Monday, September 30, 2002
LookSmart: Fact or Fiction, or "Should I Eat that Crispy Chicken?"
When it comes to LookSmart, one of the top three directories on the web and still the best way to get high placement on MSN Search, the most pressing questions on webmasters’ minds seem to be: (i) will they stay in business? and (ii) should I do business with them?
Many small businesses and industry consultants have already made up their mind on (ii). Since LookSmart changed their pricing model to "pay, pay more, and pay yet again some more" from the former paid inclusion (one-time-only) model, many have stated they'll refuse to do business with LookSmart, and will warn their clients against it as well. At fifteen cents per click for targeted traffic, this means a lot of businesses are consciously making a decision to pass something up that might be advantageous to them or their clients in order to show their displeasure with LookSmart’s recent policy changes.
But is this de facto LookSmart boycott all it’s cracked up to be? This wouldn't be the first time a boycott has failed….
[The full version of this article appears in the current (Oct. 2) issue of the quarterly Page Zero Advisor, my new subscriber-only newsletter. To become a three-year charter subscriber, visit the following link and pay $49 for my special report on Google Adwords: http://hop.clickbank.net/?trmon/pagezero. Crispy chicken not included. Cole slaw sold separately.]
Friday, September 27, 2002
Hurry into AltaVista's Discount Warehouse Blowout Clearance Event!
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?
Beam me up... please
Sadly, this gem from Priceline was the most interesing dot-com news today.
Monday, September 23, 2002
Click the Monkey? Click This!
If this is Monday, we must be in Hell. Above my Yahoo Mail inbox today, I saw an annoying (and misleading, if you're really, really stupid) flashing banner that said "IF THIS BANNER IS FLASHING, THEN YOU'VE JUST RECEIVED AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE!" And that message is: Yahoo disrespects its Yahoo Mail customers so much that it's still forcing us to look at this crap all for the sake of about two bucks for every 10,000 impressions.
Yahoo Mail search works better full-text
As a follow-up to the last note, remember to check "search full text" when you want to sift through your Yahoo mail. Otherwise, you'll just be searching message titles, and that may not help you find the message you need. That little check box is easy to forget.
Thursday, September 19, 2002
Keyword-search your Yahoo Mail
So you're sitting there using your favorite toy, your Yahoo inbox, and getting more used to it as an alternative to your regular mail client. And then you think, "drat, I can't search through all my messages to find the one I want like I can with Outlook!"
But of course, you can. There is a link to "search mail" in plain view. It works fast, and you'll be digging up that unanswered invitation to tea from your Aunt Gladiola in no time. No excuses!
Yahoo Mail has a lot of other features you might not be using. Are there any features they don't have that you think they should? Drop us a line, we'd like to hear about it.
Monday, September 16, 2002
Online Subscriptions in their Infancy?
Terry Semel, Yahoo's CEO, just told Fortune Magazine that "every dollar that comes in from any premium service is incremental to us. Last year we had zero. Literally."
Yikes! Well, better late than never, one supposes.
Looking at all the interesting, useful, fun stuff that Yahoo is just beginning to charge for can open your eyes to the possibilities. Remember when Hotmail and Yahoo Mail had just come out, and you and three friends were the only ones to bother with them? Now, everyone uses them. The same growth curve is going to take effect for the most useful, more advanced stuff that we've become addicted to.
Yahoo! Fantasy Football (and baseball, etc.), a slick, high-powered service, is mostly free. It now comes with a range of potential add-ons, but the revenues are probably nothing to shout about just yet. But here's a cool twist: league managers can buy a package of premium services on behalf of everyone in their league. Right now, no one is using this stuff, but the math is favorable. You've got league administrators potentially helping Yahoo make $200 in revenue next year from a fantasy league where they might have made $20 total this year. I certainly didn't go dig around for the godawful fee Yahoo would charge me to sign my whole league up for the premium stuff, but it may not be long before this becomes a huge business. Yahoo's interactive fantasy league software (which many currently still use for free) already blows away many of the cottage-industry software makers in this area, and they can always make it better at relatively low cost.
I'm not spending megabucks on Yahoo services yet - a larger mailbox for $30 and the Java Real-Time Fantasy Stat Tracker for $9.95 - but that counts me amongst the one million Yahoo users who have bought a premium service. Those revenues are bound to grow quickly with each passing year. From a revenue standpoint, Yahoo has nowhere to go but up.
Sunday, September 15, 2002
We Can't Answer You Unless You Leave a Real Address, But Even Then, We Don't Owe You a Response, Dept.
Sometimes you get emails from some really paranoid people. Just in, source unknown:
CONTACT FORM INFORMATION
Topic: Editorial Inquiries
Comments: I see now that you are running a block on FAST-news.
