Most of you have
already mastered the
art of manipulating a
traditional service's search
interface. The Web is a
different story, it's a
ONLINE, May 2000
In March, AltaVista rolled out its Advanced Search Center--a portal-like interface combining its advanced search features with community (discussion forums) and Webmaster-specific content. The Advanced Search Center is the first of four tabs located just above the general search box on AltaVista's home page. The other three tabs break out the search portal's multimedia search capabilities into Images, MP3/Audio, and Video. This is notable because it reaffirms a mainstream search portal's commitment to the educated searcher. The folks at AltaVista may be recognizing that the more savvy a searcher becomes, the better results they'll get. Good results mean happy searchers who'll hopefully stay loyal to a service that gives them what they want--besides stock quotes and weather reports.
This, of course, is no revelation to anyone in the search engine business. Advanced search features have always been available--just tucked away, often accessed only by a subtle link. And just one year ago, if you had asked the folks at AltaVista, HotBot, or any of the other services what features they had planned for the smaller, but dedicated, advanced search community, they might have said, "Not much. But look at this, we have free greeting cards!"
Nevertheless, you, the reader of this magazine, the advanced searcher, take full advantage of a search engine's advanced search features. And if you've cut your teeth on a traditional service's more powerful search interface, performing a Web search is like switching from Percy Sledge to Michael Bolton.
So to squeeze the best out of the Web, a searcher must understand the mechanics behind a search engine's features. I recently attended Danny Sullivan's Search Engine Strategies 2000 conference in New York. The excellent programming focused on optimizing Web sites to achieve better ranking in search engine results. I managed to bump into a couple of folks from the ONLINE magazine crowd, but attendance was predominantly Webmasters and Web marketers. For me, the sessions provided valuable insight into how Internet search technology works--how and where spiders crawl, which services auction off keywords to the highest bidder, who's providing results from Inktomi or the Open Directory Project, etc. Being there reinforced for me the fact that the more I know about search technology, the better search strategies I'm able to form, which for the readers of ONLINE magazine, has always been the case. This is demonstrated by the popularity of the special issue you hold in your hands now.
With this issue we continue, for the second year in a row, concentrated coverage of Web search technology. It's more than a chance to kick the tires and peer under the hood; it's an opportunity to learn more about an important tool for your job. Most of you have already mastered the art of manipulating a traditional service's search interface. The Web is a different story. It's a constant challenge to locate quality sources, refine searches, and keep track of new features. You're the gearheads of Web search. Use this issue to tune up your strategies.
So the next killer app for the portals may well be better advanced search support for the general searcher. Help them to understand their environment, how the tool works, and they'll start using it over and over again. When you understand the rules of the game, you enjoy it even more.
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