The Search Engine Report April 30, 1998 – Number 18

April 30, 1998 – Number 18

By Danny Sullivan
Editor, Search Engine Watch

About The Report

The Search Engine Report is the email companion to Search Engine Watch, It keeps you informed of changes to the site and general search engine news.

The report has 27,000 subscribers. You may pass this newsletter on to others, as long as it is sent in its entirety.

Please note that long URLs may break into two lines in some mail readers. Cut and paste, should this occur.

In This Issue

+ Site Changes
+ Directories Take Center Stage
+ Infoseek Promotes Directory
+ Lycos Community Guides Get Comeuppance
+ Excite and Lycos Get More Personal
+ Search Engine Size Scrutinized
+ Trademarks In Meta Tags OK, With Good Reason
+ Snap Gets New Look; Yahoo Still Deciding
+ Netscape Net Search Changes Coming
+ Excite, Infoseek Announce Acquisitions
+ AltaVista Improves Results, Positions Partners
+ Search Engine Notes
+ Search Engine Articles
+ Toolbox
+ Subscribing/Unsubscribing Info

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General Notes

Without a doubt, this has been the busiest month for search engine news that I’ve ever encountered. Consequently, one important article on Search Engine Sizes has been moved to an online-only version. I’ve also not had a chance to add some new items to existing pages within the site, in particular new regional search engines that will be of interest. Rest assured if you’ve send suggestions to me, they will get in eventually.

Please also note that I will be traveling on vacation, starting in a few hours until May 10th. My wife insists that I not take the laptop on our trip to Venice and Florence, and I feel compelled to agree. So if you try to contact me but don’t hear back immediately, it’s not because I’m not ignoring you :)

This is also a good time to mention the site’s contact page. On it, you will find different way to send me general feedback, get in contact if you are from the press, ask about consulting or to get off the mailing list. I urge you to use the forms or the specific addresses on them.

I get a lot of email, and in particular, I no longer handle some things directly such as subscribing, unsubscribing and changing email addresses for this newsletter. Sending to the right place ensures that someone gets back to you promptly.

The exception is on general feedback. I simply cannot answer all the questions that I receive. But I do read all the feedback, which I find very helpful. I also make a diligent attempt to answer many questions either directly, briefly, or indirectly via coverage in the site. But if you really must have an answer, then consider a consulting request.

Search Engine Watch Contact Page

Site Changes

There are two new pages: Meta Tag Lawsuits and Search Engine Sizes, and the Search Engine Profits page has been updated. See the appropriate news items further below for links. These pages have also been updated:

RelevantKnowledge Ratings

Updated through March 1998. Notice the appearance of both HotBot and LookSmart in the results.

Media Metrix Ratings

Search Engine News

Directories Take Center Stage

Most of the major search engines have long had associated directories, Yahoo-like lists of editor-selected sites to complement their raw search results. However, search engines largely backed away from their directories over the past two years, primarily because reviewing sites is a labor-intensive process. There were relegated to being a just a part of “channels,” which feature less labor-intensive content, often provided by content partners.

Now the emphasis on directories is back. Earlier this year, both AltaVista and HotBot added the LookSmart directory to their services. Then in April, Infoseek and Lycos began promoting their directory listings above their raw search engine results.

There are some advertising benefits to this, in terms of creating additional page views for the services. But directories are on the rise mainly as a response to users continuing to perform overly broad searches, which can leave them feeling lost among a sea of off-target results.

“We’re still getting a plethora of one and two word queries where we don’t know what the user is looking for,” said Infoseek product manager Jennifer Mullin. “We can’t change the users’ behavior, but hopefully we can help them navigate better.”

Lycos Product Manager Rajive Mathur said likewise: “It’s hit or miss sometimes, with one or two word queries. But with a directory, you can give them a whole bucket to look through, which is helpful.”

