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Thursday, July 31, 2003

Several Changes in the Works at Altavista

There have some adjustments at Altavista, including the dropping of Moreover as a news source in favor of AV technology.

While I tend to use Google News, AV's news search certainly has its merits: it boasts a vast news archive that dates back to mid-2001 and contains close to 10 million pages. That's very helpful when you're hunting for news beyond Google’s 30-day limit.

Several other changes are underway, according to both Gary Price and Tara Calishain. AV is now using the Open Directory Project as its directory source, and AllTheWeb and AV will apparently begin using an integrated search database in the fall.

Posted by Adam




Microsoft.com to Searchers: Get Lost

No matter how you slice it, Microsoft.com's internal search engine blows chunks. Just try searching for something, and you'll see what I mean. Which makes it amusing that Stefanie Olsen of News.com reports that Microsoft is trumpeting their new, new internal search engine as the easiest ever. Not so, says I.

It's pretty sad when Google does a better job of searching Microsoft's corporate site than MS's own search engine. What's funny, though, is when a MS rep even admits it:

"Searching Microsoft.com was a real problem; using Google would sometimes get you better results," said Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft.

As they say, the truth hurts.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




HotBot Changes Names to Protect the... Useless?

You know it's a slow news day when HotBot gets a full-length article about how they changed the names of the search engines they draw their metasearch index from:

"We have continued to do usability testing to refine the product and one of the things that keeps coming back is that users don't know Inktomi, FAST, and Teoma," said Tom Wilde, general manager of search services for Lycos and HotBot. "But when tested against the brands HotBot, Lycos, and Ask Jeeves, almost all users recognize the names."

To Mr. Wilde's credit, that's probably a true statement. But doesn't it just seem, um, wrong to say you're providing one thing, when you're really giving something else? I mean, Inktomi is not HotBot, FAST is not Lycos, and even though Ask Jeeves does own Teoma, they're not the same thing.

Speaking of Jeeves, I had the displeasure of searching the butler's engine today to do some client research, and I nearly went blind after seeing Jeeves' jumbled mess of text that they call search results. I mean, if you're gonna be a second-tier search engine, the least you can do is make it easy to read your darn search results, right?

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Tuesday, July 29, 2003

An Even More Vapid Thought

Well Cory...I don't think that sounds like such a bad idea for a column. Gwyneth can visit my Googleplex anytime.

But seriously, as you were talking about the new interface (the reporting features could add some much-needed detail and flexibility to post-facto ROI analysis), that was one of about a dozen topics covered at today's second-ever Google "for advertisers" seminar in Toronto. Not only did several members of the Google Canada team give presentations on how to maximize ad campaigns, several others from Google offices in Mountain View, Atlanta, and New York pitched in.

Max Erdstein, Global Manager of Google's Creative Maximizers (MAXimizers... get it), gave an interesting overview which opened with a cute example ad: "TORONTO: You'll never get sick of this fabulous city!"

I'm pretty sure... hmm, actually very sure... they didn't all come up just to see the Stones concert. Nice job, gang.

Reading Kanellos' column, OK, maybe a little, um...

"Ultimately, most technology products--especially upgrades--are luxuries.

"Luxury, however, can have an incredible pull. Venice, Italy, became a world power through the spice trade. DeBeers built a vast fortune on promoting diamonds. Frank Epperson, meanwhile, achieved immortality by inventing the Fudgsicle."

... did someone say vapid? Then let me be the second. Did I mention that Venice is in Italy?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Vapid Thoughts About Google

I guess all those paid columnists have to write about something, so one might as well write pointless drivel about Gwyneth Paltrow visiting the Googleplex. If you enjoy rambling articles with little point and no original thoughts about the most fascinating search technology company in history, you might or might not enjoy this column by Michael Kanellos of ZDNet/CNET/News.com.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




AdWords Gets a Face Lift

The fine folks at Google (who actually take suggestions from actual people) have unveiled a new look for the AdWords administration interface.

It's not enabled by default, so you'll have to choose to turn on the new interface. I haven't tested it out much so far, but it looks much more streamlined with smaller fonts that enable you to see more data without having to scroll quite as much.

Nicely done!

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Monday, July 28, 2003

I Blame Yahoo!

