SEO

Ask Jeeves and Lycos Enter the Search Engine Optimization Field

Ask Jeeves and Lycos Enter the Search Engine Optimization Field

In a highly surprising move, two well known smaller search engines have entered the organic search engine optimization market! Ask Jeeves and Lycos are both offering services in a sector has traditionally maintained a symbiotic but arm’s-length relationship with search firms. While both firms have long offered assistance to webmasters through programs such as Lycos Insite-Select and AskJeeves Interactive until recently no search firm offered direct organic SEO services. This may mark the beginning of a trend that should concern SEO practitioners, webmasters and search engine users.

Over the past three years, the business of search has universally moved towards paid-contextual advertising. Nearly every search firm offers direct support to paying advertisers, as should be expected, however the organic listings have always been considered relatively free of paid-interference from the paid-staff. Modification of site-content to achieve prominent listings has always been the domain of “outsiders” in the SEO/SEM sector, thus allowing the search engines a greater degree of credibility. Unless a webmaster or SEO used deceptive or spammy techniques, the search engines could be expected to treat all sites algorithmically, in other words, equally. Now two smaller but significant search firms, both of which have deep financial dealings with Google and Yahoo, offer direct organic SEO services.

AskJeeves has grown rapidly over the past two years and has spent a great deal of time and energy retooling itself to compete with its larger rivals. Although it provides extremely accurate organic results, Ask Jeeves receives upwards of 70% of its income by providing space for Google AdWords above the organic search results. AskJeeves’ greatest silent asset is its search engine Teoma, acquired in October 2001. As an algorithmic engine, Teoma works much the same way Google does except it adds an extra “site-credibility” factor into it’s ranking algo. An example found in USAToday noted, “… a search for “Bay Area airports” on Jeeves displays official airport sites for San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. The same search on Google highlights local newspaper articles about the airports.”.

According to ComScore Media Metrix, the sites that make up the AskJeeves network are collectively the sixth most visited properties on the Web with 39.3-million users in October. October’s numbers represent a 126% increase in users over the same period last year. Jeeves’ revenues have increased as well. In the third quarter of 2004, Ask Jeeves reported revenues of $75.7-million, an increase of 178% over Q3-2003. Clearly, the AskJeeves network is capable of driving a significant amount of traffic and ad space.

Lycos does not maintain its own database of spidered sites. Receiving organic results from Yahoo and Looksmart, Lycos is more of a network than a search engine. Lycos owns a lot of online real-estate and is responsible for some of the most useful information sources such as Wired News, and some of the most useless websites through its instant-site Anglefire service. After surviving some of the roughest waters any tech-firm could have faced, Lycos seems to be trying to find stable footing for its search engine marketing service Lycos Insite. With the industry move towards paid-placement and contextual distribution, Insite appeared on the brink of irrelevancy. Adding organic SEO services may provide some degree of stability as the sector continues to grow however, Lycos is a search engine that also has financial interests in other search tools. Lycos has faced extreme financial pressures for the past four years. Based on the rates posted on their site, Lycos Insite is also looking for a profitable platform in organic SEO. With charges ranging from $200/page and up, optimization of a 50 page static site could cost over $10,000! Like any other SEO firm, Lycos Insite posts its methodology for the world to see. The text of page shows that Lycos has learned a great deal from the organic SEO sector. It appears they provide the exact same services most other SEOs would provide, along with a few most SEOs would suggest are unnecessary. Lycos Insite will review your site, examine the competition and provide indepth keyword research. After their recommendations are applied to the site, they will then provide ranking reports and SEO updates. One service that Insite has offered for several years is a monthly site submission service. Most SEOs recommend against repeat submissions and more than one search engine (including Lycos itself) has stated that repeated submission is a form of spam.

That smaller search engines feel the need to draw revenues by providing organic search optimization services to clients shows how dominant Google, Yahoo and MSN are on the search landscape. Organic website optimization is an important form of mainstream advertising and like almost every other form of mainstream marketing is about manipulation. The difference between SEOs and mainstream marketers is the audience. Every other form of marketing is about subtle manipulation of consumers, assisting buyers in making product choices. Search engine optimization is about manipulating site content to present information to electronic spiders. When the search firms blur the line between organic and obvious paid-advertising, search engine users have cause for concern. Now that two well known search firms have entered the organic market, that line may become even blurrier, a trend that should worry SEO practitioners.

Jim Hedger is a senior editor for ISEDB.com. Also he is a writer, speaker and search engine marketing expert based in Victoria BC. Jim works with a limited group of clients and provides consultancy services. He has worked as an SEO for over 5 years and welcomes the opportunity to share his experience through interviews, articles and speaking engagements. Hedger can be reached at jim.hedger@gmail.com

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