The Search Engine Report – Number 87

A longer, more detailed version of this newsletter
is available to Search Engine Watch members.
This is just one of the many benefits members receive.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member


In This Issue

+ Search Engine Watch News
+ Preview Of SES New York
+ Search Engine Articles By Danny Sullivan
+ SearchDay Articles
+ Search Engine Articles
+ Search Engine Resources
+ About The Newsletter

Search Engine Watch News

Hello Everyone–

Later this week, we’ll announce the results of the 4th Annual Search Engine Watch Awards. My thanks to all our readers who voted! I’ll be busy tabulating the ballots, then Chris Sherman and I will get together to come up with the final winners. When the results are ready, you’ll find them posted in the awards section of the site:

Search Engine Watch Awards

I’m now diving in to doing some site updates, integrating material that’s been sent out in past newsletters. Just updated is our Search Toolbars & Utilities page. Check it out to find some new toolbars, including the just released MSN Toolbar, and search companions we’ve reviewed recently:

Search Toolbars & Utilities


Preview Of SES New York

In only a month, Search Engine Strategies comes to New York. Running from March 1-4, the show features sessions that cover every aspect of search engine marketing. You’ll hear from search engine marketing experts as well as search engine representatives themselves — confirmed speakers be there from, AOL, Ask Jeeves/Teoma, Google, Inktomi, LookSmart/WiseNut, Overture and Yahoo, as well as a variety of specialized services such as and Singingfish.

I carefully develop all the sessions at the show. There are nearly 60 that will be offered in New York, and here’s a flavor of just some of them:

The SEM & Spanish Speakers session was offered for the first time in Chicago, and it gave the audience chills to hear how wide open this market is. To paraphrase one speaker at the session, “Just think if you could go back to 1995 and not repeat the mistakes you made then.” You can, through outreaching via search to Spanish speakers.

The new Competitive Research session examines how you can make use of search engines to better understand — and win against — your competition in a variety of ways.

Our Getting Local session expands, now exploring in two parts how search engines and online yellow pages are helping marketers reach out the local audience.

Can search do more than drive traffic to a web site? Our Measuring Offline Conversion session explores this, as does the Search Engines & Branding and Public Relations Via Search Engines sessions.

What does the future hold? I’m hosting a morning Future Of Search roundtable where this will be explored with representatives of the web’s major search engines. The same day, an afternoon Future Of Search Engine Marketing session examines what’s to come from a marketer’s perspective.

If you own a search engine marketing firm, the first day of the show features an entire track of sessions designed to help you understand how to grow, value and potentially sell your firm.

Work for an ad agency? Work for an SEM firm trying to work with ad agencies? Then don’t miss the Search Engine Marketing & Ad Agency session!

Trademarks are hot topic when it comes to search engines, and the issue is always explored in our regular session on legal issues. In New York, we’ll take a closer look with a panel that features representatives from American Blind & Wallpaper, currently involved in a lawsuit against several major search engines in a trademark dispute.

Site Clinic lets you volunteer your site for review to gain tips on making it more search engine friendly. New for New York are additional “clinics” that offer help with improving conversion, link building and creating ad copy.

All this and more is offered at the show. If you enjoy the content we feature in Search Engine Watch, then Search Engine Strategies is your chance to see that content come to life! You’ll find the full agenda and registration information via the link below:

Search Engine Strategies New York

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

Search Engine Strategies

Search Engine Articles
By Danny Sullivan

Google Releases Orkut Social Networking Service
SearchDay, Jan. 22, 2004

Google has quietly released a social networking service called orkut, named after Orkut Buyukkokten, a Google software engineer who developed the project during personal time allowed to him by Google.


Eurekster Launches Personalized Social Search
SearchDay, Jan. 21, 2004

Personalized search has long been promised as an important next step for increasing relevancy. Now it comes not from Google or Yahoo but instead from tiny Eurekster, which opens to the general public today.

The second URL leads to a longer version of the article for Search Engine Watch members that looks at how clickthrough refinement has been used in the past, why it failed before and examines how Eurekster creates personalized results.

