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Search Engine News Blog - July 2002 Archives

Search engine news web log for July 2002.  For more recent search engine news, go to our Daily Search Engine News Blog.


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July 2002 Highlights

FTC Warning Prompts FAST Action

Inktomi Cuts More Staff

Google Snatches Ask Jeeves Account

New SEO Directory Disappoints

Overture's Auto Bidding Creates Controversy

Google Deal With Yahoo Extended

LookSmart Back Away From De-listing

TopDog Fight Heats Up

AltaVista Boasts Larger Index

The Search Light Celebrates 1st Birthday

24 July 2002

FTC Warning Prompts FAST Action

Last month's warning from the FTC to search engines to more accurately
denote their paid listings has already had an impact on the search industry, with FAST/AllTheWeb was one of the first search engines to comply.

>> FAST/AllTheWeb have now added more information to their site about their crawling techniques and how they display their search results. In particular, they have added more explicit detail about how their paid placement and paid inclusion content areas work. Other search engines are sure to follow FAST's lead or risk FTC penalties.


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18 July 2002

Inktomi Cut More Staff

Rumours are starting to circulate that Inktomi is in financial trouble after their announcement this month that they plan to drop 270 staff (40% of their existing workforce). 

>> This follows a round of layoffs last year in which over 300 staff were sacked. 
However the latest layoffs were most likely related to Inktomi's recent USD12 
million acquisition of Quiver Inc, a knowledge management firm specializing in 
enterprise search. The purchase indicates Inktomi's willingness to move into 
new search territory. Looks to me like they are just re-positioning themselves 
to take advantage of future market opportunities.

More :  

Google Snatches Ask Jeeves Account

Google has beaten Overture to land a three year, one million dollar deal to provide
paid listings advertising to Ask Jeeves' search sites. 

>> Starting in September, Google's AdWords Sponsored Links program will replace 
Overture paid listings on Ask Jeeves search sites. The deal is significant because 
it sees rival search providers teaming up to provide complementary services.

Yet another feather in the cap - congratulations Google!


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17 July 2002

New SEO Directory Disappoints

INT Media's long-awaited Directory of Search Engine Optimization and 
Search Engine Marketing professionals was launched today. Touted
as "a new directory that can help web site owners find experienced 
professionals to help with all aspects of the increasingly important process 
of search engine marketing"
, the Directory fails to impress for several reasons.

>> Firstly, the Directory attempts to box SEO/SEM techniques into seven vague
categories, the most ambiguous of which is "Cloaking Services". Some
cloaking methods are considered "unacceptable" by major search engines
and would likely draw a spamming penalty if utilized. However other methods
of cloaking (XML feeds for example) are perfectly acceptable and encouraged
by some search engines. The problem is that the word "cloaking" has negative
connotations in the industry and unless distinguished clearly this could give the
impression that SEO/SEM companies that check this category are spammers.
Another problem with the Directory is the sale of priority listings - giving SEO/
SEM companies the opportunity to "buy" their way to the top of the Directory 
results. So much for a level playing field! 

Another criticism of the Directory that has been given much attention in the various search engine forums is the fact that entry is open to all. Unlike another Directory, SEO Consultants, no form of quality control has been implemented in SEMList - all companies are included in the Directory, whether they use ethical or unethical methods to achieve results. Some claim this is a fairer system; let the buyer beware, while others claim we should be making the decision easier for the consumer by educating them about which methods are considered acceptable by the search engines and which could see their sites penalized for spamming. 

The interesting thing about the Directory is the perceived weight it carries 
from being associated with I expected something a little more 
professional and a lot more responsible from them. When looking at it from a
consumer perspective, I think the quality control approach adopted by Edward 
Lewis for his SEO Consultants Directory beats SEMList hands down.

[Update 4 August 2002] SEMList appears to have now added more detailed category descriptions. This is a step in the right direction, but I feel they've still got a long way to go.


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11 July 2002

Overture's AutoBidding Creates Controversy

With the release of Overture's Auto Bidding tool last month came criticism and 
claims that the tool over-inflates pay per click pricing by forcing bidding wars.

The problem stems from the fact that maximum bids are visible, which allows 
your competitors to set their bid at one cent below your maximum bid (the 
maximum amount you're willing to pay). Once they've done that, your bid 
automatically adjusts to the maximum, meaning that if you were paying a lower
price you are now forced to pay your maximum, thanks to your competitor. 
This can result in fierce bidding wars. 