To see this in action, imagine the person who searches for “travel.” Do they want information on a particular destination? A cheap place to buy airline tickets? Without more specific search terms, a user will likely be overwhelmed by hundreds of matching web pages and no guarantee that any are relevant to their specific desires.

Directory topics are an excellent way to avoid this problem. I’ve long felt they are the main part behind Yahoo’s success. Over there, someone searching for “travel” is presented with a list of matching categories first, not actual web sites. As they scan this list, they discover a category for travel agents, which may match what they are looking for. Or, they spot a category for travelogues, and suddenly they’ve discovered something useful they hadn’t anticipated.

The helpfulness of directories may be part of the reason LookSmart is beginning to make its mark. The service broke into RelevantKnowledge’s Top 25 web sites in February and stayed there in March, with traffic beginning to approach that of Excite’s WebCrawler.

The biggest traffic source has been from visitors independently returning to the site after discovering it, LookSmart said, and it thinks part of the reason they come back is because they want editor choices and categorization.

The following two articles take a closer look at the directories offered by Infoseek and Lycos, which are now about to get more attention to the their respective design changes.


Infoseek Promotes Directory

Infoseek now prefaces its raw search results with a “Best Bets” list of topics from its associated directory. Previously, these topical suggestions had appeared as “Related Topics,” running along the left-hand side of the screen.

It was easy to miss them in this old position. The new, more dominant position increases the chance that the average user will use the directory. Infoseek confirmed that more people are now clicking through to it.

Infoseek’s directory is about half the size of Yahoo’s. It has 400,000 listings in 12,000 topics. However, the intent is to present only the best picks, as Infoseek has its search engine results to fall back on for comprehensive searching.

The best sites receive two red checkmarks next to their names and are listed first, in alphabetical order. Then one checkmark rated sites follow, then come those that are considered good but not worthy of a checkmark.

Reviewing sites is a time-consuming process, one that involves 80 or more people at Yahoo. Infoseek won’t say how many editors it has, but it receives far fewer submissions than Yahoo. That’s natural, as most people submit to its search engine rather than its directory. Infoseek product manager Jennifer Mullin said this lower pace, along with some technological tools Infoseek has developed, allows its staff to keep up.

In response to a search, Infoseek will automatically suggest categories from within the directory that it thinks are relevant. For example, a search for “cars” brings up the categories below:

Best bets: Used cars | Pedregon, Cruz | Subaru reviews | Travel services | Shopping for cars | Mitsubishi reviews | Auto humor | Automotive maintenance & repair | Buy a car | Vehicles by type | Car collectibles | BMW reviews | Consumer protection | Auto insurance | Used car buying tips

Choosing a category takes the user to a page, where top choices listed. For example, “auto insurance” lists insurance providers such as GEICO, along with information resources such as insurance tips from the Better Business Bureau.

Infoseek also sandwiches advertiser-related links between the Best Bets area and the raw search results, in some situations. Returning to the “cars” search, this line appears below the Best Bets links:

Automotive links: New & used pricing information | New models | Loans & leases | Provided by Auto-By-Tel

Auto-By-Tel is one of Infoseek’s content partners and similar lines appear in other categories, for other partners. It’s a good way of providing those who pay the bills with prominence while also maintaining a separate editorial area.

The Infoseek directory can also be browsed. To enter it, simply enter any channels from the Infoseek home page. You’ll then find directory listings relevant to the channel appearing in a box called “Web Sites,” on the left-hand side of the page.

As you navigate through the directory, your path will appear just below the Infoseek page header, such as:

Automotive > Driving tips > Traffic & driving schools

This makes it easy to work forward and backwards within the directory, as you explore the listings.

Some pages may display a “Spotlight” area just above the listings. These are HTML ads, available to any advertiser, thought there is an emphasis on providing them only to those sites with quality content that complements the directory.

