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Fast: take our webmaster survey
jeremy goodrich




msg:221888
 2:36 pm on Apr 13, 2001 (gmt 0)

What do you think about this: [fastsearch.com...] ?

Seems to me, from the sound of the questions, they might be thinking of monetizing their engine...which would leave google as the stand along engine with no paid stuff, at least, no paid submission or click fees.

 

Brett_Tabke




msg:221889
 4:17 pm on Apr 16, 2001 (gmt 0)

Those are some spooky questions. Think about what you are saying to them before filling out the form. And in the optional field, tell them to keep it free.

jeremy goodrich




msg:221890
 4:40 pm on Apr 16, 2001 (gmt 0)

I used to work for a market research firm in college. Sometimes, they would offer to pay people for their time.

I find it very, very disturbing that more and more, engines are asking people to donate their time to tell the engine how they would like to be charged for the service.

If more engines would simply open a dialogue (hint, hint) with a large webmaster community, (hint: here), then I think a lot of wonderful things could be accomplished.

The way of doing these "anonymous" surveys, makes me think they are up to something dirty straight away, even if they are not.

I trust more what an engine is willing to tell me, than what they are asking me. When they start asking me questions like that, all sorts of ideas start blooming in my head, and one of the first ones is "perhaps I should stick to using google."

miles




msg:221891
 6:24 pm on Apr 16, 2001 (gmt 0)

It does look like FAST is gearing up for a paid submission. I guess everyone of the engines are wanting to go tward the paid route. I hope FAST keeps things the way they are.

I have noticed a pattern. When a engine gets fairly used they go tward paid submissions. Then customer service is a joke and even if you do pay they dont have all of the details worked out. So their db turns to junk for a couple of months. All in all it is poor planning.

grnidone




msg:221892
 8:22 pm on Apr 16, 2001 (gmt 0)

I have noticed a pattern. When a engine gets fairly used they go tward paid submissions. Then customer service is a joke and even if you do pay they dont have all of the details worked out. So their db turns to junk for a couple of months. All in all it is poor planning.

No kidding. I guess we have to be happy that at least FAST is *asking* us before they do it.

What I can't figure out is how a paid site has so much more information than a non-paid site. I would think that for a search engine to be considered a good one, then the results to a query should be the most relevant. That's the way my search engine would be.

Perhaps their logic is:
If the site has someone paying for it, then that must mean that that site is making money. If the site is successful and making that individual/ business/ etc money, then they must be a good source of information on the web.

However, if a site is making someone money and is successful on the web, then why do they need to pay for the ranking?

Is it because search relevance has become so much the "older websites with cloaked doorways" make it to the top and this is a way to allow others to get good rankings?

I would think the reason to do it would be to make a few extra bucks. However, there has to be another way to do it.

If your search site gives relevant results, then wouldn't more people use it, and wouldn't you then make money by selling, for example, keyword search information that people like us would love to get our hands on?

Dang. Now I have a headache.
-G

jeremy goodrich




msg:221893
 8:33 pm on Apr 16, 2001 (gmt 0)

That is a market I would like to see engines exploring (read: engine should sell keyword data.)

Imagine if I could get my hands on it, I might pay for that service. Who knows, perhaps there are enough marketers in the world willing to pay, the engine could supplement it's other income, and perhaps reach profitability. Currently, none of the engines themselves make a profit, so why don't they go explore this avenue?

It's not as if we can't get some of that data already, but the whole query log, even slices of it for our industry, would really be something to see.

I personally think if Fast was or is considering other areas to branch out into, why not this one? It would be the market leader for keyword data, and control the prices. And if every marketer signed up with them, say as an annual subscription, then why would they bother switching? That means they would have recurring revenue, and wouldn't need to shift towards an algorithm that has only money as the source of relevance (read: Inktomi).

msgraph




msg:221894
 9:04 pm on Apr 16, 2001 (gmt 0)

It's funny that most of the search engines that try to to the pay route are falling through the cracks left and right. Either before they start the program or after.

The best traffic always seems to come from the "free" search engines. Why? Because they are heavy crawlers who constantly update their database.

People return to those same search engines either daily, weekly, monthly, etc. using the same search terms the majority of the time. This is easily proved by the fact that when you are ranked well, the traffic to your site slowly dwindles down as time goes by. You don't see the same amount of traffic each day because those same users remember your site from the last time they searched for those keywords.