Well, it's still happening.

The news functionality of my personalized My Yahoo! page continues to disappoint. Having added the "Golf" module several months ago I noticed that although the headlines at the actual partner site that serves the news (Golfserv) are generally up to date, the headlines that appear on my custom My Yahoo! page are still usually days and days out of date.

Case in point: today's top headline says "Unknown Mason Takes Halfway Lead at Sr. British Open." As the world has been fully aware for the past 24 hours at least, Mason double-bogeyed the last hole in the final round on Sunday to finish tied for first, and was bested in a playoff by old favorite Tom Watson.

And no headline at all about wacky fellow-pro-impersonator Peter Jacobsen winning a bona fide PGA tour stop, the Greater Hartford Open, at age 49. (Well, maybe not 100% bona fide. A club pro named Suzie Whaley shot 75 in the first round on the course, and it was tough not to notice Jacobsen hitting sand wedge into the green for his second shot on 17, and 9-iron for his second shot out of the rough after a bad drive on 18. But hey, 49!)

Can something so simple as a "new headline ticker" not be made to work properly?

[Note to those of you who are saying "golf is like soooo lame": well you obviously haven't been to one of Fuzzy Zoeller's wild parties. I have. So don't talk to me.]

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Defending the Rights of Algorithm Designers, or "If You Don't Like it, Start Your Own Search Engine"

Sean Carton makes a good point in today's ClickZ column, a series of predictions about how the Internet landscape will unfold in the near future. He suggests that search engines are going to be overwhelmed with bureaucracy and regulation because they're becoming such an important public access point for information.

"At some point, someone's going to file a class action suit, or some legislator whose business got lousy rankings is going to say, "Hey! This isn't fair!" I don't know how attempts at regulation will pan out, but it's inevitable the government will try to get involved."

Sadly, he's right.

Shades of arguments we had with the likes of Gary Mosher, who no longer seems quite as wacky as we might have thought.

But the specter of legislators infringing on the editorial rights of the publishers of website rankings is too grim, ultimately, for us to even imagine taking something like this lying down. It's a real 1984 scenario. I know, I know, some are going to say it's Google, and not this hypothetical government agency, that has too much control over information. Maybe so, but so do the New York Times and Rupert Murdoch. Government regulates all media... to a point.

Ultimately, one supposes, it must come down to a question of what the law actually allows a publisher of listings or directories to do, and how many fetters can be placed on that. "Hard questions" (often completely uninformed questions) are being asked of search engines now, because they're the hot topic. But how often do you hear similar questions being raised about other listing formats, like yellow page directories? Like, is it really fair to list businesses in alphabetical order? What about the white pages? Is it fair that a single company or large public organization can list hundreds of numbers, taking up several pages? Of course no one asks these questions because the practicalities of helping users find what they need outweigh such nitpicking.

So at the end of the day, Carton (or at least his imagined litigators) are going to be proven quite wrong. Savvy users understand the implied pact here, which is "rankings of pages in Google are Google's opinion (driven by a proprietary ranking technology) of which pages are most relevant to the average user's query." A lot of people think Google's opinion is very often helpful to them, hence they continue to use the Google search tool. No one's holding a gun to their head. It's supply and demand.

Oddly, when you work through the logic of hypothetical "search rankings sour grapes litigators," the new advertising programs available on search engines like Google serve to head off the complaint that public access is being blocked by a quirk in a research tool designed by a herd of diabolical nerds. If you bid high enough, provided you meet editorial requirements and clickthrough rate thresholds, you can appear on the page for pretty much any keyword you choose. Yes, you appear as advertising, not a search result, but the point is, you're not completely shut out. You can pay for exposure without forcing Google to mess with their algorithm - parallel worlds appearing on the same page in front of the same user. The market at work, more or less. (What, hypothetical lawsuit-monger, you think the editorial process and the CTR cutoff are biased, too? Doesn't someone want to stand up and defend the right of the user to see something relevant? Someone other than 100 million actual users, that is?)

Sadly, Google may well have to chew up a bit of its IPO cash (now we start to see why a war chest is needed) in defending such principles. Imagine paying all those lawyers to duke it out only to come to the simple conclusion: "Hey, if you don't like it, study computer science at Stanford, Brown, or MIT, and start your own search engine. That's what we did."

