The 2001 Search Engine Awards, Part 1: And the Winner Is…

After Chris Sherman and I compiled the winners of the 2001 Search Engine Watch awards, I joked to him that if we were handing out gold medals as in the Olympics, Google would barely be able to walk under the weight. Chris countered that we ought to be testing Google for steroid use!

What’s no joke is that Google came out as a big winner, being named for the second year in a row as “Outstanding Search Service.” Google also won for “Best Image Search Engine” (Google Images), “Best Design,” “Most Webmaster Friendly Search Engine,” and “Best Search Feature” (Google Toolbar and Cached Links).

In all, Google swept five of the eight categories in which it was eligible to win. In two of the three categories where Google didn’t win, the company gained honorable mentions. It wasn’t all Google, however:

  • Viv&iacutesimo won for “Best Meta Search Engine” and gained an honorable mention in “Best Search Feature,” for its autocategorization.
  • Yahoo News won for “Best News Search Engine,” with honorable mentions to AllTheWeb News, AltaVista News, and RocketNews.
  • Overture won for “Best Paid Placement Service,” with honorable mentions to Google AdWords and Espotting.com.
  • Inktomi won for “Best Paid Inclusion Service,” and LookSmart’s Zeal won an honorable mention in the “Most Webmaster Friendly Search Engine” category.
  • Science search engine Scirus won “Best Specialty Search Engine,” with an honorable mention to Google Groups.
  • AltaVista and the Open Directory were inducted into the Hall Of Fame.

Outstanding Search Service

This category recognizes outstanding performance in helping Internet users locate general information from across the World Wide Web.

Winner: Google

Last year’s winner, Google was again the clear choice for being named the Outstanding Search Service of 2001. The company not only maintained its widely praised high relevancy, but it also unveiled a dizzying array of new features and services.

In 2001, Google became the first major search engine to go beyond indexing only HTML and text documents, first adding support for PDF files and then many other document types, such as Word documents. This made important content previously “invisible” to searchers available for the first time.

Google also increased its coverage of the Web, breaking first the 1 billion document barrier, then pushing through to 1.5 billion documents indexed by the end of the year — well beyond its nearest major competitors.

Google resurrected and greatly improved the former DejaNews service, breathing new life into newsgroup searching. It also unveiled an image search service and a catalog search service.

These are just some of the many reasons that Google stood out to be selected as an editors’ choice. It was also the clear winner among Search Engine Watch readers. Of the 568 valid votes for this category, 66 percent were for Google.

Why do people like Google? Consistently, comments praised that it was accurate, fast, comprehensive, and easy to use and that ads were clearly identified and not intrusive. Here are just four of nearly 200 comments received about Google, as part of the voting:

  • “Relevancy, relevancy, relevancy! Indexed PDF files! Accurate image search! Google Groups! No fees to submit! To sum up: My girlfriend, who knows nothing about computers, tried Google once (it took me months to get her to try, instead of her AltaVista habit). Now not only does she exclusively use Google but [she] tells all of her friends to as well. When was the last time a search engine provoked true word-of-mouth advertising?”
  • “Consistently gives good results despite all the phenomenal growth in coverage and the addition of special features. It remains easy to use in a simple search and uncluttered visually.”
  • “I usually find what I need in the first 10 results. I teach students (middle school) to use the images and directory features. Generally, it is plain and simple, [has] no advertising, and [is] easy to use with great results.”
  • “The service is clean, no pop-up ads or pop-unders. [It has] ease of navigation, sponsored sites are listed clearly, and the listings are up to date.”

Honorable Mention: AllTheWeb (FAST)

AllTheWeb, which is operated by FAST, came a long way in 2001. Relevancy improvements, better spam filtering, and “clustering” of results so that no one site can crowd others out of the top results are some of the things that helped turn AllTheWeb into an impressive search resource, one worthy of an honorable mention. The company is also doing interesting work in trying to automatically suggest non-HTML content when relevant, such as multimedia files or images. In the voting, AllTheWeb was the second most popular choice, after Google, gaining 12 percent of the vote.

Other Notable Results

AltaVista earned 7 percent of the vote, followed by Yahoo with 4 percent. All others earned 2 percent or less.

Next week: A closer look at the winners of Best Paid Placement Service (Overature/GoTo) and Best Paid Inclusion (Inktomi).

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