new distribution deals with SearchFeed, myGeek and ABCSearch. But these services are unlikely to recover much of the reach lost when the Inktomi deal ends, much less the disaster of losing MSN.


Google Testing New Look
Google Weblog, Dec. 11, 2003

See a screenshot here of a new search results format for Google that seems to be appearing for some users. You’ll note a reverse bar indicating the type of results you are viewing, such as “Web,” as well as the removal of colored boxes around the sidebar AdWords listings. The listings do remain segregated from unpaid results by a vertical line. Tabs have also disappeared, replaced by simple hyperlinks above the search box: Web, Images, Groups, Directory, News and a new “more…” link.

I was also emailed screenshots from a reader that show a results page almost exactly like that shown at Google Weblog. The only significant change is that there are still two “above the fold” sponsored links placements for AdWords, the “text banners” that were traditionally filled by the Premium Sponsorship ads. So, these aren’t going away — though they do get combined into a single box.

A home page screenshot also reflects that tabs are gone, replaced by simple text links similar to those on the results page.


Google to Start Research and Development in India
Reuters, Dec. 11, 2003

Google plans to open its first non-US research center in Bangalore, India.


Search Guru Danny Sullivan Talks Google
WebProNews, Dec. 10, 2003

With so many people joking that they were addicted to Google and needing a 12-step recovery program, I took the actual 12 steps from Alcoholics Anonymous to see how they could be applied to those with a Google addiction to lead off my Search Engine Strategies keynote. I also covered what I think is far more important, the coming changes that invisible tabs ( will mean for marketers.


Keyword Analysis and Ranking: The Value of Brainstorming, Dec. 10, 2003

Stuck assuming that the only way to research terms is using the Overture search term suggestion tool and Put on your thinking cap, because brainstorming shouldn’t be forgotten. In fact, it’s the first step to take.


How George Bush got ‘Google bombed’
New York Times, Dec. 9, 2003

Recounts how bloggers managed to make a search for miserable failure on Google bring up the official George W. Bush biography from the US White House web site.

“Google Bombing” like this has happened in the past, and in general, it has little impact on most people. Making a site come up tops for a relatively obscure term like miserable failure, which brings back less than 200,000 matches, is much different than exercising some super-control over Google for popular or commonly-performed searches.

I’ve written about other examples of Google Bombing in the past (Google Bombs Aren’t So Scary, and why I think it tends to be overplayed. But in this case, I find myself agreeing with The Register’s Andrew Orlowski, who discussed how blogging activity might “googlewash” a term earlier this year (see

Unlike what Google claims in this latest incident, the results that come up do not “reflect the opinion on the web,” nor is it true that “no user is hurt” or that there is no “clearly legitimate site for ‘miserable failure’ being pushed aside.”

1) This Google Bombing was done by at most a few hundred links pointing at the biography, if that many. Google makes it impossible to tell exactly how many are involved using the term, but to say that this particular campaign is the same as the “opinion on the web” is absurd. So only a few hundred people are able to speak for millions of web users? This isn’t the web’s opinion — it’s A particular opinion on the web.

2) Users are hurt, because in (3), we see there are indeed “legitimate” sites for this query. But these sites get knocked down.

3) What’s a legitimate site? Seems like the number three ranked Dick Gephardt For President site deserves top ranking, since he appears to have christened Bush’s administration a “miserable failure” as part of his campaign slogan. In short, Gephardt’s site is an originating source for this term and actually provides much more useful information for those wondering how it relates to Bush than the biography prank.

The number two ranked site at Google is an article from the Atlantic Monthly that explores how Gephardt is using “miserable failure” as part of his campaign to attack Bush. Again, this is a far more useful site for users than ranking the Bush biography first.

Calling Google Bombing “cybergraffiti” as the New York Times does is appropriate. Google did have good listings for this query, for the few who were probably doing it before this prank emerged. Now, Google appears happy for this blogging campaign to spray paint whatever it wants to above those listings.

Again, most of the time this isn’t a big deal. Arguing who should be number one for “talentless hack,” a past Google Bomb, is more of an amusement. But “miserable failure” is a campaign slogan in a major US presidential race. What comes up for it matters much more.

By the way, Inktomi also has Bush’s biography coming up for miserable failure. (permalink to this item)


Shopping Engine Bidding Gets Smarter, Dec. 9, 2003

Want to do better on (formerly DealTime)? Now you can bid your way to the top of the results.


Search Engine Spam
ClickZ, Dec. 8, 2003

What’s search engine spam? Shari Thurow offers some advice on tactics that are best avoided, if you want to stay out of trouble. Cloaking gets lumped in there. Without wanting to reopen the debate from earlier this year about cloaking, just a gentle reminder that not all search engines consider cloaking spam nor have outright bans.