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Microsoft Has a Big Week

Last week was a big week for Mr. Gates and company. As News.com so nicely summarizes on one page, there were many developments in Windowsland:

* MSN is pushing broadband in the fall. If they get "there" before AOL, there's a good chance MSN will be able to steal away even more subscribers from the sagging #1 ISP. AOL seems to be trying hard to promote its own broadband efforts, and even attempting to get existing broadband subscribers to pony up $10 a month to access AOL's content services. That would have been a joke until recently, when most of Time Warner's content assets were moved behind the "firewall," so to speak.

* Microsoft is also pursuing a digital music store. Gee, if you can't own 'em, beat 'em. Is there anything remotely related to computing that Microsoft doesn't have a hand in? The success of Apple's iTunes store has the greedy Mr. Gates seeing dollar signs again. I simply can't believe that time and time again, Microsoft feels the need to dominate every single segment of the industry. Thankfully, some consumers are smart and don't want a homogenized single way of accessing computing services. You'd think Gates would take a lesson from the reversal of fortune plaguing AOL and realize that one-size-fits-all really means one-size-fits-none. I suspect this is another vaporware announcement, as MS really has no way of making its own music store. Which means that since they can't beat 'em, they probably will own 'em.

* Longhorn will rope everything together. Everything related to Microsoft products, that is. Which is pretty much everything relating to computers. Prediction: Microsoft will finally be broken up after Longhorn hits, possibly in 2006. Microsoft is finding a way to do everything it wasn't supposed to do after the settlement with the Justice Department. They're just doing it very subtly. Sure it's good when apps play well together, but tying them together so tightly will not sit well with the Feds. It might take a Democratic White House to actually do the deed, but Microsoft seems to be on a collision course with the U.S. government. If Longhorn is all that it is hyped up to being, I don't see how it's not another case of illegally using its OS monopoly to promote other products. It's early in the game, though.

* There were lots of other less important but equally interesting articles, so go check them out.

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. As if.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Saturday, July 26, 2003

MSN to Stay With Overture – for Now

Microsoft told analysts this week it would continue to honor its agreement with Overture while it worked out a long-term strategy for MSN Search.

The software giant has a deal in place to display Overture listings on MSN until the end of 2004, although there is apparently an "out" clause built into the agreement allowing MSN to pull out should Yahoo purchase Overture.

Microsoft seems to feel it has two long-term options: build a search engine of its own, or keep using affiliate agreements with other search providers. Microsoft hasn’t officially committed to developing its own engine, but the gears are obviously in motion (as anyone that has been paid a visit by MSN’s new bot would agree). My guess is the long-term prospect of having an engine to call its own is a better alternative to MSN than a litany of ever-changing affiliate agreements.

Posted by Adam




Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Just Got a Hot Stock Tip from a Cab Driver Named "Jeeves"

No question, Teoma's a nice search engine. The butler character's always been cuddly and well-dressed, even though pretty easy to stump. But you just know valuations are getting out of hand when a competent business journalist (who also plays one on television) "discovers" ASKJ and says it "might not be too late" to own the stock... while remaining vague on such business fundamentals as earnings history, earnings projections, market share, and the volatility of online advertising prices.

Disclaimer: I'm not a business reporter. Nor do I play one on TV. Nor am I a telegenic investment adviser. Do your own research. But just so you know, Ask Jeeves processed 3% of US-based online searches in May 2003. This is pretty much all they do since selling off their enterprise division for pocket change. This company is not setting the world on fire.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, July 22, 2003

An Amazonian Search Engine, Coming Soon?

Just as I was working on an article about different ways to dramatically improve upon the already satisfactory state of search engine technology, Amazon.com says they may be close to a deal with several book publishers to allow full-text searching of thousands of nonfiction volumes sold online by Amazon.com.

The author of this New York Times article (via News.com) surmises that Amazon is looking to take on the Googles and Yahoos of the world by offering such a rich trove of searchable information exclusively to Amazon users. I don't think Amazon had intimated their intention of taking this approach, but if they do, I think it's a big mistake.

