Monday, November 04, 2002
Hurry into AltaVista's Discount Warehouse Blowout Clearance Event! (rerun)
For those stumbling into the Traffick Weblog from Search Engine Watch's mention of the AltaVista issues, the following is what I wrote on September 27, since it got shunted deep into the archives of this blog before we got the permanent link feature turned on. (Thanks to Danny for his intriguing update.)
Ever since they invented a story about 100,000 ISP subscribers to a UK Internet service that didn’t exist, we’ve suspected AltaVista weren’t straight shooters. Hey, we’re prepared to forgive and forget, but subsequent gaffes used up just about any goodwill this formerly-respected search index had left.
In recent months, I’ve received many unsolicited sales pitches from AltaVista sales reps, most of them wanting me to buy advertising for low, low prices.
A recent exchange blew my mind again, and I thought I’d seen it all from this company. A salesperson cold-contacted me to inquire if I would be interested in reselling AltaVista Express Inclusion and Trusted Feed to “my clients.” The bait on the hook was the claim (in an email entitled “A Great AltaVista Reseller Opportunity”) that if a corporate client signs up for trusted feed, not only do their pages get spidered and included in the index (guaranteed), but that Trusted Feed clients “get indexed much higher.”
Wait a minute, I thought. Other paid inclusion services, such as FAST’s and Inktomi’s, do not guarantee high rankings – just inclusion and regular respidering. Everyone in the search engine world (including the colleagues I shared this episode with) assumed AltaVista was the same.
So I challenged the sales rep on this point. He then sent me an email with the text of AltaVista’s corporate info on paid inclusion – the same stuff you can see on their web site. It says nothing about guaranteeing high rankings to Trusted Feed participants. So I gave the rep an opportunity to distance himself from his claim of higher indexing. I believe my exact words were: “Are you now distancing yourself from this claim?”
He wasn’t. His next point was even more specific: “all of your clients will be indexed on the first three pages.”
If this is true, then AltaVista is telling the public and the press one thing, and search engine optimization consultants and corporate advertisers another thing. If not, then why does AltaVista employ sales reps to make inaccurate claims about the purpose of Trusted Feed?
I have a feeling this is all going to come out in the wash soon. AltaVista needs to make a public statement on this, and it needs to be true. If they intend to deny it (which seems likely), they can’t keep on selling Trusted Feed to large advertisers using higher indexing as bait. Someone is going to find out, put two and two together, and rat on them. So what’s the real story, AV?
Postscript: AltaVista made a public statement that claimed they had no policy of indexing trusted feed sites higher. This public statement doesn't ring true at all. I subsequently received email from an ex-employee that basically said that these types of issues (how to sell Trusted Feed by promising higher indexing) were openly discussed in the company, and that he was canned for raising a stink about it. Something still stinks.
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