Monthly Archives : April 2003

Search Engines Buying Search Engines


  • Yahoo! Buys Inktomi
  • Overture Buys
  • Google Buys
  • Overture Buys AllTheWeb

What is going on?

Well, there has always been a little incest between the search engines. MSN currently uses LookSmart and Inktomi. Yahoo and AOL both use Google and, of course, so does Google. So the current market has Google providing results for 3 of the big 4 search sites. This creates a hefty unbalance, and the industry has been holding its breath waiting for the hatchet to come down.

Yahoo buys Inktomi

It looks like Yahoo has made the first step. By buying Inktomi, Yahoo could potentially use results that they own, instead of paying for them “per click” from Google. Another scenario would have Yahoo combining Google and Inktomi results with its own directory results, making it into a meta search engine. Yahoo’s purchase of Inktomi also gives Yahoo a great paid inclusion program. Thus, not only does the purchase have the potential to make Yahoo into a better search site, but it will also make them money immediately.

Overture buys Altavista and AllTheWeb

Overture buying up Altavista and AllTheWeb is not so clear cut. Overture is a pay-per-click search engine that makes the bulk of its money by posting its results (sponsored sites) on Yahoo and MSN. It currently uses Inktomi to “fill up” any results where there are no bidders. Of course, on Yahoo and MSN the Inktomi results never show up (because they don’t pay).

So what will Overture do with its two new acquisitions? Well, Google is Overture’s only real rival in the pay-per-click arena. Many people think that Overture bought AllTheWeb to compete with Google in the search engine spidering arena. Another reason for the acquisition is that Overture can cash in on Altavista and AllTheWeb’s paid inclusion programs. Overture will probably continue to focus on their pay-per-click, while using the eyeballs at Altavista and the technology at AllTheWeb to improve their own services. They almost certainly will replace the Inktomi results (which they do not own) with either one of their new purchases.

What about MSN?

MSN hasn’t bought any big search engine recently. What will they do in the future? Many people are speculating that MSN will drop Inktomi now that their main rival Yahoo owns it. This is probable in the long term, but I don’t think they will make any bold moves soon. MSN recently pointed out that Google is definitely a rival, so it looks like they are targeting their crosshairs there. Another possibility is that they become better buddies with Overture, using Altavista or even AllTheWeb’s search results instead of Inktomi’s. They could also buy up Wisenut, another spidering search engine, which is owed by LookSmart.

Only time will tell

One thing that I think is for sure (if anything is in this industry), is that a good ranking in Inktomi’s listings is going to be a lot more valuable once Yahoo incorporates it, so get your site tweaked. A site that has been optimized for Inktomi will do better in the search engine results.

Next issue, I will update you on other changes in the industry.

Shawn Campbell

Shawn Campbell is the co-founder and Chief Search Engine Optimizer at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.

Picking Apart PageRank

Google is currently the darling of web surfers. With robust algorithms such as PageRank, Google helps users find relevant results, quickly. But while PageRank may be a boon for searchers, it is also the bane of webmasters because it is one of the most difficult ranking factors to control.

PageRank is the brainchild of Google co-founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. It is a system for ranking web pages that is based on an assumption popular among academics: that the importance of a research paper can be judged by the number of citations it has from other researcher papers.

The pair simply came up with the web page equivalent: the importance of a web page can be judged by the number of links it has from other web pages.

To find out what a website’s PageRank is, you’ll need to install the Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer.

The Google toolbar sits underneath your address bar and displays a bar graph representing the PageRank of the page you are viewing.


How it All Works

When a user visits Google and enters a query, several things happen. First, Google finds all the web pages in its index that match the search term. Next, out of these results, Google selects a subset of web pages that have the greatest relevance to the query.

At this point, PageRank is not a factor at all. Google first looks at all the usual factors such as keyword density and prominence to calculate relevance. PageRank only comes into play as a multiplier after all these other factors have been calculated. In other words:

Final Ranking = (score for all other relevance factors) x (PageRank rating).

To determine a page’s PageRank, Google looks at a web page and counts how many incoming links are pointing to it. Google regards these links as “votes”. If one site links to another site, it is essentially casting a vote for that site.

Google doesn’t just count the total number of “votes” or links that a web page receives to determine its PageRank however; it also analyzes the web page that casts the vote.

Votes cast by pages that Google deems “important”, i.e., sites that already have a high PageRank, are given more weight and help to increase the PageRank of the web pages they link to.

The actual PageRank of a web page is calculated as the sum of the PageRank of all the web pages linking to it, divided by the number of outgoing links on each of those pages.

Improving Your PageRank

Improving your website’s PageRank may sound easy: just find sites with a high PageRank to link to your site. In reality however, it’s not that simple.

Many webmasters with sites with a high PageRank, will not link to a site with a lower PageRank; it simply isn’t worth their while to do so. Moreover, even if they do link to your page, if they also link to numerous other pages, the PageRank is divided among all the outgoing links.

Consequently, it may actually be beneficial to propose link exchanges with quality sites with a slightly lower PageRank: competition for links from such sites is less fierce and webmasters may be more willing to reciprocate links.

Click here for additional tips on improving your PageRank.

The Trouble with PageRank

While the premise behind PageRank may hold true within the halls of academia, when applied to web pages, its flaws start to show.

Although it would seem like common sense that a website would only link to another site if it had good content, in reality, websites link to sites with poor content all the time. Webmasters may engage in purely commercial link exchanges, or they may link to a page because they use that website’s counters or banner ads on their own website.

Moreover, affiliate websites that generate revenue through pay-per-click links may artificially inflate their client’s PageRank, thus undermining any notion of a natural PageRank.

New sites are often the worse affected by PageRank. Regardless of their quality, new sites will always have fewer incoming links and therefore, a lower PageRank. Consequently, getting sites with a higher PageRank to link to them will be difficult.

websites with a good PageRank however, have no trouble soliciting links. Because of their good PR, they tend to rank highly in the search engine results pages. Since they rank highly in the results pages, people tend to link to them, creating a vicious cycle.

Final Thoughts

While PageRank is one of the hardest factors to influence, it can still be manipulated. As more and more people discover these strategies, the utility of PageRank will undoubtedly be diminished.

-Julie Joseph

Julie Joseph is a search engine optimizer and copywriter at Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.