The concept of full-text searching of thousands of books is a fantastic idea. In fact, I believe that one of the biggest problems with search engines isn't the search technology at all; it's the lack of relevant content available in public Internet documents. Most of the millions of books published since Gutenberg invented the printing press are not even searchable online. That's billions of pages of rich information that aren't even available to the general searching public. But why shouldn't it be?

And, why shouldn't Amazon simply partner with all the search engines to integrate this information into search results across all engines? If a particular book is truly the most relevant information a searcher needs, he may just be willing to buy the book if he knows the information is contained within. I know I wouldn't mind the sales pitch from Amazon if I knew I could get just the right content that's only available in a book. Of course, I'd prefer to be able to download the book, but books on demand are probably a ways off.

There will certainly be copyright issues to work out, but it is in everyone's best interest to make this an open system, rather than a closed one. Since Google already provides the Web search on Amazon.com as well as AdWords content-targeted ads, it makes sense for these two titans to work out something together, rather than for Amazon to go it alone.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Monday, July 21, 2003

Blog phenomenon seeping out into mainstream journalism

Is the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News taking a risk in launching a topical weblog? Will anyone pay attention? And more to the point, maybe, will this experiment prove once and for all that "editorial boards" produce uninteresting and shallow analysis compared to the richer, riskier "takes" available on the blogs of non-aligned online journalists?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Saturday, July 19, 2003

Patent War Pending?

One potentially significant fact about the Yahoo-Overture deal that appears to have been largely overlooked is that Yahoo's purchase gives them more than 60 patents. Apparently, all of the patents are related to technology and processes for indexing the Web and Pay Per Click bidding systems.

Is this bad news for other PPC engines? It can't be good, that's for sure. Overture says it is ready to "vigorously defend" their patents, and there's no reason not to believe them; getting a patent is both difficult and expensive. However, Overture is already battling Google and FindWhat in court over patent issues, with little to show for it so far, as defending a patent is a long and drawn out process. Therefore, it could be a while before we learn what Overture's patent arsenal really means to the industry.

Posted by Adam




Thursday, July 17, 2003

More on BananaSlug

Steve, the creator of BananaSlug, which provides a unique way to search Google using the Google API, e-mailed me yesterday to give a little background about the service.

I had wondered aloud in a blog entry the other day about the meaning of the name, and Steve was happy to oblige me:

Why is it called BananaSlug? I am a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, home to lots of real banana slugs, and it's also the school mascot. I had registered the domain long ago, but never used it for anything.

Ah, so that's it! Steve also updated me on some enhancements to the site:

The new version of BananaSlug redirects immediately to Google results after the 1000 limit has been reached. Not ideal, but you don't have that intermediate clickthrough to do.

Sounds good to me, Steve. Keep up the great work. That Google API program is a beautiful thing.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Numbers? We Got Numbers!

comScore Media Metrix recently sent out a press release in the wake of the Yahoo-Overture merger detailing the "share of searches submitted by U.S. Internet users, May 2003." This from their proprietary "qSearch" study which I gather isn't available without a subscription.

In any case, some interesting findings:

Google Sites 32%
Yahoo! Sites 25%
AOL Time Warner 19%
MSN-Microsoft Sites 15%
Ask Jeeves 3%


Now allow me to do some funny math to capture the "true" picture as it were. This might not be quite exact because "searches" might measure various types of search on the major portal properties, but it's the thought that counts, right? Since Google powers both Yahoo Search and AOL Search, if you assign the lion's share of searches on those portal properties to Google, you arrive at the conclusion that Google might be powering 60-70% of all online searches. That really doesn't surprise me. (Where do you search? How about anyone else you know?)

The proprietary or "other co-brand" parts of AOL and Yahoo aside, MSN is now outgunned by Google something like 5 to 1, with no other strong players in sight. Ask Jeeves is lucky to have its 3%, and AltaVista, FAST, and Inktomi are all being gutted for spare parts or repurposed in one form or another by their new owner, Yahoo.

As for shares of sponsored keyword links, Google has surpassed Overture, according to comScore Media Metrix's numbers:

% of U.S. Searches Served by Paid Search Affiliate Network
May 2003

SOURCE: comScore qSearch

Google Network 54%
Overture Network 45%

That one confuses me a bit, since it's obvious they're exluding LookSmart and FindWhat. For some of our clients, FindWhat generates more leads for us than Google - they must have a bigger share than half a percent.