What’s a Search Engine Watch member? See

SearchDay Articles

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

A Better Search Tool for Finding Needles in Haystacks
SearchDay, Feb. 3, 2004

The NeedleSearch toolbar lets you capture the basic search functionality from any search engine, site search tool, or specialized database and put it at your command with a single click.


Search Engine Milestones for January 2004
SearchDay, Feb. 2, 2004

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


Search Engine Forums Spotlight
SearchDay, Jan. 30, 2004

Links to this week’s topics from search engine forums across the web: Build Brand Equity for Search – Inktomi as the Saviour of SEO/M – Social Networking Engine In Affiliation With Google – Adding Meta Tags Using Php – Google Update – Anyone Else’s MSN Rankings Slipping? – Customer Petrified To Change His #1 Ranked Page On Google – Is It Worth Paying To Get On Web Directories? – Yahoo on the Brink of Throwing out The Directory?


On Search, the Series
SearchDay, Jan. 29, 2004

Few people who have a deep understanding of search have the ability to write eloquently about it. Search engine pioneer Tim Bray is one of those people, and he has written an absolutely fabulous series of essays that should be essential reading for anyone wanting a thorough understanding of the technology.


Hidden Google Tools
SearchDay, Jan. 28, 2004

Even if you consider yourself a Google expert, these ‘hidden’ tools and resources let you push the search engine’s capabilities to the max.


A Multifaceted Online News and Blog Search Tool
SearchDay, Jan. 27, 2004

Rocketinfo Desktop is a powerful news search engine with a lot of additional goodies designed for both news junkies and online researchers alike.


Learning About Search Engines From Google Engineers
SearchDay, Jan. 26, 2004

Want to learn how Google works? A new archive of publications by Google employees offers deep insights into many aspects of the search engine’s operation.


Google Alert Automatically Tracks Your Favorite Topics
SearchDay, Jan. 22, 2004

Google Alert lets you automate the process of running regular queries, sending you an email whenever any new content is added to the Google database.


Today’s Newspapers Around the World
SearchDay, Jan. 20, 2004

Want to see what today’s print version of your favorite newspaper looks like online? Two services offer reproductions of dozens of newspapers from around the world.


Search Engine Forums Spotlight
SearchDay, Jan. 16, 2004

Links to this week’s topics from search engine forums across the web: Yahoo Says It will Switch to Inktomi First Quarter – Yahoo Changing… So Is $299 Annual Still Worth It? – Is It Time To Get Out Of The SEO business? – Inktomi Ranking Algorithm Questions – Fahrner Image Replacement Technique, Can This Hurt Or Help SEO? – Hidden Google Tools – Bad News at FindWhat – Recommended Australia Search Engine for Pay Per Click Advertising?


Local Search, With A Visual Twist
SearchDay, Jan. 15, 2004

Metrobot combines an excellent local search engine with a unique graphical interface that makes it easy to locate businesses in a dozen major U.S. cities.


Day of Reckoning in Search Engine Advertising
SearchDay, Jan. 14, 2004

Overture’s announcement that it plans to separate contextual advertising from regular search results has garnered kudos from the search engine marketing community. Will Google follow suit?

The second URL leads to a longer version of the article for Search Engine Watch members that goes into more detail about Overture program from an advertiser’s perspective, speculation on Google’s response, and other information about contextual advertising programs.

What’s a Search Engine Watch member? See


Google, Yahoo Add New Search Features
SearchDay, Jan. 13, 2004

Both Google and Yahoo have added new features designed to make it easier to find and track certain types of information that was previously difficult to find with a search engine.


Search Engine Marketing Resources From SEMPO
SearchDay, Jan. 12, 2004

The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization’s web site offers a wealth of resources for both search marketers and information professionals alike.


Local Search: The Hybrid Future
SearchDay, Jan. 8, 2004

Last year at this time there was really no such thing as ‘local search.’ Fast forward twelve months and local is one of the hottest topics in search.