Beyond the directory, Infoseek also says it has implemented an algorithm change meant to improve the relevancy of its search results, especially for single-word searches on popular topics. Examples include terms such as “cars,” “travel” or even some more specific searches, such as “car rental.”

These types of queries are problematic for search engines, because there is so much competition among webmasters to do well for them. Everyone wants to be in the top ten for “travel,” but those competing and getting in are not always the best choices for the general user. Likewise, good sites may be missed because they lack relevant text or a host of other factors.

Infoseek’s change does seem to help, in spot checks that I performed. Both Epicurious and Preview Travel made it into the top ten for “travel.” Both are good sites that the average user might like. A search for “cars” brings up selections such as Avis Car Rentals and Car and Driver Magazine.

The changes at Infoseek obviously have impacts for webmasters. First, being listed in the directory has become much more important, as more users will be making use of it.

To be considered, Infoseek says it is best to send a message to the channel editor appropriate for your site. A list of addresses can be found via the Feedback link, below. If you are uncertain which channel is best, then send to

As for the algorithm change, Infoseek wouldn’t discuss any of the factors now coming into play. However, being listed in directory used to provide a small relevancy boost. It now seems much more weight is attached to this. Many of the top picks for single word searches could also be found as double or single checkmarked sites within the directory.

“Web authors they just need to create quality pages that people want to go to. That is all, nice and simple,” advises Infoseek’s Mullin, about getting to the top.


Infoseek Feedback

You’ll find contact addresses for channel editors on this page.


Lycos Community Guides Get Comeuppance

Lycos introduced its Community Guides at the end of last year, but users could be forgiven if they missed them. They were mainly available to those browsing through the Lycos Web Guides, discovered only after several clicks into the site.

Now the Community Guides have been catapulted onto center stage. In response to some general searches, users now receive a matching list of guides, then matching web pages.

The Community Guides look like any other directory. Sites are organized into categories, though listed in terms of quality, rather than the usual alphabetization. The top score is 100, and sites appear in descending order.

The directory is unique in that it is created automatically, using agent technology from WiseWire. (And Lycos just announced today that it acquired WiseWire for a $40 million stock swap).

An editor starts the process rolling by creating categories and assigning important keywords and concepts to them. WiseWire then displays what it believes are the best documents from those it has found by crawling the web.

Next, Lycos users get a say. Clicking on a link in the directory loads the listed web site within a frame. Options at the top of the frame then invite the user to vote whether they liked the site.

Positive votes help a site rise to a top, but these work in conjunction with the computer generated ratings. Additionally, WiseWire examines the top ranked documents and uses them as a model for other pages to retrieve. Meanwhile, sites that are disliked fall to the bottom of the list or disappear entirely.

Lycos says it currently has over 4,200 subjects and plans to expand them to 20,000 over the coming year — that’s 1 to 2 million sites, in all. The beauty of its system is that it combines the advantages of both humans and machines to build lists of decent quality.

Naturally, webmasters will want to be listed within the guides. Unfortunately, there is no way to suggest your page, at the moment. This is something that may come later in the year, Lycos says.

The good news is that the WiseWire spider is very active. I constantly see it appearing in the logs of various sites I review. If you have links to your site, it should eventually find you. That doesn’t mean your site will necessarily be included in a category, but at least you have a chance, if you’ve been indexed.

What about Top 5%, the other directory Lycos operates? That service is being restructured over the next three to six months, and submissions are no longer being accepted or processed during this period.




Excite and Lycos Get More Personal

Excite dramatically changed its home page on April 13 by integrating personalization into it, while Lycos launched a revamped version of its personalized service on the same day.

The Excite move is significant, because it actively places users into a personalized environment that they may have otherwise overlooked or even avoided before.

No longer do users need to consciously choose to establish an account and then visit a separate page listing information such as stock quotes, news headlines, weather forecasts and television listings. Instead, this has all been attached to the home page.

Excite acknowledges that the change might be disconcerting to some but says it has made it so that the emphasis on search and navigation remain.