In any case, it's pretty clear that if your optimizing your site for search engines or advertising on them, Google is where the consumers are. Don't take my word for it. Look at the stats.

As longtime portal watchers, we'd always sort of treated Yahoo! as if it were the "flagship" portal or the "real" portal with AOL as a kind of pumped-up ISP whose training wheels would someday be obsolete, and with MSN generating a lot of phony claims and phony numbers. That seems to be proving true. MSN's publicity machine would have you believe that they're ready to take the search market by storm, but we're not buying it. And as Cory's blog on AOL (down the page a bit) suggests, AOL has tired of exaggerating its own importance in the current online landscape. That's refreshing.

It looks like the handwriting is on the wall for some big online brands. Their next few moves could be important ones.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Clever Search Optimization Tactic, or Just Dumb as Dirt?

The AdBumb gang listed a couple of upcoming advertising-related conferences in a recent newsletter. One of them was:

Seach Enginge Strategies
August 18-21
San Jose, CA

"Search Engine Strategies 2003 features presentations and panel discussions that cover all aspects of search engine-related promotion. You'll learn how search engines interact with your Web site and ways to improve your listings." A Jupiter event, has been pretty good every year, although they don't like to let me in the door.


I'm thinking - you got two out of three words wrong, Bumb, why not go for the hat trick and get the date and place wrong too?

Soich Enije Drabamees
September 3-6
Anchorage, Alaska

Just yanking your chain, Bumb. (See you in San Jose, dumbasses!)

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Another Interesting Google API Tool

You may already know about Googlealert, which allows you to be notified by e-mail when up to five different keyword searches bring back new results in Google's index. Googlealert employs the fascinating Google Web API, which allows developers to create apps that tap into Google's 3 billion page index.

I recently discovered another clever tool that uses the API. It's called BananaSlug (not sure why, though). This one takes your Google keyword phrase search and throws a random word into your query, which brings back different results than your normal matches.

The idea behind BananaSlug is to promote "serendipitous surfing." Because there are usually so many matches to keyword searches, especially for competitive phrases, you may never stumbe upon a site that is, say, 500 matches deep. So, BananaSlug inserts a random word from a few distinctly chosen categories (such as World Cities, Tarot Major Arcana and Suits, Themes from Shakespeare, A Full Dictionary, etc.) to give you results you wouldn't normally see.

BananaSlug is probably more of a novelty than a truly useful tool, but it's certainly worth playing with. As with any Google API tool, however, it is limited to 1,000 daily queries, so you might not get to use it the way it was intended. After the 1,000 query limit has been exceeded, you have to then click through to the Google site to see your matches.

It would be so nice if Google would open up their API program to commercial development so we can see what developers can really do with it! Who knows, now that the search engine business is heating up, this may be one area where Google can set themselves apart from the pack even more.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Tuesday, July 15, 2003

AOL: Not Just for Newbies Anymore?

Amid all the frenzy about Yahoo buying Overture, the funniest thing I read today was a USA Today article about how AOL is ever so slowly turning their ship around as they try to stanch the bleeding of dial-up customers flocking to low-cost outfits like NetZero and high-speed access offered by cable and DSL. This is a quote from an actual, living, breathing AOL executive about how bad things at America Online are:

"Everyone has AOL, but they have it like a cold," says Len Short, AOL executive vice president brand marketing. "At some point there was this thing called the Internet, and people got AOL discs. It's how people got going. It was a well-defined category at the time. The problem now is the average household has five to six years experience. We're not newbies."

As Keanu would say: Whoa! I don't think I've ever heard an AOL employee go on record saying that their service is an outmoded dinosaur that might be destined for the trash heap if it doesn't pull a Houdini act soon...

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Monday, July 14, 2003

In Other News, Marlborough Man Stops Smoking, Takes Up Spinach

McDonald's reports that its floundering sales have been revived by sales of salads.

Which just goes to show - you should always stick with the product line that people identify you with most. Unless that product line is whips and buggies, or boring hamburgers that 9-year-old kids won't eat because they're "dieting."