2003’s Most Wanted Search Terms
SearchDay, Jan. 7, 2004

The most popular search terms of the past year reveal as much about the interests of searchers as they do about the perceived ‘personalities’ of the major search engines.


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


Search Engine Articles

HighBeam Research: Going Beyond Googleing, Jan/Feb. 2004

HighBeam, the renamed Alacritude, seeks to revive the model of selling access to high-quality information through a subscription fee. Northern Light’s attempt to mix free and subscription-based searching together failed, but perhaps HighBeam will have more luck.


A Selection of Recently Awarded Search Related Patents & Recently Published Search Related Patent Applications
ResourceShelf, February 2004

Gary Price’s monthly round-up of new search patents, featuring a new one listing Sergey Brin as inventor.


Dipsie Search Engine Stirring Some Buzz
ResearchBuzz, Feb. 3, 2004

Couldn’t agree more with Tara Calishain that claims are nothing; action is everything. Dipsie is a new search engine not even launched yet getting hyped. You can expect more of this as everyone rolls out search services to catch the coattails of hype surrounding Google’s potential IPO.

Dipsie may be great — maybe not. When I looked at a demo back in November, it was locked to showing results for only one query, so it was hard to judge. Expect a closer look at this and other services as they warrant.

In the meantime, Gigablast continues to roll out new features and improve. It still probably won’t replace Google or your favorite major search engine, but Matt Wells is diligently delivering stuff anyone can actually use. For past coverage on Gigablast, see: (permalink to this item)


Google for a grade
Seattle Times, Feb. 2, 2004

Apparently the first university course on Google has been offered, though I suspect there have been others, just not publicized. It focuses on Google as a cultural phenomenon. Let’s hope the professor actually decides to encompass search engines overall as a phenomenon — which they are, but for which Google gets the lion share of credit today.

For example, one student says, “It has completely changed the way many if not most people access or find information.” Another says, “This just blows me away that we’re sitting in a classroom in Seattle, I type words into this thing and we’re getting web pages from all over the world right with a click of a button…I’m not overselling Google. I’m talking about the web. Is this what humanity has been waiting for?”

Actually, Yahoo, Lycos, WebCrawler — those early search engines from 1994, before Google even existed — completely transformed how people accessed information. They popularized the idea of search as a resource. Google came afterward with a better system, but as I’ve written many times before, people did indeed locate information even before Google.

So is the second student overselling Google? Yes — or at least giving them too much credit for a path originally trailblazed by others — some of which like Yahoo are still going. (permalink to this item)


The coming search wars
New York Times, Feb. 2, 2004

Readers of this newsletter are all too aware of the fact that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all battling it out to maintain positions as major players in search — along with Ask Jeeves and AOL, of course. This article looks at Microsoft going on the attack and Google responses so far to it. Cites the recent statement from Microsoft chairman Bill Gates about being behind in search, viewing Google as a leader and vowing to catch up. But catching up is hard when you lose key people to Google, such as apparently a Microsoft VP who was working to develop Microsoft’s own search engine.

Lots of comments from veterans of battles against Microsoft but who don’t necessarily know anything about search. For example, one says that Microsoft might not get away with “integrating” search because of the US Justice Department consent decree. As is often the case, the comment completely ignores the fact that search is already integrated into both Internet Explorer and the Windows operating system and has been for years.

Argh! Please spare us all from one more quote about how the next Windows operating system, codenamed Longhorn, is somehow going to do what exists now. Push the search button right now in Internet Explorer. Hello, you get MSN Search. Enter a word into the Internet Explorer address bar. Hello, MSN Search! Operating system integration? Click Start, then Search in Windows XP. The dialog box that appears asks, “What do you want to search for?” Did you choose, “Search the Internet?” Hello, MSN Search!

This isn’t new — see my last article on such integration from back in 2002, which itself was an update on long-standing integration: Searching & Navigating Via Internet Explorer,

The article discusses Microsoft’s attempts to woo away Google employees and reports Google’s allegations that Microsoft is trying to partner with companies upset over lost rankings on Google. This part is woefully lacking in detail, which is sorely needed. How does Microsoft know what companies these are? Perhaps by reading through popular search forums? If so, what exactly is Microsoft offering — guaranteed top rankings? And if so, for what, for free? And that helps the Microsoft business model how?