“One of the risks is that we potentially throw a lot of people off,” said Excite executive vice president Joe Kraus. “But if you don’t ever want to personalize, you don’t have to.”

Weighing against the risk are statistics that say those who personalize return to Excite five times more often than those that don’t. That extra traffic means revenue.

I’d say the move is successful. I’ve never been a big fan of personalization or start pages. That’s not to say they aren’t useful, but I don’t like my browser loading a site by default, nor can I ever be bothered to go to a special personal page.

In short, I’m an ideal example of the type of person Excite hopes to capture with its changes. They put personalization in my face, but not in my way. I was able to function just as before, but the changes allowed Excite to show me exactly why a personalized page can be useful.

Almost immediately, I was drawn in. Enter my birthday and get my horoscope? Why not? It took only a few seconds, and suddenly I was down the path of personalizing my page.

Excite calls this “creeping” personalization. “With Excite, you don’t have to fill out a bunch of forms but instead enter a piece of information one at a time,” Kraus said.

It’s not necessarily unique to Excite. The same horoscope trick can be done over at Lycos. But you would have had to consciously decide to visit the Lycos Personal Guide area to get started. That’s just a click away from the home page, but it’s the hardest click for many users to make.

Meanwhile at Yahoo, you can’t personalize at all without first filling out a form. The form isn’t much longer than the one Excite eventually asks you to fill out, but it puts one more barrier in the way of discovering what personalization can offer.

Removing those barriers is especially crucial for services such as Excite, which want to become web starting points. They’re competing against the Microsoft or Netscape default pages, which have natural advantages.

For example, Microsoft Internet Explorer automatically takes users to its Start Page by default, where it can entice them with many of the same personalization features that the search portals offer.

Excite’s move is a brilliant stroke against this, competitively. They know the odds are someone will eventually come to their service. That’s their chance to say, “We do personalization, too.” But rather than just say it, they show it, and they’re likely to hook more people.

I won’t cover everything that Excite and Lycos offer on the personalization front. You can find virtually the same type of information in both places, as well as at My Yahoo. Instead, I’ll note a few distinctions.

I found Excite seemed to have a strong advantage in allowing you to choose what and where to present information. Yahoo lets you move options around, too, but Excite’s method was easier and more intuitive.

One of the big pluses to personalizing with Excite is that you can establish NewsTracker search topics and have them linked on the home page, instead of being forced to go to a bookmarked location and retrieve them. NewsTracker is a very good news search service, far beyond Yahoo’s. This makes it even more convenient to use.

Unfortunately, my existing topics, which I’ve refined with keywords over the past year, didn’t automatically transfer over when I activated my account. Excite says this should have happened and promises a workaround. I’ll pass that on for others who may encounter the same situation, when I hear back.

Over at Lycos, a big change is that they have integrated home page management tools into the personal page, for those who have Tripod accounts.

So after I signed up for the Lycos personalized page, I visited Tripod and logged in. It was smart enough to recognize I now had a Lycos account and prompted me to merge the two. When I returned to the Lycos personal page, home page management options became available.

Lycos has also introduced an online contact management and calendar system from PlanetAll that looks very intriguing. I didn’t play with it, but it offers many obvious advantages to those wanting constant access to names, addresses and scheduling via the web.

Despite these changes, Yahoo still deserves kudos for integrating its free email into the personalization sign-up. You fill out one form, and you get both a free email account and a personalized page at the same time. These remain separate operations at Excite and Lycos, though you can probably expect them to be combined eventually.

I’m still waiting for one of the services to take personalization another step and offer themed searching. Imagine that you could decide to have a Star Trek look-and-feel to the service, or perhaps the characters from South Park are licensed to guide you through the web. It would add absolutely nothing to improving searching, but it sure would be fun.