Google does, so you have to watch yourself there. And with the others, cloaking often goes hand-in-hand with low-quality doorway pages. It’s the low-quality content, rather than the delivery mechanism, that tends to be the problem. In short, it is good advice to avoid cloaking if you want to avoid trouble — but the issue is very complicated, and more so when you consider trusted feed programs.

For more, see my article from earlier this year on the topic of cloaking and spam:


AdSubtract to snip paid search results
IDG, Dec. 8, 2003

I mentioned AdSubtract in my last newsletter. Now the software, which removes paid listings from search results as well as blocks other types of ads, has emerged from its beta release.


Trademarks and SEM
ClickZ, Dec. 5, 2003

Recaps instances where trademarks might be linked to paid listings and ways to seek resolutions if you are a trademark holder with objections.


Google wants ruling on search trademark law, Dec. 4, 2003

Google has asked a US District Court to rule that it has the right to have advertising linked to terms that are also trademarks.


On the Google Deskbar
The Register, Dec. 4, 2003

The Register finds that, much as it says it’s depressed to admit, the Google Deskbar is a good thing. Review of features and how changing habits from browser-based searching to taskbar searching worked for the writer.


FindWhat, Verizon Go Local in Tandem, Dec. 3, 2003

Yellow pages site is planning a cost-per-click paid listings program for its site, powered with technology from FindWhat.


Sex sites fire up Internet search engines’ profit
New York Times, Dec. 3, 2003

Brief look at how search engines make money by carrying porn listings.

Search Engine Resources

Vivisimo Toolbar / MiniBar

Vivisimo is last year’s Search Engine Watch winner for Best Meta Search Engine. Now the service offers a toolbar that lets you tap into its results from your browser. The second URL lets you load a “mini” version of the toolbar, helpful for those who already have many other search toolbars installed.


Copernic Meta Toolbar

The Copernic Agent meta search software ( has had one big strike against it, a large download. Now Copernic is offered via a browser toolbar, in a much easier to digest sub-minute download. It’s also last year’s cowinner for Best Meta Search Engine from Search Engine Watch.


Search Engine Lowdown

Andy Beal’s search web log has done a great job over the past few months since it started in digging out interesting stories. It’s well worth a regular visit or an RSS subscription.


John Batelle’s Searchblog

New search companies, interesting technologies, great finds and thoughtful observations on search — all can be found in this relatively new blog from John Batelle.


Search Engine Roundtable Weblog

If you aren’t all blogged out, here’s a new one featuring posts from moderators at two popular search engine marketing-oriented forums, and



Users of the KartOO visual meta search engine will find a new “Kapitalyser” feature at the bottom left of the KartOO screen that memorizes their past searches, sites visited and tries to personalize subsequent searches based on past behavior. A new KartOO “Watch” feature in the lower right of the screen lets you monitor for when new pages appear in a query or when a page is updated or altered. There’s also a press release about the features:



Usually I’m not that excited by visual search products, and I’ve seen a lot of them come and go over the years. They never tend to take off because getting a list of sites is actually visual and useful. Nevertheless, Grokker is indeed worth a look. It’s pretty cool to be able to “fly” through search results grouped into different topics.

Either I or Chris Sherman will be coming back to take a look at the product in more depth. But I’ve had a demo of it and was impressed with what I saw. It won’t be replacing Google or other traditional search engines for most people, and certainly won’t be doing that with the price tag it carries and with the long download it requires. But in the future, if a free Grokker-light emerges, then the idea might take off. There’s a free trial, so give the software a whirl.

SES Coverage

Search Engines Strategies Chicago Coverage
Search Engine Roundtable, Dec. 2003

If you missed the Search Engine Strategies conference earlier this month in Chicago, this page provides coverage from the event. Scroll down, and you’ll find “from the floor” posts about all three days.


Thoughts from SES Web Search Guide, Dec. 12, 2003

Thoughts from Web Search Guide writer Jennifer Laycock on the recent conference.


Search Engine Insider Reports
WebProWorld, Dec. 2003

Formerly the Search Engine Strategies area, this section of the WebProWorld forum has live postings from out of the Search Engine Strategies show, followed by discussion of topics by forum members. Be sure to scroll through the thread list and go back in time, to see when some of the earliest coverage was posted.


What if there were no search engines?
Brett Tabke, December 2003

Presentation on tips to go beyond search engines, from founder Brett Tabke, who presented at the show.


Search Engine Strategies Chicago
Search Engine Lowdown, Dec. 2003

Read from this blog post downward for various reports out of the conference.

About The Search Engine Update

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