AltaVista: Ready for Takeoff

With all the talk about whether or not search engines will be around tomorrow and the long-term strategy for survival of their business models, I thought it would be in order to highlight the changes at AltaVista, as this search engine focuses all of its efforts on search capabilities rather than offering the usual portal services.

In a recent conversation with Vaughn Rhodes, senior director of search solutions at AltaVista, I discovered that AltaVista performs more than 50 million search queries on average each day — about one in three Internet searches. Also, it appears it has upgraded several new features:

  • More inclusive and faster search of the Web with simplified navigation
  • Vertical search centers and blended results
  • E-tailer, auction, and localized shopping results
  • An increased index

AltaVista is developing a series of vertical search centers attentive to cumulative information placed into highly segmented directories. This gives advertisers the ability to effectively target their message.

In keeping with AltaVista’s new mission focused on search, it has an updated logo and a new tag line, “The Search Company,” representing the strategic shift from a portal to a unified search site.

What’s not To Like?

Frankly, I have always loved AltaVista as a search engine. And the traffic stats would indicate I am not alone; it’s very popular. Look at StatMarket’s search engine ratings on Danny Sullivan’s site, and you’ll see AltaVista’s share of search engine traffic according to HitBox counters.

I also appreciate AltaVista’s simplified navigation and fast load times. As David Karnstedt, AltaVista’s vice president of Internet search, said recently, “These enhancements arm our users with the power to find what they want quickly in an intuitive, intelligent fashion.”

And what exactly does that mean for search engine listings? More revenue for everyone. Getting good search engine listing placement on AltaVista has always required total compliance with its listing specifications, resulting in a clean database. “We filter a tremendous amount of junk pages when receiving over several million submission requests per day,” states Rhodes. AltaVista rewards Web pages that are well designed and that have correctly constructed sentences and paragraphs.

Some Good 411

To get specific information regarding AltaVista submissions, or any other engine for that matter, always visit the “Add URL” page and review the engine’s guidelines.

Submitting your Web site URL to the AltaVista Search Index doesn’t guarantee your site will be added to AltaVista’s database, and it doesn’t include submission to categories of AltaVista’s Directory. However, if you are interested in learning more about how AltaVista works and take the time to read all the information, it will help your SEO efforts quite a bit.

Within “How AltaVista Works,” you’ll find plenty of tips and helpful advice regarding search engine optimization. For instance, at “Improving Your Site With Link,” you can find out who links to your pages with the keyword link, followed by your domain name, a directory address, or the URL of a subpage. There are also tips regarding meta tags.

And just what are meta tags?

Meta tags are text descriptions, or a sequence of words and phrases, written as “content” into the header of a Web page. The meta tags are visible only in the page’s source code. The site visitor does not actually see their content even though some engines can read it. In fact, some Web sites misuse meta tags, attempting to trick search engines and visitors into thinking the site has relevant content, when it actually doesn’t, which misleads people on branding popularity. Others mistakenly put the same meta tags on every subpage, whereas each page should have separate and distinguishable meta tags.

The best piece of information on AltaVista is on query relevance, which leads you into being well indexed. In any event, I’ve found AltaVista’s engine and the Help sections to be very valuable, and I hope this helps you better understand where to find assistance for your SEO efforts.

On a final note, I hope to see some of you in Boston at Search Engine Strategies 2001. (Get your tickets if you’ve been procrastinating!) It’ll be a great lineup with basic and advanced track sessions. Danny Sullivan puts together a fantastic event where you’ll learn tons, and the networking is great!

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