Lycos Personal Guide

My Yahoo

Excite, Taking Personalization to Main Page,
Hopes To Redefine Web Hubs

Internet World, April 13, 1998

Details of the Excite changes, contrasting against Yahoo.

Personalized Web takes step forward
San Jose Mercury News, April 8, 1998

Nice summary of the need to balance gathering personal data with the fear of ostracizing visitors.

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The victory is a first after a series of defeats for those using trademarked terms in meta tags. Four previous lawsuits went against the defendants, including a US $3 million judgement against one.

The key difference with the case Playboy filed against its 1981 Playmate of the Year, Terri Welles, was that the judge in the case was convinced Welles had a legitimate reason to use the terms both on her page and within her tags. The other cases have all been tainted by some element of deception, where the infringing sites had no real reason to use the terms.

As always with these cases, it is extremely important to remember that the mere inclusion of trademarked terms in meta tags is not a guarantee that a site will do well for those words.

In particular, Playboy suggested that allowing Welles to use its terms would rob it of traffic meant for its site. In reality, for the words “playboy” and “playmate,” Welles site fails to make it into the top thirty results with the major search engines. It has the most luck with “playmate of the year,” and even with that term, it only ranks 12 with HotBot and 20 with Excite.

In short, her site presents no threat to Playboy’s traffic. Even if she had made it into the top ten, the descriptions of her pages make no attempt to trick search engine users into thinking her site is Playboy’s site. Nor would her presence have meant that Playboy’s own pages wouldn’t be present.

In most cases, a site hoping to actually “hijack” another company’s traffic must resort to spamming a term in the tags or being extremely aggressive. Here, they are likely to fall afoul of each search engine’s policies against spamming. Such tactics may also support an impression of deceitfulness, in a court case.

There are good reasons why a site might use trademarked terms in their tags, as well as on their web pages, so the victory by Welles is excellent news for those with legitimate needs. However, it still doesn’t rule out the fact that someone may take legal action against you for using their terms, good reasons or not.

Meanwhile, those thinking they can grab another site’s traffic by using trademarked terms would be advised that both the way search engines work and past legal actions are likely to make this a poor strategy.

Meta Tag Lawsuits

Summarizes the major lawsuits in the US involving meta tags and their resolutions, with notes about why each is important. Also includes links to articles and resources with more information on the various suits.


Snap Gets New Look; Yahoo Still Deciding

When Snap started out, it was aimed to be an online service meant to challenge the likes of AOL or MSN. Yes, it had a search ability (powered by Infoseek), plus an associated directory compiled by Snap editors. But these features were not central in the design and emphasis of the site.

Things have changed. Search and navigation have been made the primary focus. The site’s home page strongly resembles Yahoo, which is probably a smart move, given Yahoo’s popularity. Snap says that the changes have been made so that users can find information more easily.

Meanwhile, Yahoo is making changes of its own. Take a look for yourself by visiting the beta site.


Yahoo Beta Site


Netscape Net Search Changes Coming

Several of the major search engines have positioning contracts on Netscape’s important Net Search page that are about to expire. Rumors are already flying that there may be a significant shake up with who is listed on the page, especially in light of the fact that Netscape now says it wants to compete with search services turned portal sites such as Yahoo and Excite. Netscape is also apparently to launch its own branded search service.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, considering that Netscape has multi-year, multi-million partnerships with both Yahoo and Excite to produce content within its web site. Another factor is that search engines are no longer as dependent on traffic from Netscape as they once were. It won’t be surprising if one or more of them decline to spend the millions they have in the past for positioning.

The articles below provide few specifics on what’s going to happen, but they do give you some overall perspective.

Netscape: ‘Massively’ Into Media

Wired News, April 24, 1998

Netscape says that over the next two months, it will massively revamp its Netcenter to attract and retain more visitors.

Netscape matches search sites

MSNBC, April 22, 1998

More news on Netscape’s Netcenter plans, including information on launching its own branded service and stats saying that half of Netscape users never change their default settings.