Much more likely, Microsoft is trying to entice major Google advertisers to make use of its own long-standing paid listing program, which will eventually likely be transformed into a replacement for carrying Overture listings. That doesn’t necessarily hurt Google — after all, people will continue to advertise on Google as long as it commands serious, unduplicated search traffic. Instead, it would much more hurt Yahoo, cutting it out of the share of advertising revenues it currently gets from MSN’s use of its Overture business unit.

The popular media seems desperate to pose Microsoft-Google as a repeat of Microsoft-Netscape, as if we are dealing with a software product. Search is not software. Search does have roots in technology, but overall, it’s a media product. Currently, it’s difficult to lock users into a particular search product, as with a browser, because search does not require a particular software application.

Maybe Microsoft will come up with a product that’s so tied to software that it people will get locked in. But operating system and browser integration isn’t going to be it. In addition, unlike Netscape, Google isn’t dependent on selling software. And unlike with Netscape, there’s a third strong player, Yahoo, in all of this. Not to mention AOL and Ask Jeeves!

This isn’t Microsoft-Netscape part two. Instead, this is ABC-NBC-CBS-FOX. There’s unlikely to be one overall winner, but a particular search network may get a larger share than others depending on the quality of its programming. (permalink to this item)


Titles and Search Engine Marketing
ClickZ, Feb. 2, 2004

Understanding exactly what’s meant by “title” is important to succeed in different aspects of search engine marketing.


Google Slaps Booble, Jan. 30, 2004

Google doesn’t take kindly to new adult search engine Booble, saying that its name is confusingly similar to the Google trademark. A visit to the Booble search engine shows a definite resemblance to Google. Is it really a parody of Google, which might land Booble in safe water? A lawyer cited in this article says now. But change the look and feel, and it seems like you’d be on safer ground. I certainly hope we won’t see a string of people being sued just because they have oo in the middle of their names and end in le. Meanwhile, Booble’s traffic is skyrocketing because of the publicity:


Google CEO: “An IPO is not on my agenda”, Jan. 29, 2004,39024667,39118043,00.htm

Google CEO Eric Schmidt says there’s no IPO “on my agenda right now.” Rumors are that investment banks are saying to wait in hopes of an even bigger offering in the future.


MSN Search (U.S.) Runs Beta Test
ResourceShelf, Jan. 29, 2004

MSN is running a beta test, a much cleaner look of results than currently implemented. I’ll be taking a longer look in a separate article later. Meanwhile, here’s some short details from Gary Price. I’ll add that paid listings from “Featured Sites” now appear to have moved to the Sponsored area, making a much cleaner presentation that’s in line with FTC guidelines on disclosure.


Fugitive Nabbed Because Of Date’s Google Search
TheIndyChannel, Jan. 28, 2004

It’s the classic man meets woman, woman googles man and discovers arrest warrant leading to apprehension story.


Google’s Orkut gets back online, Jan. 28, 2004

Google’s new social networking site comes back online after being closed for improvements.


Google faces trademark suit over keyword ads, Jan. 28, 2004

I’ll be coming back to this story with my own article, taking a long look at the issues involved. But in short — this is definitely a case to watch, with Google and several of its partners being sued over ads linked to words that are also trademarks. BusinessWeek also has some good background involving the same companies, but before the countersuit was filed:


Agencies and SEM: Howdy, Partner
ClickZ, Jan. 27, 2004

Ad agencies want and need good SEM firms to work with. Finding the right partner may be hard work, but it’s well worth doing.


Network Solutions cuts short Google shortcut, Jan. 27, 2004

Google recently added a new feature letting you look up whois domain registration data via a search. Network Solutions objected to its database being queried, so blocked the Google requests. Now Google has pulled the feature. The Network Solutions claim to trying to protect privacy sounds weak. Anyone who wants this information can easily get it directly from Network Solutions itself, doing a whois lookup there. Yes, there are query limits — but that’s not the same as keeping email addresses and phone numbers from falling into the wrong hands period.