This looks almost like China.
Why are you blocking FAST-news ?
Sounds like someone needs to take some deep breaths.
Friday, September 13, 2002
Sympatico-Lycos now just Sympatico again
BCE Inc. has taken control of Canada's largest portal, Sympatico, buying out Lycos' 29 per cent stake. It was always a strange partnership anyway. Those of us who watch this portal business closely would love to see the telecommunications giant make something out of the opportunity - Sympatico is a great household name and also the top ISP in the country - but we aren't holding our breath. Lycos probably got the best deal out of this buyout... disengagement from a meaningless partnership, and some extra cash (or BCE shares) to shore up its balance sheet.
Thursday, September 12, 2002
We face a constant assault these days by viruses, worms, spyware and the like. You would think yourself safe by installing virus-protection software, ditching spyware like Gator, and refraining from downloading questionable software. But no!
For months now, pop-up windows keep appearing on my desktop despite the fact that I run Pop-Up Stopper, a free and powerful pop-up ad blocker. I know of no logical explanation for how this keeps happening. And I know for a fact that the pop-ups are not being caused by specific sites, because the ads sometimes appear on my own sites. And I sure as hell ain't putting gambling pop-ups on my sites!
The only clue I have is the name of the browser window that appears. The title in the blue bar at the top of the window says "Internet Explorerer." Even you non-English majors know that this is a misspelling of Microsoft's IE browser. I've searched far and wide on the Web, but can't find any explanation for it. So, I'm turning to Traffick readers for help.
If you know what is causing this insidious intrusion on my browser, please tell me!
It's impossible, if you're compelled to write, blog, etc., to let the first anniversary of 9/11 go by without some kind of reflection. A year ago, I had made a decision to focus more directly on the consulting side of things. In fact, the "relaunch" of my consulting web site, really the first official opening of the doors, didn't happen until September 1, 2001. I suppose this was lousy timing. But the overall feeling during that slow period was one of thankfulness to live in a society with opportunity and some measure of justice, and a resolve to articulate those values more clearly to those who would have us muddy the waters.
Carolyn, my significant other, had issues of her own to deal with. As co-ordinator (and one of only a couple of paid employees) of an umbrella peace group called the Canadian Peace Alliance, she was thrust into the spotlight. Peace was cool! Peace was hip! Peace was the enemy! No one save for those bizarre, headstrong individuals who place angry calls to call-in radio shows, was quite sure how to deal with the concept. If I had one wish, the media wouldn't so often make issues into mudslinging matches designed to show that there are "two sides" which "hate each other."
I suppose the good thing about being needed in a time of crisis is that you don't have time to get depressed about it. Fortunately for me, business picked up in January, so I had less time to ponder.
The year has been a long journey for us, and for many of you. Coupled with a down economy, the tragedy caused many to look inwards, buying homes, getting hitched, having children, taking time out to build a birdhouse, read a few books, or help a neighbour. From the ashes, much new growth emerged for many people.
We probably not only need to look inwards, but farther forward, and deeper into the issues. Canada's Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, yesterday had a rare moment of lucidity, pointing out that the "Western world is seen to be greedy, always wanting more when so many elsewhere have nothing, arrogant, without limits." Already some have interpreted this as an anti-US statement, but it wasn't. Canada remembers 9/11 as a day when our values and our institutions were attacked, and we know it could very well happen here in Toronto someday. Indeed something like 60% of Toronto citizens (in a recent poll) now believe that we "will be the target of a major terrorist attack." There was much respect and much solidarity with our neighbours to the south yesterday, as with one year ago.
Back to business, though.
It must be so very interesting to work for a major search engine, and to have access to the real time data showing the ebb and flow of certain search phrases. I've had a glimpse of that myself just looking at some activity on client Google AdWords Select ad campaigns. Over the past three days, searches on terms related to "risk management" have shot way up.
Prime Minister Chretien's uncharacteristically clear thoughts about the global situation stand in stark contrast to the tightly-boxed concepts that are supposed to help people become better managers. In one sense, you can always hedge risk if that risk is tied to currencies, commodities, or market uncertainty. In a larger sense, you cannot manage risk, as last year's tragic events proved. Each day is a risk. It's worth it. Take one tomorrow, and the day after that.
Monday, September 09, 2002
LookSmart Submission Tip: "Avoid Them Like the Plague"
I was perusing Robert Woodhead's exemplary selfpromotion.com resource today, and noticed his little blurb on LookSmart, who he expects will "curl up and die" soon. Come on Robert, tell us what you really think!