Ironically, Wendy's new salads have more calories than their hamburgers.

I await the rise of the truly visionary fast food joint that comes out with my personal favorite, the incredibly tasty "egg whites and spinach with a hint of Barberian's steak seasoning." Washed down with a glass of heart-protecting wine, preferably.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Which Toolbar Do You Use?

Over the past few weeks, a gaggle of "toolbar" rollouts have taken the Internet world by storm. Well, OK, not by storm, exactly. But I'm sure if you went to Google News and looked for "toolbar," you'd see all the recent announcements.

Or would you? The first bazillion or so results on a news search for "toolbar" are for the latest iteration of the Google Toolbar. Some might think that's biased, but on second thought, that probably mirrors the overall pattern of toolbar installations in the populace.

Even early toolbar adopters get sick of trying out toolbars. In fact the first episodes of "toolbar fatigue" were being felt 18+ months ago. Remember when you couldn't decide between the Yahoo toolbar and the Alexa toolbar (and one or two others I'm forgetting)? So you deep-sixed Yahoo? Then later on, when the Google Toolbar (undoubtedly the most widely-used toolbar out there today, though I haven't seen any metrics on this) came along, it was see you later Alexa. My relationship with Alexa has definitely been on-again, off-again at the best of times. When given the opportunity to view PageRank, I decided that was better than "Alexa rank," so I stuck with Google.

In that cluttered, Google-dominated context, it seemed more than a bit strange that Dogpile and Hotbot went to great efforts to publicize their recently-released toolbars. There are only so many rungs on that ladder (limited mindshare). And only so much space on the user's browser (limited "screenshare").

So what toolbar do you use? Do you use multiple toolbars? Drop us a line and let us know.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Much Bigger News: Overture Sees Writing on Wall, Sells Out to Yahoo

Confirming rumors that have been flying for the past couple of months, Yahoo today announced that it is acquiring pay-per-click keyword advertising pioneer Overture services in a deal valued at $1.52 billion.

We'll certainly have more to say a bit later about this landscape-changing deal. In short, it's a smart play by Overture. As a middleman that never owned its own traffic to any significant extent, Overture was stuck with no clear franchise. What it has may be of little long-term value, but in the short to medium term, it has strong revenues, some decent technology, and a large advertiser list. Yahoo could have generated the same revenues with its own in-house operations or through continued deals with the likes of Overture, and it could have built or bought the necessary technology. Finally, we've always argued that the advertiser list is not as impressive as it seems. Those advertisers will quickly go to wherever the traffic is (Google signed up 100,000 advertisers in short order).

In any case, Yahoo obviously decided it would be more convenient to run their internal advertising systems using Overture as a backbone than building and buying what they needed at a lower cost.

But the biggest winner was Overture, which had already admitted in its financial statements that their overall revenue share from portal deals was inexorably shrinking each quarter as the traffic owners took steps to slowly cut out the middleman.

Over the long haul, this can't help but affect Overture's distribution deals with Yahoo competitors such as Lycos and MSN. But short term, this shouldn't affect the accounts or the spending and return on investment patterns of Overture advertisers.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Pretty Big News: LookSmart in Multi-Year Pact with Terra Lycos

Lycos, which already has deals with both FindWhat and Overture and currently uses the FAST index for web results, has signed a multi-year deal with LookSmart to feature LookSmart's web search results in Lycos Search. Inclusion in the LookSmart index requires a combination of an initial listing fee and a fee per click, flat at 15 cents for the first 5,000 clicks per month and market-priced (30 cents and up) for additional clicks. Numerous changes are currently taking place in LookSmart's pricing and service offerings, including offering more services (such as multiple listings) to small business that were originally only available to large corporate accounts.

Although its featured placement in the new deal is certainly a coup for LookSmart, it needs to be stressed that it's a non-exclusive deal with a relatively minor search property. Although Terra Lycos is a large conglomerate and Lycos remains the world's fourth-biggest portal, it's not exactly top-of-mind for the average consumer.

Perhaps, though, this is a positive step in LookSmart's evolution away from being thought of as beholden to MSN, their largest partner. The wider reach will be a benefit to retailers who are currently showing a positive ROI with their LookSmart listings.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, July 07, 2003

Yahoo (Finally) Announces Moreover Deal

We suggested some time ago that Yahoo should make a deal with Moreover Technologies because Yahoo News was starting to lag behind Google News for comprehensiveness and freshness.