Most of the pay sites do not update their results as often as the "free" search engines. They will only update the index when a new paying clients submits their site.

If FAST goes the paid route and does not offer such a fast fresh index then it's users are going to switch over to Google and Altavista.

....well they can go the Inktomi route and have a really messed up database.

mivox




msg:221895
 9:49 pm on Apr 16, 2001 (gmt 0)

The main points I made in my survey response:

There are three things a crawler based engine will succeed with:

Size of database (the biggest DB will have 'hidden gems' in its SERPs that the other engines don't have)

Speed of query returns (nobody's going to wait 5 mins to see their SERP)

Quality of results (a good algo and a large DB will return higher quality results than its competitors)

I don't pay for inclusion in crawler based engines for the same reason I don't use them...

If you have a strict pay for inclusion DB (no pay, no listing, no how), the size of your DB will suffer, and your SERPs will have fewer relevant pages to display. The 'hidden gems' will be missing. (why I don't use GoTo)

If you penalize free pages by giving them less frequent spidering (less than once a month), your SERPs will include a lot more outdated and 404 listings. (why I dont use Inktomi #1)

If you penalize rankings for non-paying sites, more relevant results may become buried under less relevant paying sites. Less relevant SERP, less traffic. (why I don't use Inktomi #2)

The only way an SE can go pay-to-list is if they remove free sites from the DB (you only get in if you pay), OR they have to penalize free sites in order to make paying worthwhile (ala Inktomi). Either way, the relevance of their SERPs will be hurt, and their user base will dwindle.

It would be really sad to see FAST go down that road. I'm all for the "sell the search data" profit-making route... An SE can make money without damaging their primary/only traffic draw (quality SERPs).

Yahoo is apparently charging a bundle to allow big guys to look at their search data, so why not everyone else?

stephen baker




msg:221896
 8:45 pm on Apr 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

I work in product marketing for FAST and would first, like to thank you for
taking the time to respond to the AllTheWeb survey, and second, clarify the
purpose of the Webmaster survey.

FAST intends to use this survey for future feature development and product
deployment. FAST's goal is to provide the best overall search experience
based on our leading searching, crawling, and indexing technologies. We
currently do not have plans to introduce paid-placements affecting result
relevancy, refresh rates, or site inclusion for the FAST Web Search service.

There have been some interesting product and feature suggestions made in
this forum that will definitely be considered by the FAST product development team. I look forward to learning more from the ongoing discussions in this forum.

msgraph




msg:221897
 9:00 pm on Apr 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

Thanks for taking the time to post Stephen. I've noticed a few others from FAST stop by to post a few other topics of interest as well.

If others did the same, thinking Inktomi, Altavista, Excite, etc., this world would be a much better place. So would their companies.

BoneHeadicus




msg:221898
 9:22 pm on Apr 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

I like Fast. I get good rankings on Fast. But I don't get any (much) traffic from them.

IMO if they start to charge they will shrivel up and blow away.

rencke




msg:221899
 9:41 pm on Apr 19, 2001 (gmt 0)

Hey, BH: Are you saying that none of these [webmasterworld.com] show up in your logs? They all use the Fast index.

Brett_Tabke




msg:221900
 9:55 pm on Apr 19, 2001 (gmt 0)

Well BH, look at the 4th quarter financials and see what you can deduce from them. The Lycos relationship is pretty deep. As far as I can see Lycos/Terra is the only SE with profit directly ahead.

Thank you for dropping in Stephen. It is so nice to see a search engine take an active role in webmaster relations. This is an area where Fast could scoop the whole competition. For years, the SEO community has offered search engines a public forum where they could discuss their own product. Until recently, most of them have chosen to remain silent. We register daily hits from here from *all* the major search engines - yet, it is only you folks you have taken an active stance to reach out to the community. The significance of that can not be over stated. It will effect Fast in positive we'll never know about.