Security bugs floor Google’s Friendster-clone
The Register, Jan. 27, 2004

Was Google’s social networking site Orkut shut down to improve privacy protection? That’s the rumor The Register heard.


Google Grants Non-Profits a Break, Jan. 27, 2004

Seen a public service ad delivered by Google’s AdSense program? Those ads are helping drive traffic to charitable web sites.


BBC buys up ‘Hutton inquiry’ Google links
MediaGuardian, Jan. 26, 2004,7496,1130052,00.html

Like others in the UK, I’m required to pay over US $150 per year in order to watch television. OK, so the commercial-free children’s programming on CBeebies alone is worth it. Still, perhaps there are better things to do with my money and that of others who pay than for the BBC to advertise its coverage of the Hutton Report on Google. Oddly, no news is mentioned on whether the BBC also bought similar ads on Oveture or Espotting.


Build Brand Equity for Search
ClickZ, Jan. 26, 2004

Brand recognition can make you a more trustworthy choice when people consider what to click on in search results. So if you are a known brand, be sure to flaunt this!


Gigablast Adds Direct Links To The Wayback Machine
ResourceShelf, Jan. 26, 2004

Gigablast makes it easy to see past copies of web pages through direct links to the Wayback Machine.


MSN Toolbar Bops Pop-Ups, Works Search, Jan. 26, 2004

MSN makes a new search toolbar available, offering direct access to its search engine and search term highlighting.


SEM Best Practices for Ad Agencies
ClickZ, Jan. 23, 2004

Tips for ad agencies that seek to do better with search engine marketing.


Google Site: Search Now Works by Itself
ResearchBuzz, Jan. 23, 2004

Finally, you can perform a site: search on Google without having to add any additional words. Finally! Now if Google would provide accurate match counts and stop deliberately supressing some of the links it knows about when a link: search is performed.


Happy Google Hacks Week 2004 #2: Search Sinker
ResearchBuzz, Jan. 20, 2004

Ever wish you could help Google understand that a particular word in your query is more important than another? Here’s a handy form to let you do that. You can also see the results to learn how to do this yourself — in short, repeat the word you want to prioritize.


Yahoo Lab to Cook Up New Search Tech, Jan. 20, 2004

Let the rebranding begin! In the middle of last year, Overture launched Overture Research. It was designed to show that Overture was just as serious about search research as competitor Google, which opened its own Google Labs back in 2002 (see Now that Yahoo owns Overture, it has borgified Overture Research to be its own flagship Yahoo Labs:

One interesting thing that appears to be new in the change from Overture Research to Yahoo Labs. Previously, we’ve written about open source search engine Nutch (see You still can’t search using Nutch at its own site, But Yahoo — as a supporter of Nutch — is offering a way to test its own implementation here:

I tried some searches for “cars,” “travel” and “pocket pc” and came away unimpressed. The results for the first two seemed a mishmash and remnant of what you’d expect from a 1998-era search engine. The last one did better. Yahoo does warn not to expect the results to be good, as it’s a work in progress. (permalink to this item)


Google eyes email-based ad delivery
Reuters, Jan. 19, 2004,39020645,39119164,00.htm

Is Google getting into email? It may be, and it wouldn’t be surprising. This article focuses on rumors that Google may insert ads into emails. In fact, Google inherited a contextual email service when it bought Sprinks earlier this year. However, Google may be planning to go beyond what Sprinks did by automatically inserting ads into email, based on the content.

What email? That remains unclear. The company could consider offering a Yahoo Groups like service, allowing people to set up their own email lists about different subjects. If so, delivering ads to that content wouldn’t be difficult.

Google could also be considering offering its own free email service. If so, that might be monetized by inserting ads. However, targeting such ads will be difficult and perhaps even annoying to people who might dislike the idea that their private email is being analyzed for ad purposes.

Offering free email certainly would help Google with the idea of “lock-in.” Currently, if users dislike Google’s results, it’s an easy step to use Yahoo, MSN or another competitor instead. No need to return to Google. But if Google offers email? That might keep you sticking around the site, much as Yahoo has millions of registered users and its own form of lock-in.