Today the two companies announced that visitors to news.yahoo.com will have access to Moreover's "public metabase" of 3,500 news sources.

So is Yahoo News now better than Google News? I think the jury's still out.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Yahoo Touts For-Fee Services

Yahoo is running several different Flash media ads promoting its various premium services throughout its network of sites. I've mainly seen them within Yahoo Mail, and the frequency of impressions is indicative of Yahoo's commitment to growing subscriber revenue.

They even have a central page with links to all of their premium services, to make it even easier for you to pay them for something you used to get for free (and some things you couldn't)!

So, show your support for paid online services and go pay for something! The range of offerings is actually quite impressive, and I'm tempted to register for Yahoo Platinum -- which gives you access to all sorts of video feeds you can't find anywhere else -- but I'm afraid I'd spend too much time watching it and too little time slaving away for the Man!

Yahoo even wants you to tell them about things you'd pay for online. Talk about free market research!

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Must....roll...rock...up...hill... again...

Why is it that so many supposedly reputable web services companies, search engine destinations, etc., are so fast and loose with their affiliate deals? In particular, I'm talking about the kind of thing where a company like Topica, which deals with a lot of newsletter publishers (therefore, a lot of companies with websites), recommends some stupid "automated website submission and keyword optimization tool" such as this horrible service that claims to submit to 200 search engines, etc.?

I mean, come on, Topica!

Then again, I long ago stopped being surprised by this. Unfortunately, many of the ad dollars that are out there come from these kinds of misleading services. There are hundreds if not thousands of them, and they're relentlessly hungry for exposure. It's tough to turn down the opportunity to charge them for that exposure (as you may from time to time see in our automated Google Adsense deployment on the left hand margin of this very site).

Over the years, search engines like AltaVista and Metacrawler have consistently promoted these half-assed "site submission services." In AV's case, I recall the delicious juxtaposition of reading their detailed guidelines for webmasters ("don't use an automated service, yadda yadda") and then after submitting a legitimate URL, seeing several of these very same services being promoted.

I can name at least one search engine company that has never played both sides of the fence in this manner. I'm sure you can guess which one I'm thinking of.

It seems that the poor search engine marketing consultant - finally hired after these bogus services fail to deliver results - is so often placed in the position of undoing the mistakes created by automated services of one sort or another. Problem is, undoing such mistakes can be next to impossible, since search engines take spam very seriously, and a penalty is a penalty. It can take six months to a year to get such a penalty lifted.

People: once and for all... no automated submission services, no keyword density templates, no link farms, no "link farms that claim they're not link farms," no cloaking, no "cloaking that isn't really the bad kind of cloaking," no keyword stuffing, no "reciprocal linking clubs".... no, no, no!

If someone really reputable like Danny, or Jill, or Detlev, or good old yours truly tells you to steer clear, shouldn't you listen, rather than taking the word of the purveyors of these often-very-lucrative gizmos at face value?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Time for an E-mail Intervention?

I deal with a plethora of clients every day as project manager for a web consulting company. My primary method of contact with these clients is through e-mail. Unfortunately for me, most of them are not the best communicators.

So, I spend half of my day trying to decipher what the client is trying to say, instead of working on their behalf. So, dear readers, if you know people like this, do them a favor and send them a link to EmailReplies.com.

This is a breath of fresh air amid the stench of poorly written e-mails clogging my Outlook inbox. If your e-mail replies are full of bad grammar, unclear thoughts, inappropriate content or anything else of the sort, then read this site. And make your clients/co-workers/friends/family do the same.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Fox Gets into Henhouse: Film at 11

Of all the many items that got a mention in this month's Danny Sullivan Search Engine Report, this one (discussed at ihelpyouforums) seemed to stand out most. A search engine marketing firm starting a lobby group out of concern for the "ethics and transparency" demonstrated by major search engine companies.

We've previously expressed our scepticism (scroll down to the sixth entry) that industry insiders can effectively regulate what's going on with search, or search marketing. Glass houses, etc.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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