Free Mail Is Added As Netscape Builds Hub Site Features

Internet World, April 27, 1998

When Navigators collide

MSNBC, April 20, 1998

Lots of nice details on who’s paying how much at the moment, and what share of traffic they are receiving.


Excite, Infoseek Announce Acquisitions

Excite announced on April 6 that it would acquire Classifieds2000, in a stock swap valued at $48 million.

Classifieds2000 has provided classified ad searching services to Excite and WebCrawler since the middle of last year. It also provides these services to Excite competitors HotBot, Infoseek and Lycos.

Excite says its acquisition will not affect these competing partnerships. It will allow Classifieds2000 is to operate independently, while it receives the revenues.

Infoseek announced on April 14 that it would acquire the WebChat Broadcasting System, a chat provider with 2.7 million members. The acquisition is through a stock swap valued at $6.7 million.

Infoseek hasn’t lacked chat. It’s offered that since last October, with former partner TalkCity. Instead, the WBS purchase is meant to help correct its lack of personalized services, which in turn provides it with a well-defined member base.

Lycos, Excite and Yahoo all have personalized services such as free email, and those who enroll become members with known demographics, draw from the membership forms. That makes it easier to target advertising at these people — assuming they haven’t lied about themselves when signing up, of course.

With WBS, Infoseek now has its own core membership upon which to build.

Infoseek Steps Up Web Gateway Push With Chat Site Buy
Internet World, April 20, 1998

More details on the WBS acquisition, discussing strengths and weaknesses.


AltaVista Improves Results, Positions Partners

AltaVista appears to have made a change that improves single-word searches on the service. Look for something like “california” on the main, US-based site, and you’ll see that the top results tend to be dominated by the home pages of web sites, rather than inside pages. The sites listed also tend to be more relevant, or at least more important, than what single word searches produced in the past.

For example, top picks for “california” include the California State University, Sacramento, the California Department of Transportation, the California Academy of Sciences and my favorite, the California Beer Page: microbrewers throughout the state.

AltaVista says they’ve done nothing to their search algorithm, but this is extremely unlikely. It’s rare for web site home pages to rank more relevantly than pages inside web sites. Inside pages tend to have more relevant text for search engines to index, and thus they usually dominate the results. Additionally, there are often a number of crafted entry pages, designed to do well for popular single word searches, mixed among results.

In fact, simply perform the same search on both the US service and compare it to the Australian mirror site, and you can see the dramatic difference. The many extended URLs on the Australian service will clearly be noticeable.

Both the Canadian and Latin American service also seem to have a new retrieval mechanism in place. They yield different results than the US service, but the domination of root URL exists.

Meanwhile, design changes on the main US site seem to happen every week, as the site continues shifting from away from its search-only roots in its quest to become a portal player.

A new “health” tab takes visitors to the Intelihealth site, which features articles and information on health issues. A similar “Get Wild” tabs takes visitors to the Wild Wild Web television show’s web site. AltaVista has a partnership with the Internet program, and its site features information about entertainment on the web. Links from the home page also lead to, a travel service that signed a five-year, $15 million partnership agreement with AltaVista in early April.


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Search Engine Notes

LinkExchange Offers Low Budget Yahoo Ads

LinkExchange has introduced a new service that lets those with small budgets advertise on Yahoo. Packages start from as low as $100 for 10,000 impressions. Until this program, a campaign with Yahoo would require a minimum commitment of $1,000.

You get access to real-time stats, just like a major advertiser does. The disadvantage is that you can’t target your ads by keyword or by placement, though this may come in the future. But for $100, it might be a worthwhile experiment and certainly an inexpensive way for those with smaller sites to see how banner ads work on one of the web’s most popular services.

Advertising Information


Yahoo Posts Largest Profits

Yahoo posted a $4.3 million quarterly profit, the largest to date for any search service. Excite and Infoseek also posted their latest quarterly results, losses in both cases. The Search Engine Profits reflects the latest numbers and tracks them over time.

