OK, you’ve heard this enough but just for the record. it is February 5th and Google is still broken. That said, things just keep getting worse for Google with AOL posting a log-in page where it used to display the AOL search function. This is another loss of distribution power for Google. Not sure what is happening in Mountain View these days but some folk must be feeling somewhat uncomfortable.

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” George Santayana (1863 – 1952)

The search engine war between Google and MSN is generating some nasty tactics reminiscent of the Microsoft vs. Netscape battle of the mid ’90’s. Those who remember that battle will recall the almost surgical methods used by Microsoft to all but destroy Netscape. Read more…

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Wednesday, February 4th, 2004

Google Legal Battle Threatens SERPs

Google is being sued by American Blind and Wallpaper Factory Inc. for trademark infringement. The case, which was originally thought to only involve AdWords bids on terms associated with American Blind and Wallpaper Factory Inc., has now grown to cover the traditional (free) results produced by Google. According to EWeek, David Rammelt of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, the Chicago based firm representing American Blind and Wallpaper Factory Inc. said, “Our concerns are not just limited to the paid, sponsored links. We are seeing competitors listed when our trademarks are being typed verbatim.” Terms that concern Rammelt include, “American Blinds” and “American Blind”. Oddly enough, the litigant appears in the Top10 under the keyword phrase “American Blind”, just below sites dedicated to visually impaired Americans and Helen Keller.

Chances are, Google will win this suit, at least as it relates to the traditional (free) listings. The case does open a dangerous can-of-worms however as search terms and target keyword phrases may need to be rethought to avoid any trademark infringement in the future. An interesting feature of this case may be the public airing of Google’s ranking algorithms as Rammelt and his team dissects Google’s ranking methods in open court. The SEO community will likely watch this one very closely.

The success of the litigant would make search engines as we know them, sort of useless. Imagine a search tool being able to guarantee corporate rivals creating similar products could not appear under related keyword phrases if one of the corporations owned trademark rights to those keywords and phrases. A note to greedy lawyers, Just do it.

Google seems to be undergoing another major update again. Resembling the famous Florida update of November, this update looks as comprehensive and possibly as destabilizing for many small businesses.

There is a great deal of discussion in the general SEO forums right now but nothing pointing to a cause or solution. StepForth does not have an analytical opinion to share just yet but we are working on understanding the what, where, who, how and why’s of the situation.

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Wednesday, January 21st, 2004

MSN/Yahoo Shift to Inktomi

For a short time last week, both MSN and Yahoo were displaying results drawn from Inktomi. MSN continues to use results directly from the Inktomi database but it appears that Yahoo has reverted back to results from Google, for the time being. Last Thursday (Jan. 15), MSN dropped results from LookSmart and went pure Inktomi. Yahoo, on the other hand, has announced that by the end of March, they too will have switched over completely from Google to Inktomi generated results. In the meantime, Yahoo seems to be experimenting with results from Inktomi by bleeding them in at different times and in different locations.

Beginning today, more than a dozen Web sites, including MSN, ESPN, Lycos and iVillage, will run full-motion video commercials from Pepsi, AT&T, Honda, Vonage and Warner Brothers, in a six-week test that some analysts and online executives say could herald the start of a new era of Internet advertising. While the ads will allow viewers to close the window displaying the 30-second spots, Internet commercials may well herald a new era in online advertising. Chances are, online-video advertisements will be treated the same way folks treat TV commercials. At least geeks will have more time to eat properly from now on.

We’ve all known today was coming, the day MSN drops LookSmart listings in favour of listings from Inktomi. We are starting to see Inktomi listings appearing on MSN. Inktomi is owned by Yahoo! and will also be delivering results to Yahoo! in the coming months. Between MSN and Yahoo!, Inktomi has just become more important than Google as the major traffic driver on the web.

We knew the Google-slayer was coming in the future… With Google’s recent upsets, it appears the future is happening now.

It is obvious the holidays are long over. While it is only the beginning of the third week of 2004, the ongoing battle between Google and Yahoo has heated up and is the most interesting subject in the search industry. Rumours about Google and Yahoo are abundant in the tech section of newspapers, in IT newsletters (the better ones anyway), daily articles and discussion forums. Behind those rumours stand literally tens of millions of hard-working people desperate to know which directions the industry will be going in over the next twelve months. Nobody wants another Christmas surprise like the one delivered by Google in 2003 and, given the sudden perception of volatility in the industry and the overall economy, nobody wants to make poor bets with their limited marketing budgets. As the gathering of as much information as possible allows advertisers, consumers and small businesses to make relativity informed decisions, it is in everyone’s best interests to share as much information as possible. The search engine world went through monumental changes last year and looks as if it will go through even more this year. With 2004 being labeled the “year of search”, a quick look at some of the anticipated changes is in order. Read more…

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Thursday, January 15th, 2004

Yahoo! YellowPages

Yahoo! has begun an intense advertising campaign for its newest service, Yahoo! YellowPages. Companies can list their business contact information on this new feature at a fraction of the cost of a traditional print Yellow Pages listing. The folks at Yahoo! believe they have a sure bet on their hands and they are likely correct. A quick poll in the StepForth office shows that 100% of the staff turn to the Internet before pulling out the phone directory when looking for local services and delivery food, likely because it is easier to find a computer in most of our homes then it is to find the phone book.

StepForth's WebProNews Profile The following is an interview I had with Garrett French, Editor of WebProNews.com. The article is focused on the nuances of the Inktomi Database. Enjoy!

You can find this article at the following WebProNews Forum URL:

http://www.webproworld.com/viewtopic.php?t=11431 (at the bottom of the page) Read more…