Lycos: Weaving a New Web

Search engines are reviewing their business strategies, and Lycos is no exception. The name is derived from the Latin “Lycosidae” (“wolf spider”), an arachnid famous for being the hunter rather than the hunted.

Tom Wilde, the newly appointed general manager of Lycos Search Services said, “We made a decision in 1999 to focus on our network strategy by building customer acquisition and retention, content aggregation, and brand.” Over the past year, Lycos diversified its model significantly by launching subscription-based services in finance, online dating, and home-page publishing.

New Search Subscription Products

One new subscription service, InSite, offers site search and paid inclusion:

  • Lycos InSite Select allows owners to submit their sites to Lycos for guaranteed inclusion in the Lycos Web index within 48 hours with full refresh, starting at $18 per year. You’re notified once indexed and have online access to billing and submission status.
  • Lycos InSite Pro offers paid inclusion and hosted site search starting at $189 per month. Site search is hosted in the Lycos Data Center, providing a secure environment for indexes. No software or hardware is involved, and search can be customized. A search box easily integrated into site design is provided.

Site search solutions of one kind or another are being offered by most major search engines. AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, and Inktomi have provided site search products over the past couple years, FAST joined the fray more recently, and now Lycos and Google are on board.

The need is there. Not only did Jupiter Media Metrix report that “80 percent of online users will abandon a site if the search function doesn’t work well,” but an IDC study reports that 50 percent of searches are abandoned and up to 97 percent of some site searches show no click-throughs to any results. Couple that with an earlier Forrester study indicating 93 percent of commercial sites either don’t provide site search or use software that fails basic tasks, and you can see why everybody’s on board to fill those needs.

Focus on Relevancy and User Experience

Lycos improved its user interface last November, including an enhanced version of Advanced Search and a new version of Fast Forward (formerly Side Search). The feature appears at the end of each Web Results listing. Click on Fast Forward, and it allows you to view all the listings from a left-side menu while viewing a destination site on the right. This makes it convenient to click to different destination sites while viewing results on the same page. Cool!

What about labeling Overture listings? “We now display a maximum of three (paid) listings from Overture,” conceded Wilde. “We’ll change the heading for the Overture listings from Products & Services to Sponsored Search Listings this month,” he added. This should make critics and users alike happy. Wilde pointed out Lycos directory listings are from Open Directory and feature no paid content, in contrast to Yahoo’s display of Overture listings above and below the fold.

Lycos plans to release a number of relevancy-enhancing features this year, many based on query analysis. Query analysis presents several choices to the user to make a query less ambiguous. For example, “Saturn” could mean the planet or the car. Synonyms and related queries can facilitate relevancy. “To do this on a large scale requires a huge knowledge base that understands the context underpinning the English language, resulting in many potential interpretations for a query. This is a major focus this year,” said Wilde.

Scoring High

What gets high rankings on Lycos? “Relevancy, relevancy, relevancy — nothing attracts and retains searchers more than the quality of the search results, thus we prize relevant content,” said Wilde. Lycos doesn’t use meta tags but won’t penalize use when used in relevant descriptions. What about minisites and doorways? “Minisites are fine if they honestly represent the content of the Web site, [and the] same goes for doorways,” said Wilde. What do they penalize for? “We don’t tolerate cloaking or spam — and we watch keyword patterns and frequency to safeguard against these abuses.

“At the highest level, the best formula for profitability is creating and maintaining the best possible search experience for our users,” said Wilde. “Without them, none of the other business models are viable.”

Related reading

Brand Top Level Domains