Search Engine Profits

Yahoo traffic boost profits, April 8, 1998,4,20918,00.html?



Lycos Top Categories

Lycos reported that in March, the top three most-visited categories in its shopping network were Apparel, Books, and Electronics.


Ads Popping Up On Infoseek

Have things been leaping out at you over at Infoseek? I first spotted a pop-up ad at back in February, and they seemed to have returned in more frequency at the end of April. To my knowledge, Infoseek is the first search service to experiment with them.

Recent advertisers being displayed include Sunny Delight and Dell Computers. If you’re curious, try a stroll through the Infoseek directory. They appeared more often when I was in there.

Infoseek said it could not comment on the ads.


Canada Gets New Search Engine

A new Canadian search engine, powered by Inktomi, has been launched. is backed by Southam, Canada’s largest newspaper chain.

Search Engine Articles

Building the Network To Back Lycos’ Deals
Internet World, April 20, 1998

The hardware that keeps Lycos running.


Web Portals Play Leapfrog
Wired News, April 17, 1998

Exceptionally good round-up on how the major search services are imitating each other yet also trying to distinguish themselves to build loyal market share.


Inktomi files to go public, April 16, 1998,4,21160,00.html

Details about Inktomi’s upcoming IPO. The firm powers the HotBot search engine and the soon-to-launch Microsoft service, among others.


The Search Engine Speaks
CMPnet, March 30, 1998

Interview with Infoseek’s product manager. No, you won’t gain any “secrets” by reading it, but it is worth a scan for general attitudes about spamming and listing issues.


New Search Tool Speaks Your Language
Wired News, April 15, 1998

About the Electric Monk, a service that takes a natural language query such as “How do I make chicken soup” and sends it to AltaVista in a way meant to produce better results. Some may like it; some may think it’s no better than regular AltaVista.


Yahoo and AltaVista Traffic Accident
Netly News, April 10, 1998,1012,1894,00.html

Discusses how partners Yahoo and AltaVista both count some of the same page views as their own.


Iconcast: Search Engines Issue
Iconocast, April 1, 1998,37446&P=article

A lovely compilation of stats and analysis relating to the search engine industry.


Bellacoola: Offsite Stats For Those In Need

The best way to measure how successful search engine and other online marketing efforts are is to analyze your server logs. These tell you precisely the terms people use to find your site or the links sending traffic your way.

Unfortunately, many people don’t have access to log information. In particular, those with free web pages hosted by AOL, CompuServe and other providers lack decent statistics. “Hit counters” don’t cut it, when you want to measure marketing success.

Bellacoola Web Tracking Services is a wonderful solution. You install a small bit of code on each of your pages, and access logs are created in an offsite location. You can then download these and run them through your favorite log analysis program.

The program has been in beta for many months, but even so, it works very well. I’ve used it to monitor a CompuServe-based test site and been extremely pleased with the results.

Bellacoola is best for sites with low-to-medium traffic and not too many pages. Those with larger sites really should seek to have their provider establish decent statistics.



Position Checkers Upgraded

A free upgrade for existing users of WebPosition Analyzer is now available. The update for the popular position checking software adds support for Northern Light and Magellan, while dropping the now-defunct Open Text Index. URL searching in WebCrawler is now supported, and there have been other fixes, according to FirstPlace Software, which makes the product.

The web-based checking service RankThis has also added new search services to its line up. Searches can now be done on Snap, Planet Search and

Don’t expect to see support for Northern Light added to RankThis or to competitor PositionAgent. Northern Light has a policy against robots, such as position checkers or metacrawlers, tapping into its listings without a business agreement.

PositionAgent tried to introduce support without such an agreement in March but found itself blocked. RankThis had announced support that month for Northern Light, but then this was dropped. WebPosition could also eventually find its queries blocked.




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