Search Engine Watch 2003 Award Winners, Part 3

Coauthor: Chris Sherman

For voting methodology, please see part one.

Best Shopping Search Engine

This category recognizes outstanding performance in helping Internet users shop for products from across the Web.

Winner: Yahoo Shopping

Unlike many of the other categories in this year’s awards, there was no majority winner for shopping search. Froogle received 23 percent of the 553 votes, with Yahoo Shopping right behind with 22 percent (there were only three actual votes separating them).

We made Yahoo Shopping the winner for several reasons. It offers many more features to assist in the overall shopping experience, including tools to help investigate products, reviews by professionals and users, and a wide range of comparison tools.

Yahoo gave its shopping service a major upgrade this year, adding an Inktomi-powered crawl of the Web for products to supplement its own merchants and merchant feeds. It’s also experimenting with cool features such as SmartSort, which lets you visually manipulate product features.

Second Place: Froogle and Shopping.com

Froogle remains a “beta” product from Google, so it lacks the polish and features found at Yahoo Shopping. However, it offers a fantastically deep index of products from across the Web. It’s great if you already know what you want and are looking for the best price.

Shopping.com (formerly DealTime) earned 16 percent of the popular vote. It offers a comprehensive set of tools and information to help with the overall shopping experience. Well worth a visit from anyone seeking a shopping search engine.

Honorable Mention: Kelkoo, BizRate, and mySimon

We gave several honorable mention awards to shopping search engines that polled well in our survey.

Kelkoo, a European shopping search engine, gained 8 percent of votes for a winner. BizRate, which completely revamped its search engine this year, earned 7 percent of the winner votes, as did long-time shopping search engine mySimon.

Best Design

This category recognizes the search engine deemed to have the best look and feel.

Winner: Google

Last year’s winner, Google, again easily outdistanced the competition in popular voting, which we based the award in this category on. It earned 57 percent of votes for a winner — far ahead of the next-popular choice, Yahoo, with 9 percent.

“Simple is beautiful,” wrote one person who voted for Google. “Less is more,” wrote another. The comments echo those we’ve heard in the past. The clean, simple design remains a hit.

Second Place: Yahoo and AlltheWeb

Both Yahoo and AlltheWeb earned nearly the same share in the voting for a winner, 8 and 9 percent, respectively. All remaining services earned 4 percent or less. On the strength of this, we gave both services the second place for best design.

Two who voted for AlltheWeb cited its clean design, and one liked its skinning functionality. Two who voted for Yahoo made it clear they’re in favor of the pure search version.

Most Webmaster-Friendly Search Provider

The idea behind this category is to allow readers to vote for the search provider they feel sends them quality “organic,” or “natural,” traffic with the least amount of work.

Winner: Google

In the wake of complaints following Google’s recent algorithm changes, we wondered if the service would finally fall from favor in this category. It didn’t. Instead, it was the clear choice, earning 61 percent of the 535 votes cast. Google won based on this performance.

How can Google do so well after so many complaints from site owners? It’s important to remember for everyone who lost traffic, someone else gained. In addition, a sizeable number of sites weren’t impacted by the algorithm shift at all.

Second Place: Yahoo

Yahoo-owned search engines came after Google and scored nearly the same: Inktomi with 9 percent, AlltheWeb with 8, Yahoo at 7, and AltaVista with 6 percent.

We explicitly asked who should win second place. Here, votes were more decisive. Yahoo earned the most, 23 percent of 397 votes cast. Google followed at 16 percent, AlltheWeb and AltaVista tied at 15, followed by Inktomi at 13. All others were 9 percent or less.

Yahoo was clearly the top second-place choice among readers, so we awarded it second.

Honorable Mention: Inktomi and AlltheWeb

Inktomi gained the second highest number of votes after Google to win in this category. It didn’t win for second place, because Yahoo seemed the better choice. Its performance did merit an honorable mention, however.

Similarly, AlltheWeb earns an honorable mention for ranking so well in the voting for both winner and second-place consideration.

Best Paid-Placement Service

This category recognizes the best paid program providing guaranteed placement in search engine results.

Winner: Google AdWords

Google was the winner in this category based on popular voting, earning 48 percent of the 475 votes cast. We’re going with our readers on this one.

A sampling of the written comments:

  • Google holds the crown for me simply because of ease of use and accessibility.

  • Google AdWords is the best, so long as you opt out of [AdSense]. In my experience, their AdSense publishers are worse than the affiliates on any PPC service.
  • [AdSense] doesn’t work for us, but traditional PPC is great.
  • Google outperforms Overture every month.
  • I know Jupiter Research [owned by this publication’s parent company] ranked Overture as the number one pay-per-click search engine this past year, but as an Internet marketer, I strongly disagree. I really hate their editors changing headlines I’ve thoroughly tested on Google AdWords. And I dislike their ranking by price only. That means really poor conversion ads can be in the number one spot. Stupid. One last thing: Overture traffic doesn’t convert nearly as well as Google AdWords traffic.

Second Place: Overture

Overture was a very strong second, earning a healthy 35 percent of the popular vote.

Last year, Overture also came behind Google. The percentage gap was wide, Google earning 52 percent to Overture’s 41 percent, an 11 percentage point gap. However, the vote gap was so small (Google got only 22 more votes than Overture) we declared a tie.

This year, the gap’s broader: 13 percentage points. The vote gap is also broader, with Google ahead by 64 votes.

When we asked explicitly who should win the second-place award, Overture led, earning 39 percent of the 360 votes cast. Google came next at 28 percent of the votes.

Given the vote, we award Overture second place in the category. We stress that anyone doing search engine advertising would be remiss not to use both Overture and Google. They have largely non-duplicated audiences and excellent reputations. If you’re looking for the broadest reach and generally good conversion, you’d want to use both.

Written comments received with votes for Overture:

  • Unquestionably, Overture is the hands-down winner!

  • The Google AdWords tool is easier to use than Overture’s and we get more hits from them. However, our ROI is much better with Overture. That’s what matters, isn’t it? Also, the Google ads are too small and there are far too many of them per page. We can create more effective ads using Overture than Google.
  • Overture has much better before-bid research tools that I use in my Web design. Google has an easier way to assign many terms to one or several ads. Google’s money-management is also easier. So Overture before the fact, Google after. (I use both for all my clients.)
  • No longer use Google. Nuisance rules and performance monitoring.

Honorable Mention: FindWhat, Espotting, and Mirago

In votes for a winner, FindWhat came third after Overture, earning 4 percent of the vote. It was also tied for third in the voting for a second-place choice, earning 7 percent there.

Though percentages are low, they do indicate for those seeking an alternative to the monster services of Google and Overture, FindWhat is a choice to consider. Based on the votes, we thought it deserved an honorable mention.

One person who voted for Overture noted: “If the traffic was anywhere close to that from Overture or Google, I’d have chosen FindWhat for second place.”

Espotting is a European paid listings service that lost partnerships and distribution since it won in the European paid listing category we had last year. We decided not to repeat that category this year. However, we felt the voting warranted an honorable mention for Espotting. It polled 3 percent of the winner vote, following behind FindWhat, and it tied with FindWhat as a second-place choice.

Mirago, another European paid-listing service, received no votes. Not surprising, as it wasn’t even on the voting form. In hindsight, we decided an honorable mention was in order to highlight two advances Mirago made over the past year to give advertisers more choice: traffic source selection and dayparting. To our knowledge, it leads the industry in both of these fronts. We’d like other paid-listing providers catch up.

Want more search information? ClickZ Search Archives contains all our search columns, organized by topic.

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