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I also have a hunch that AOL starts with this ODP/Inktomi mixture and adds in some portion of its own proprietary information, especially click-tracking data.
That's my sense of it as well. I'm still guessing, but I believe that mess we watched AOL produce for a couple of weeks last month was the result of AOL tweaking their proprietary algorithm.
>> I believe that mess we watched AOL produce for a couple of weeks last month was the result of AOL tweaking their proprietary algorithm
I think so as well. One page I watched closely through that period went from number 7 to number 86 and now came back at number 5. I know they were getting a ton of AOL traffic, so that's why I assume that AOL clicks are making the difference. The #86 was a mere hiccup.
>> I can't compete unless I get more pages in their data base. Any suggestions on how I go about that?
One way to compete is to buy GoTo keywords. AOL users are responding very well to the GoTo "Sponsored Links" listings at the top of the page.
Other than that, it's keep on tweaking. The various options that Ink offers partners for their data, and what settings each partner uses are mysterious.
AOL may be taking only a relatively small slice of data to augment their returns. For instance, on one search I monitor Canada.com returns 13,050 pages, but AOL returns 405. If my conclusion is correct, this would mean that getting multiple pages into AOL could be difficult -- or even impossible.
Very true, I have been using them from the start, Its one of the reason's I am so anxious to come up under search results.
>>AOL may be taking only a relatively small slice of data to augment their returns.
They must be using a older data base, one of my competitors has 6 pages in the top 20 for one of my search terms.
Thanks I'll keep tweaking
I don't believe that this will affect it in most search alogrithms, although I could be mistaken.
It will definitely, however, affect it in directories (as you can probably intuit) since it is above the alphabetical listings, on top of the fact that even my mother could see that it has a "special" rating. :)
To understand the implications of that, and for a highly informative look at how people actually use search engines, check this thread out:
Thanks, Marcia, for explaining about my mother. :)
>...IT IS NOT CUSTOMER SUPPORT!!!!!!! But then again, what do you expect from AOL? What was it I read? "Most unfriendly firm, ever"?
Another thing you may not know about me is that I was once phone technical support for AOL, so I am probably qualified to answer this question -- or at least comment. :) (No, I'm not kidding.)
First, the turnover at AOL is horrendous. Dealing with AOL members, many of whom have no computer savvy whatsoever, is trying to say the least. I distinctly remember spending in excess of 10 minutes trying to get a member to understand where the space bar was. The jokes about cupholders and the "any" key are not exaggerated much.
Secondly, there are time limits an AOL CS rep has to meet -- for instance, an average of 7 minutes per phone call -- which make it impossible for them to really do their jobs.
Thirdly, the search engine "department" is a miniscule one, and AFAIK, the only employees who deal with them are in Virginia. My guess is that your question does not go to them at all, but to a regular Customer Support person who is trained for a short period of time to answer questions about connectivity, error messages, and busy signals.
I said all that to say this: The chances are that you will almost always end up with an inexperienced and/or harried respondent who is not very knowledgeable about search engines.
They rely not on computerized responses but rather on form letters. My guess is that they read your email, and then scanned their list of form letters to find the form letter which most closely fits the occasion of your question. :(
You may get lucky and get someone whose hobby is SEO, but the chances of that are not likely. (Techs used to forward calls about searches to me in my call center, but that was only because they happened to know what I did, at that time, as a side business.)
I am not defending what happened to you at all. I am merely trying to explain what probably happened. (I know plenty of employees of AOL, and I can't get a straight answer either! :( )
Moreover, you are not likely to get any explanation from any search engine or directory that I know of as to anything that is likely to help you rank better.
That's why we're here. :) (AND why we make the big bucks. :) )