Who needs another email account? Not many. But envision Google rolling out a system that lets you store and sort through your email online, perhaps also providing spam filtering. Suddenly, the company would still be in the business of “organizing” information and perhaps offering a compelling reason for people to switch or forward their email. Perhaps it might look to acquire a company to help with this, as I wrote at the end of last year:

One email company Google already owns is Neotonic, which makes the Trakken email support system. Google used the system for its own purposes (see, then apparently liked it so much that it bought the company.

Visiting Neotronic now provides no indication that it’s owned by Google. But last week, before this Reuters story broke, the Neotonic home page stated, “We are pleased to announce that on April 24, 2003, Google Technology, Inc. acquired Neotonic to bring the Trakken email management system in-house. At this time we are not signing up any new customers.”

By the way, Google has never ruled out free email. It’s definitely made noises that it never wanted to be a full-fledged portal. However, cofounder Larry Page said back in 1999 that free email could happen, in the right circumstances.

“We wouldn’t put free email on our site unless we thought we could do a much better job,” Page said. See for my interview on this, from back then. (permalink to this item)


Search may be Microsoft’s next target, court told, Jan. 16, 2004

Massachusetts makes claims that Microsoft may be using its operating system dominance to hinder search companies from competing with it, according to filings in an anti-trust action. However, the filing gives no specifics. It’s also going to be an interesting argument to defend, given that Microsoft is very much in third place in terms of traffic, behind Google and Yahoo. Indeed, despite Microsoft’s operating system dominance, both other companies have thrived.


Maximizing SEM Revenue in the New Year
ClickZ, Jan. 16, 2004

Tips on getting more out of your search engine marketing budget in two parts.


Ay-Up: Another Source For Cached Web Pages
ResourceShelf, Jan. 16, 2004

Looking for another way to resurrect old versions of web pages? Ay-Up is a crawler-based service to put on your bookmark list.


Early Beta Test: Changes and Tweaks at Yahoo News Search
ResourceShelf, Jan. 15, 2004

Yahoo’s made a variety of changes to its crawler-based news search beta service.


Yahoo, Google primed for search war, Jan. 14, 2004

Yahoo finally gives a date about when Google results will be replaced by Inktomi results — by March 31 or earlier. It means Google will drop from powering about 80 percent of the web’s non-paid listing to only 50 percent — and Yahoo will pick up nearly all of the other half. But in terms of bottom line, it will have little impact on Google. Yahoo doesn’t carry Google’s ads now, so dropping Google will not hurt Google’s ad distribution. (permalink to this item)


The Graphical Search Divide, Jan. 14, 2004

How about a logo next to your paid listing? That’s not something the majors offer now, nor plan to, seeing them as distracting rather than helpful. Any other reason? Putting graphics next to paid listings makes them look different from unpaid listings, which might cause consumers to avoid them. That’s not good for advertising sales.


Google’s Duplicate Content
ResourceShelf, Jan. 14, 2004

Gary Price highlights problems with duplicate content in Google’s index.


Yahoo Drops Google (Get Out Your Wallets)
ClickZ, Jan. 12, 2004

Inktomi’s back on top with MSN and is returning to Yahoo. Get in, or get missed. Not in already? Then get out your wallet and learn to say, “paid inclusion.”


Searching for Dominance: What Will Microsoft Search Look Like?, Jan. 12, 2004

Gord Hotchkiss tries to guess what Microsoft’s search solution will be like, especially in terms of the operating system. He focuses on ways Microsoft may try to make searching your own computer easier. Implicitly Query sounds pretty cool. But there’s a danger in assuming that what works for the desktop is somehow useful for searching the web.

In fact, time and again we’ve seen companies claiming a synergy between web search and enterprise search fail to do both well. Open Text got out of web search; AltaVista, Inktomi, Lycos, and Inktomi all dumped enterprise search. The big enterprise search companies like Verity don’t try do to web search. I’m also dubious that the web will latch on to some Microsoft system of tagging files, and there are plenty of web servers that don’t use Microsoft products.