PPC expert Ammon Johns of Web Marketing Plus calls this process a whole 
new form of industrial sabotage. He says "It's a bit like going into an auction 
where everyone in the bidding already knows what your highest bid will be…"

Whether this is a deliberate tactic by Overture to boost campaign costs and
increase profits or a misguided effort to assist customers is hard to tell at this 
stage. If you're unsure how to use this feature effectively, we suggest disabling
auto-bidding. More importantly, if you're unhappy with this feature, complain to 
Overture - hopefully if enough people complain, they'll do something about it. 

Meanwhile PPC bid management software BidRank has launched a new feature 
that enables you to auto-bid one cent under the maximum bid of competitors. 
BidRank claim this will make people lower their bids and as a result, bidding 
wars may start to happen in reverse. Quite ironic, given Overture's current tactics.


Google Deal With Yahoo Extended

Currently, Yahoo's supplementary search results (called Web Page Matches) are 
provided by Google. This deal was recently up for renewal, with Yahoo considering an alternative agreement with Fast. According to, Yahoo has now extended their agreement with Google until September.


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10 July 2002

LookSmart Back Away From De-listing

Remember when first announced their controversial Paid
Listings model and threatened existing customers to rollover or lose their
listings? Well it seems they've now decided to back off. 

>> Via a letter from soon to be ex CEO Evan Thornley, LookSmart has 
announced they will automatically credit all past Express Submit and Basic 
Submit customers with 100 free clicks per URL every month until 11 December 2003.

So for those of you wondering whether to activate your accounts - now you
needn't bother. Keep your credit card details to yourself and let LookSmart 
send you their measley 100 clicks each month. With's 
reputation in tatters and market share diminishing rapidly, it's not like you're 
missing out on huge amounts of traffic or anything.

More :   

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7 July 2002

TopDog Fight Heats Up

Remember last newsletter when I talked about the dispute happening between the manufacturer of TopDog search engine promotion software DC Micro Development  and former programmer Michael Lange? Well since the publication of my article,
I've received correspondence from both Michael Lange and David Cecil, each 
claiming the other is the "real" victim.

If you listen to Mr Cecil's side of the story, Michael Lange is just a former 
programmer who is trying to sell an unauthorized version of the TopDog product, 
violating DC Micro's trademark and copyrights and disrupting the use of the 
software in the process. However Mr Lange claims he has never worked for
Cecil, insisting TopDog is a product of a partnership between he and Mr Cecil,
with a signed partnership agreement to that affect. He claims that Mr Cecil simply  decided to take TopDog for himself, locking Lange out of the office, the software,  his email etc and is now trying to hide company assets and make Lange look bad  by "spreading rumours" about him.

One thing I do want to make clear - at this point I've seen no legal evidence to 
substantiate the claim made last month that Lange arranged for the browsers 
of TopDog users to be redirected to his own URL. Also, it appears a court- appointed receiver shut down the TopDog domain names in attempt to protect company assets, rather than any direction from NetworkSolutions. So what happens now? Well Lange's lawsuit against DC Micro was filed on August 4th of 2001, while Cecil's new lawsuit was filed on April 1st of 2002. We'll keep you informed of the outcome. 

Whoever wins the lawsuits, the software and the users of the product are the real victims here. Recent emails to TopDog support have gone unanswered for days and product updates don't appear to be working correctly. It's a shame to see a good product destroyed by what is fast becoming a battle of egos. 

        (Article from Pandia about the controversy)  
       (Forum discussions about TopDog)  
       (The temporary TopDog site) 

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3 July 2002

AltaVista Boasts Larger Index

According to AltaVista, their index now contains 1.1 billion pages, representing over 120 million video, audio and image files. They've also increased the frequency of their news feeds, updating news sources every 15 minutes.

Not only that, but AltaVista have also improved their Express Inclusion offering
by increasing their refresh rate. Effective August 1, 2002, all URL's using their Express Inclusion service will be visited on a daily basis.

They said it couldn't be done, but it seems AltaVista are proving the critics 
wrong by finally turning things around and offering a better user experience. 
Let's hope this new customer focus will help them regain market share lost 
over the past 12 months.


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1 July 2002

Search Light Celebrates 1st Birthday

Yep, our newsletter The Search Light is officially one year old. The first issue was launched 1st July 2001 and has grown from a handful of subscribers to well over a thousand. Small round of applause please! As a birthday present, we're planning to give the newsletter a face lift for our August issue, so stay tuned... 

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Blog Archives

December 2003

November 2003

October 2003

September 2003

August 2003

July 2003

June 2003

May 2003

April 2003

March 2003

February 2003

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September 2002

August 2002

July 2002

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