Unfortunately, several formerly vital avenues for web site submission look to be on the brink of entering that bankruptcy-induced fetal position, leaving us in a conundrum as to what to do for clients who need somewhere to plop their fall web site promotion budgets. When you consider that the only other major non-Yahoo directory left is dmoz.org, and many editors there have gone on permanent hiatus, it's a strange state of limbo that we can only hope won't continue indefinitely. The world needs good Internet directories, especially in light of the weight Google continues to put on dmoz.org as an authoritative categorizer of web content. But the enthusiasm for creating them seems to have waned.
Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Dogpile! Metacrawler! Excite! Google! (Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!)
Danny Sullivan may be right - as he pointed out in this month's Search Engine Report, all the other search engines must be feeling like Jan Brady these days, since the only one any of us talks about is Google. Great article, Danny, though I'm PO'd that your Marcia Brady analogy was even cheesier retro California pop culture than my allusions to the rise and fall of the Beach Boys. Well, I'm here today to put a stop to that Marcia Marcia Marcia thing. Today, Infospace made a series of announcements relating to their newly revamped metasearch properties. Metacrawler will be adding, well, Google, to the list of twelve search engines it polls to arrive at its aggregated metasearch results. And at the end of the month it will begin including Google sponsored listings (although Overture will remain the 'premier provider' of paid listings for Infospace) in the mix. Oh, dear. Even when the story's about Jan, it's still Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!
With apologies to the hard-working people at the Infospace offices in Seattle, if Metacrawler feels a bit like Jan Brady lately, isn't Webcrawler a bit like Greg Brady? Or the actor who played him (Barry Williams), a man so intent on clinging to his past that he entertained America with a sendup of Eminem's "Slim Shady" entitled "The Real Greg Brady"? (That was funny for about 0.8 seconds.) So many questions. Like how did an architect afford that huge house, two families, a secret double life, and a housekeeper? And does Morgan Fairchild's new career as a TV commercial proxy for the real Mrs. Brady really help Old Navy move rugby shirts?
In all seriousness (if that's possible at this point), I think metasearch remains a category to watch for the long term.
Netscape: Like a Phoenix...?
The official release of Netscape 7 was this week sometime. Yawn... I had been longing for a Netscape revival for quite a while, but now I couldn't care less. Unless Netscape can replicate the feature that stores form values in drop down menus, I don't want to mess with it.
The tabbed windows that all stay inside one program window are nice, though. There's just not a compelling enough reason to switch! Is it even possible for Netscape to regain marketshare? I seriously doubt it.
AOL seems to be trying, though. They've launched the "Netscape Network" across their properties (CNN, SI, etc.). I suppose it's similar to Microsoft's Passport, except it uses AOL's ScreenName system. It looks like they're finally trying to take advantage of any synergy that exists across AOL Time Warner brands and tie everything together with Netscape.
Makes sense, but remember Pathfinder?
More about Matador
After running the Matador e-mail filter for a week now, I can report that it is very inaccurate on how it handles blocked e-mails. Even when you "unjunk" a message, it doesn't give that sender a free pass going forward; you have to unjunk it each time. Needless to say, that's pretty frustrating. I think at this point I would recommend going with Cloudmark. It just seems to work better!
Tuesday, September 03, 2002
Timely Google Tidbits
As expected, Google is discontinuing its old AdWords advertising program, which charged advertisers on a CPM basis, to focus better on the new AdWords Select (cost-per-click) program. The change becomes final on September 30, 2002.
Tonight, close watchers are noticing a change in the way that Yahoo! credits Google with powering web page results. Gone is the small logo saying "powered by Google" with link to Google; it's been replaced by a tiny text attribution ("search technology provided by Google") in the same space with no link. The Google contract to power Yahoo's search results expired at the end of August, so one would expect an announcement shortly. It's not clear if a new type of deal has been made, or whether this change reflects a limbo period while negotiations continue.
Monday, September 02, 2002
You Heard it Here First... No, Really!
Traffick's insider from MSN sends us this interesting (but not surprising) story from Media Life Magazine:
It just so turns out that the Big 3 portals are still relevant to the browsing public. Rather than fade away as users become more familiar with the fragmented nature of the Web, portals are becoming more important, as this quote attests:
Portals appear to be digging even deeper roots into the internet population even as users gain in sophistication. According to a new study, an overwhelming 84 percent of U.S. online households rely on the three major web portals, AOL, MSN, and Yahoo for everyday internet services.
Of course, nothing stays the same forever:
“Success for AOL, MSN, and Yahoo depends on more than the delivery of more page views and the registration of more users. They must create a deeper relationship with their subscribers, touch more aspects of their lives, and be more indispensable than any other medium.”
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