Designs on desktop search, Jan. 12, 2004

Now that Google’s jumped out of the browser and into the taskbar, Microsoft and Yahoo are thinking of doing the same. Look forward to having yet more apps that suggest they should check to ensure they are your “default” taskbar, as well as more spyware/adware programs that try to step on these installations.


Open Directory Integrates “Thumbshots”
High Search Engine Ranking, Jan. 9, 2004

The Open Directory now has screenshots that appear alongside listings in its directory categories. Just click on the red ball at the bottom of a category page to turn them on. The green ball, by the way, lets you see the Open Directory category as it appears at Google, where sites are ranked by PageRank order.


What I learned at Search Engine Strategies Conference in Chicago, Jan. 8, 2004

Top three things learned from SES Chicago applicable to doing better with Google’s natural results.


Danny Sullivan Shares A Few Comments About Google Bombing, or
Bush Not A Miserable Failure With AOL’s Google-Powered results.
ResourceShelf, Jan. 6, 2004

Gary Price takes my article about the “miserable failure” search bringing up the Bush biography on Google and Inktomi further. I checked Teoma also, and found it didn’t happen there. Gary finds that AltaVista, AllTheWeb and Gigablast also don’t show it.

Most interesting is that AOL Search also doesn’t have it — yet AOL uses results from Google. In particular, the Bush biography is gone, while jumps up into its place. Then Jimmy Carter’s bio stays in position 2, as with Google, and the order of the rest of the results remains in the same pattern as compared to Google.

What’s going on? AOL has intervened.

“To ensure that we continue to deliver relevant search results to our members, when we become aware of web search results that are clearly ‘link’ spam, we remove those links from the results we get from Google. The perception of link spam degrades the quality of the AOL Search service so when we discover high-visibility link spam, we take immediate action. We’ve had to remove link spam from Google results on very few occasions, including the results for the ‘miserable failure’ query,” said Gerry Campbell, executive director of search and navigation with AOL.

On the one hand, I want to applaud AOL. My original article (see was severe in criticizing Google for dismissing Google Bombing in this case as inconsequential. But had Google intervened, then they’d face the same potential criticism that AOL now faces — why haven’t the listings for Jimmy Carter, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Michael Moore also been removed?

These are all there due to other Google Bombing campaigns, and for links to these liberal figureheads to remain while Bush is protected opens a entire new chapter in this story. And I feel for AOL — because even if they remove these three listings, the game continues with other people.

I may revisit this whole thing in a new article, especially to provide some additional Google perspective on the matter. Plus, I’ll post any response I may get from AOL about why the “liberal” links remain. (permalink to this item)


Do Web search engines suppress controversy?
First Monday, January 2004

Search engines seem to reflect the “sunny side” of controversial issues, this study finds. It does searches for topics such as “albert einstein” and “distance learning” which contain some controversial issues — did Einstein’s wife get proper credit for her contributions and problems with diploma mills, for example.

It then examines results gathered from various major search engines, finding that the controversial material doesn’t arise much. It’s not because of overt attempts to suppress it but instead because the bulk of material on the web doesn’t address the controversial issues but nonetheless is relevant to the query.

Solutions suggested are a change in linking patterns, which frankly isn’t going to happen. Ranking changes are suggested, but the paper assumes that the search engines can make judgments about what’s “objective.” The most effective suggestion is that searchers change their habits. Wondering if there’s controversy with Albert Einstein? Try a search for “albert einstein controversy.” Guess what? Do that on Google, and you’ll find the first result mentions the issue with his wife (which incidentally, is a page out the twURL project that this author created).

Of course, a key point of the paper — and one that I agree with — is that someone should get a variety of viewpoints when looking for a topic. Perhaps increasing default listings from 10 to 20 would help (that’s the rule at Yahoo and MSN but not at Google).