To answer the survey in more depth: if I were Fast I would:

a) Remove the click through counter or use it more sparingly - it slows down usage.
b) Build a "top keyword" site. So far, Lycos and Goto have completely stolen the show in this area. That Lycos Top 50 does serious business. The Goto suggestion tool is rumored to do 2-3 million hits a day range - that's huge.
c) Introduce a touch more data onto the results page. Page size, page last indexed date, and possibly the number of graphics on the page. The results pages look a bit "thin" at the moment.
d) Remove the CSS from the Serps (search engine results pages). The gain is not worth the download time. Or make it external to get the speed boost on follow up searches.
e) Ramp up a "webmaster outreach" program. That would include "optional registration [webmasterworld.com]" for anyone submitting a site. Work with them - not against them. Goals can be mutually compatible. That might include something like "register 20 dynamic pages".
f) *cough* start a forum to discuss your own product with the public.

BoneHeadicus




msg:221901
 10:01 pm on Apr 19, 2001 (gmt 0)

I hate to be negative because I like Fast...but I get very little traffic from their partners including Lycos. I hope they continue to expand and grow (and remain free) but I still dont get referrals from them.

I own the first page on the serps I'm optied for too (which is another story). Demographics must just not be there for my sites. I wish more than anybody that my high rankings in Fast would turn into visitors but it just ain't happening for me.

I would be more concerned about it if I was in your part of the world rencke. They seem to have more influence in the market outside the US.

Hey maybe I need to focus on the international aspect of Fast a little more and exploit some keywords I haven't been looking at thus far. Something to think about.....

Brett_Tabke




msg:221902
 11:38 pm on Apr 19, 2001 (gmt 0)

When Sympatico was running their huge ad blitz in January, there were a couple of days when they out performed the same ranked Google pages. It left me dumbfounded BH. All during that time they were running that campaign, between Sympatico, Lycos, and Fast proper, they were our #2 referrer.

When you get into certain keyword groups on Lycos, they can leave everyone else behind. I have some high ranking pages on Lycos (via Fast), that are 5-10 times the referrers that Google or Alta is at this time. One of my own personal sites is listed #1 on Google under a great 2 word phrase - it is doing 40 referrals a day. The same page listed 9th on Lycos is doing 350 a day. It's all about the keyword neighborhood (aka: demographics). Fast has the edge in a couple of those neighborhoods.

Robert Charlton




msg:221903
 4:27 am on Apr 20, 2001 (gmt 0)

>>I own the first page on the serps I'm optied for too (which is another story)<<

BH - I don't know what your story is, but I find myself in the same situation in Fast/Lycos, and frankly it worries me. I can see both users and competition getting annoyed. I wish they would cluster their pages, or at least give searchers the option of doing so.

Marcia




msg:221904
 5:13 am on Apr 20, 2001 (gmt 0)

I've also had about 6 pages on a new site taking up most of the first 11 results at FAST, ranging from # 2 to # 11. Now they're ranging from # 4 to # 15, with the same (older) page titles showing.

Incidentally, not all of the three words used in the search appear on those pages - only two of them do - but topically it is right on target.

Robert, I was trying to figure out how to phrase it, and you've done it for me - with clustering.

Jeremy, I have also worked in market research, quite a bit, as well as having participated in surveys for a long time before doing the work myself. Years ago I did a "product placement" study on liquid laundry detergent (nice - free product for months). Aside from my thorough comments on the product itself, I repeatedly stressed that I would use a product that had a measuring cap as a major purchase decision factor. I harped on it. Today you see all of them (except the realy cheapie off-brands) with measuring caps.

Corporations pay hundreds of thousands of dollars annually contracting market research studies through advertising agencies, who in turn sub-contract them to market research firms. It's very expensive to have done. With the current economics of search engines, someone would have to eventually absorb the cost, so I have no objection to answering surveys if they're doing it in-house instead. The internet makes this possible.

I like FAST a whole lot, and believe it's worthwhile paying a lot of attention to them. I'd personally like to see them used by some prominent ISPs in this country (the U.S.) in time to come, and it would not surprise me at all to see this happening within the next year or so.

Idealistically speaking, if we as webmasters set out to do sites that present accurate and relevant results to searchers, we're on the same page as the search engines, because that is the same thing they're trying to do.

If a search engine like FAST is opening a door of open communication with webmaster, they are doing their part to make it a cooperative venture rather than an adversarial one, and in the long run everyone will gain, including and especially the searchers, most of whom don't have time or patience to sift through pages of junk to find what they're looking for.

IMHO, FAST is at the forefront of trying to establish lines of communication, highly commendable as well as good business sense. It's quality marketing, showing respect and makes them worthy of our respect.

