Saturday, June 22, 2024

Exclusive Interview with AltaVista

AltaVista (AV) is an undisputed veteran of the search engine industry. Their initial search engine endeavors trace back to the mid ’90s. AltaVista has made use of their early lead to remain a forceful competitor in this ever-changing industry. With over 500 million Web pages indexed and more than 40 million search queries a day, AltaVista remains a major force in the search industry. I had an opportunity to catch up with AltaVista’s Erica Aks, Manager of Content Engineering and distinguished Engineer Edgar Whipple. The topics of our conversation ranged from the best ways to submit, to the importance of knowing who your virtual neighbors are. This is an interview search engine optimizers should read with great interest. The team we interviewed is AltaVista’s first line of defense against spam.

AltaVista has strategically teamed with other industry leaders in order to enhance their service offering. Currently, two of AV’s main partners are GoTo and LookSmart. AV uses GoTo’s paid listings in their search results as “sponsor listings.” Aks and Whipple noted that the GoTo listings have really worked well in conjunction with their own results and AltaVista plans to continue serving the GoTo listings into the future. AV also has close ties with LookSmart, the popular search directory. Right now, LookSmart supplies all of AltaVista’s directory content, and AV plans to continue this collaboration in the future.

Search Results
Although AltaVista noticeably separates their directory content and their Web search section, this does not necessarily mean that directory listings will not appear in the AltaVista Web search results. Erica noted: “There are a couple different ways that you can actually access directory information. You can go directly to it from the front page, you can take a normal Web result and then click on the directory tab and get just directories. And then we also index the directory content, serve it up as well within our normal Web results but we treat it with the same relevancy algorithm.”

I also learned that AV does not call attention to the directory results that are mixed-in with the Web search results. There is no highlight or pointer indicating that a particular result is from LookSmart’s directory. Apparently, a listing within LookSmart’s directory is exceptionally important for success with AltaVista! Search engine submitters, if you want to maximize the visibility of your Web site, particular effort should be given to obtaining a listing within LookSmart.

Related Sites – How this works
Edgar stated that the selection process of the Related Sites feature is similar to the classic information retrieval concept of co-citation.
He went into detail to explain how this works: “If I write a paper in the academic field and then publish it and then people start citing my paper in their papers, then A) that’s a good thing because it means that I’ve written a good paper but what will happen is they will cite presumably other papers than mine when they’re writing their paper so they will cite my paper and perhaps somebody else’s paper at some other university. So co-citation says that if paper X cites my paper then the other papers that it cites along with mine are likely to be related.”

Submitting Web Pages
AltaVista understands the shared value proposition between AltaVista and the Web site submitter in indexing unique content. AltaVista advises all submitters to follow a basic rule in deciding which pages to submit to their engine. “For indexing a Web site, the general rule is as long as all of the pages are unique or largely unique and they have quality content, we want as many of them as we can get,” noted Erika.

Erika also commented that the AV indexing policy adjusts sporadically. The level and depth of how far the spider will crawl a particular Web site varies from time to time. Consequently, if you have pages that you genuinely want indexed, submit them, since the spider may or may not find them otherwise! In addition, if you have a hierarchy of directories at your site, put the most important information high, not deep. AltaVista assumes that information placed higher is more important.

In recent months, AltaVista modified their Web site submission process so that it is no longer possible to submit Web pages through an automated process. This was discussed in the April edition of the MarketPosition newsletter: “AltaVista now requires you to read a graphical submission code off their page and input it into their form. The code purposely uses difficult to read font styles, presumably to prevent anyone from using OCR technology to read the codes automatically. This has effectively blocked automated submission products and services from submitting URLs to AltaVista.” Web site submitters, keep in mind that automated or programmed submission tools will no longer work with this engine. As most MarketPosition readers already know, you must now submit each page you would like indexed by hand.

The above article, or portions of it, have been reprinted with permission from the MarketPosition Newsletter and FirstPlace Software, Inc. and is copyright 1997-2001. FirstPlace produces WebPosition Gold, the award-winning software product to track and to improve your search engine rankings. You may download a FREE trial copy of WebPosition Gold from:

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