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Search engine marketing firms have reported much lower than expected results from contextual advertising campaigns, comparing click-throughs and actual purchases to the numbers shown by banner advertising. For the accountants and business planners at Google and Overture the news couldn’t come at a worse time. Both Google and Overture are depending on Contextual Advertising programs as significant revenue sources this year. If the bottom drops out of this emerging market, as it has from the once popular banner advertising market, both search firms could take a pretty large financial hit. Read more…

The blogger.com interface - very simple to use!If you have yet to hear of blogging then let me warn you now, you will be hearing a lot about it over the next few months.

What is a blog? Here is the answer straight from the pioneers of blogging at Blogger.com:

“A blog is a web page made up of usually short, frequently updated posts that are arranged chronologically like a what’s new page or a journal. The content and purposes of blogs varies greatly from links and commentary about other web sites, to news about a company/person/idea, to diaries, photos, poetry, mini-essays, project updates, even fiction.” Read more…

Size is the latest salvo fired in the search engine wars. Last week, Overture announced that its recent acquisition, AlltheWeb had expanded its database to cover 3,151,743,117 pages and had grown larger than Google’s database by about 68Million pages. Google responded yesterday by quietly announcing that it is now spidering 3,307,998,701 on an active basis. In the world of search engines, size matters from an end user perspective. The more pages in the database, the better chances of finding the information you are looking for.

Google and AlltheWeb have a history of competing to be the biggest database that goes back to 2001. This time however, the battle will be a bit more interesting as Overture also announced that AlltheWeb is introducing a stronger ranking algorithm in the coming weeks in an ongoing attempt to produce more relevant results than Google. With the coming integration of AltaVista and AlltheWeb, both owned by Overture, (which in turn is owned by Yahoo), this latest skirmish in the over-all search engine war will be a long and hard-fought one.

The federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (view the entire act here) currently holds any search engine liable for linking to a web site which may be infringing copyrights. As a result, if a search engine refuses to remove all links to an infringing web site, the copyright holder can sue. What is wrong with this? Search engines such as Google with over 3 billion web pages indexed simply do not have the time or the legal backing to investigate every claim of copyright infringement. Despite this obvious limitation, however, Google is forced to review and rule on all complaints summarily. For example a claim by the Church of Scientology requested an anti-scientology site be removed because it contained copyrighted excerpts from their writings. When Google promptly removed the web site, free speech advocates made quite a commotion, citing that such censorship reduces the freedom of speech that the Internet naturally provides . (click here for this story)

Should search engines have to deal with this or should all legal preceedings be focused on the infringing web site? The search engines don’t believe they should have any liability. Unfortunately, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act cannot be reviewed simply on the basis of this claim. In the future there are chances that a culmination of other unrelated claims will prompt a review, but until then we just may not know what we are missing on the search engines.

StepForth SEO Manager Jim Hedger discusses his thoughts on a potential IPO at Google with Sally Hardcastle of the BBC World News.

Listen to this BBC interview (in MP3 format)

Here is the interview transcribed:

StepForth’s BBC Interview
Sally Hardcastle (SH) asks what Jim Hedger (JH) thinks of Google’s potential public offering:

JH: “I think the Google IPO is the most watched game in town right now. I don’t think they will be going for it until late next year, it would make sense for Google to issue an IPO, they certainly need to beef up their warchest to fight off MSN and Yahoo!, and we know that MSN is investing about 50 million dollars this year alone in their search feature. Google is the #1 search engine in the world and search is, this year, a 2 billion dollar a year industry and is projected to be a 7 billion dollar a year industry within the next 5 years. So, there is a number of companies that want a share of Google’s action.”

SH: “What kind of share does Google have of the market?”
JH: “Either through someone entering www.google.com or through Google’s distribution to other search engines about 76% of all search traffic goes through the search database.”

SH: “Why has it been so successful?”
JH: “Mostly because it is concentrated on focusing on relevant results with a very clean interface,”
SH: “Don’t use the jargon; they just keep it simple and it works.”
JH: “Yes and that is very appealing to search engine users.”

SH: “Now you are saying that others are batting down the door, but the others don’t have this simple way of doing things. Can they change their act? I wouldn’t have thought they could.”
JH: “Oh I think they are trying to change their act, MSN specifically is trying to introduce a new search engine probably within the Spring of 2004, thats going to be very simple, stripped down, much like Google.”

SH: “So is 2003 a pretty crucial year for this business? Which I should say is obviously an important business nowadays.”
JH: “Yes, 2003 has been the year of big changes. I guess the business end of search engines has dominated in 2003, with mergers, acquisitions, and all of the companies, including Google trying to grow as big as possible quickly, to fend of their rivals. But 2004 is going to be radically different; I think we are going to see a number of the smaller players either absorbed by the big three or simply put out of business.”

– Ross Dunn

Someone, somewhere is going to write a great business book about the search engine wars of 2003 however, their publishers will likely send it back for a rewrite because business books are not supposed to be more interesting and action packed than a Tom Clancy spy thriller. For a recap of previous events (and if you haven’t been keeping up, you’ll need it), please visit the StepForth search engine news site and check our back issues. By 2004, the search engine world will look very different than it does today, starting with Yahoo. Read more…