I believe one of the reasons Inktomi is losing ground is because of total lack of contact or communication with webmasters and consumers. Big mistake. My highly "uneducated guess" is that we could very well start to see FAST start to make inroads in areas where Ink is losing ground.

PageCount




msg:221905
 9:13 am on Apr 24, 2001 (gmt 0)

Late last year, I prefaced a SEO overview of my sites with the observation that Google and Fast rather than the Pay-for-Play engines were effecting a fundamental shift in search (next to content, SE algorithms are everything). Our strategies had to meet their demands. Subsequent developments have proved this view correct.

In assessing Fast and where they are going (and in agreeing with most of the sentiments expressed here), one has to look at how the Web is now sustaining only one key player to suit each search model. The engines and directories have to shape themselves to these market forces. In the Google / Fast race for dominance, Google has carved its niche with Yahoo! and significant others. Fast is, with early signs of some nervousness, looking for a well-deserved home of its own.

In looking to the future, we sometimes ignore the fact that within a couple of years the North American market will form a user minority. Proof of this phenomenon’s early arrival is the vituperative backlash WPG is experiencing for promising European, Australasian, and Eastern coverage without delivery.

We also have to bear in mind that surviving SE strategists (those not of the dot bombs) intend being in business for the long term and their marketing fundis were definitely born a long time before yesterday. They’ve responded to the future with foresight.

Until very recently, South African (yes, we’re still here) Web portals and ISPs offered search facilities that behaved as though they were smashed together by prepubescent programmers on high-octane drugs. Search was a mess. Now, they’ve been lifted to near respectability by their partnerships with decent international engines.

South Africa’s major portal, which has fought its way to the top through the good ol’ SA method of mixing thuggery and lousy customer service to form a winning formula, is M-Web. M-Web uses Fast and is reaping the rewards. Ananzi, which had all but disappeared from view, partnered Inktomi and reinvented itself as a useful Web tool. A relative unknown, Aardvark, got hold of Google and cannot but benefit from the partnership. South Africa’s former undisputed heavyweight, iAfrica, sticks to the old formula of dazed-and-confused and produces error pages and offers searchers GoTo at the foot of their page. They’re on to a hiding to nothing. Sort of like Lennox Lewis...

Fast is looking (and competing with Google and others) for partnerships in a global market and this is perhaps where its revenue sources lie (see the success of Yahoo! Japan). Although I prefer to Google because my focus is the First World (North America in particular), most searchers want optimal local searches. Fast, given its speed and a database Greg Notess’s admittedly outdated figures puts ahead of Google (Oct 9, 2000), appears slightly better placed to take advantage of the trend towards retro-globalization (the growth of community sites, etc). And remember that since Notess’s figures came out, Fast has expanded through Lycos and its affiliations with ODP and DirectHit.

If Fast can leverage the best of what it’s got, i.e. an established portal, speed, and reach with the best of the rest (a la Brett’s suggestions) it should find the edge needed to carve a niche for itself among the remaining top guns rather than having to head for the hills and perdition as AV appears to be doing. And I still maintain my view – with Google, Fast is right up there.

BTW, until recently Fast did offer a forum but it appeared to die for lack of participation.

PageCount




msg:221906
 9:23 am on Apr 24, 2001 (gmt 0)

Just an addendum to the above - I use the term "...as AV appears to be doing" advisedly because it too is focusing on cleaning up its European operations while leaving the dot com to rot awhile...

Brett_Tabke




msg:221907
 7:33 pm on Jun 7, 2001 (gmt 0)

(April 18) > We currently do not have plans to introduce paid-placements

Less than 45 days later the plans just change? What's the story from your side?

stephen baker




msg:221908
 2:00 am on Jun 13, 2001 (gmt 0)

When the message was originally posted, there was no intent to launch a PFI program. The Webmaster survey combined with additional market research did show an interesting market opportunity, however, in combining an ASP site-search application with PFI. That is essentially what the PartnerSite offering will encompass. So yes, to some it has interest as a PFI service, to others the ASP site search is appealing, and yet to others, the intersection of the two resonates.

Please let me know if I can provide further insights on the new service or FAST's motivation for pursuing such a service.

Brett_Tabke




msg:221909
 3:27 am on Jun 13, 2001 (gmt 0)

Thank you Stephen. Hope it works out for you.

Brett.

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