Search refinement can also be a huge help. AltaVista’s “Refine Your Search” suggestions, for example, are drawn from analyzing the top 100 matches. That can help bring out some subjects that might be buried in pages below the top ten (but not in the case of Einstein — I checked). Teoma’s Refine results can also be helpful, though again, not in this case.

A hallelujah to this part of the paper: “The general public that is growing increasingly dependent upon search engine technology has relatively low understanding of how the technology works or their responsibilities for its proper use.”

I absolutely agree. In fact, it goes exactly to how I concluded my big piece on all the Google changes at the end of last year (see Users must have an understanding of how search engines operate to make the right decisions, and that means important “signals” need to be explained, not kept as mysteries. (permalink to this item)


On the economy of Web links
First Monday, January 2004

This paper attempts a model of how people buy and sell links. The simulation doesn’t appear to take into account the concept that some people may not want to buy links on an “important” page if that page has many links on it already. It also doesn’t appear to integrate the notion that some sites (big or small) may have a set number of incoming links that are gained because of their content, not because of their marketing budget. I’ve read the paper several times and don’t come away feeling that it provides any sense of the reality of how links are actually bought and sold nor seems to pose great predictive value. But perhaps you’ll have a different take.


A Fountain of Knowledge
IEEE, January 2004

IBM has half a football field of computers churning away at analyzing the web for its WebFountain search engine. But don’t think it’s designed to help you navigate to particular web sites. Instead, it seems configured to help you see patterns based on the documents on the web. WebFountain is designed to analyze and tag pages, in order to understand how to relate words and concepts found in them to other pages. WebFountain is being readied as a pay-for-search service that businesses are hoped to pick up for data mining purposes.


A Couple of Comments About Google
(10 Things Google Needs To Fix)
Pandia, January 2004

Search expert Gary Price summarizes a variety of what might seem like little things that when added up reduce you confidence in Google. Fixing many of these things should be a priority.


Searching Google more efficiently
Pandia, January 2004

I’ve been meaning to mention Nancy Blachman’s recent book on searching with Google, “How To Do Everything With Google,” along with its associated web site. Fortunately, Panida’s done a great job describing both!


Special thanks to:

+ Search Engine Guide,
+ Web Search Guide,
+ Search Engine Lowdown,
+ John Battelle’s Searchblog,

and reader submissions for some of the items listed above.

Search Engine Resources


Billed as an ad free, non-commercial directory of web sites designed for child-safe searching.



Here’s one for all your Rebol programmers out there! This search engine spiders only pages containing the word “rebol”.



Meta search against AltaVista, AllTheWeb and Inktomi, with the ability to create an “exclusion list” to block pages from particular web sites being included. For example, want to meta search only against .org sites? You can do it here. First URL is English version; second in French.


A travel deals search engine, collecting items from over 3,000 travel agency web sites and major travel suppliers.



Human-compiled directory of web sites.



Rich Skrenta was one of the founders of a little thing you may have heard of, the Open Directory Project. Now he’s part of this new news search engine. I haven’t yet explored it fully, but it’s well worth a look. It’s especially designed to deliver local news.

About The Search Engine Report

The Search Engine Report is a monthly newsletter that covers developments with search engines and changes to the Search Engine Watch web site, You may pass this newsletter on to others, as long either part 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.

How do I unsubscribe?

+ Use the form at or follow the instructions at the very end of this email.

How do I subscribe?

+ Use the form at or send a blank email message to mailto:[email protected].

How do I see past issues?

+ Use the Search Engine Report Archives link at the bottom of

How do I change my address?

+ Unsubscribe your old one, then subscribe the new one, using the unsubscribe link above.

I need human help with a list issue!

+ Please email [email protected]. DO NOT send messages regarding list management issues to Danny Sullivan. He does not deal with these.

I have feedback about an article!

+ I’d love to hear it. Use the form at

A longer, more detailed version of this newsletter
is available to Search Engine Watch members.
This is just one of the many benefits members receive.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member

Related reading

SEO is a team sport: How brands and agencies organize work
How to pitch to top online publishers: 10 exclusive survey insights
search reports for ecommerce to pull now for Q4 plan
amazon google market share for ecommerce, data