The Mender

Metamend's Search Engine Optimization Newsletter
Issue 36
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Advice and techniques for the promotion of your web site plus Search Engine Optimization News and valuable resources for the serious on-line marketer.

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Welcome to "The Mender" Issue 36



Impatient Web Searchers Measure Web Sites' Appeal In Seconds
By Dr. Jim Jansen, Margaret Hopkins, Charles DuBois
PennState University

Sell More: 4 steps to better conversion rates
By Pandia Guest Writer Steve Winkler


Yahoo Shooting To Jump Over Google By Purchasing A Paid Search Pioneer
By Pete Barlas


Tips and techniques for making your site accessible


Fresh Picks Autonomy to buy Virage
Content Wire
15 Jul 2003 03:22 GMT


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ADMINISTRATOR'S CORNER: The Changing Search Engine Landscape
by Richard Zwicky

On July 14, 2003, Yahoo! announced it was acquiring Overture for $1.6 Billion (USD).$312 million of this is in cash, the rest in Yahoo! stock. This latest step in the search engine wars has huge ramifications for the evolution of the Internet.

At the end of last year, Yahoo! bought Inktomi, which signaled that Google would in all likelihood lose its cornerstone client. Then Overture, the leader in paid search results took a leap into traditional search by acquiring Altavista and FAST. These two acquisitions were meaningful because Altavista owns what is perhaps the best spider or crawler, and FAST has the fastest search engine database query tool. When fully integrated, these tools could combine to form a very powerful search tool. The question became- What would be their outlet?

Yahoo! had Google under contract, but its widely expected to drop them, once it had Inktomi retooled and had rebuilt the database to the point where it felt comfortable the technologies delivered similar quality results.

Before the integration could be complete, Overture was purchased by Yahoo!, and we now know that the Inktomi technology will be paired with combined FAST and Altavista tools to create what should be the most powerful search tool.

Separately, Microsoft is viewing these changes from two perspectives. On the one hand, they have been building their own search engine to replace Inktomi within their services, and on the other, they were thought to have been interested in acquiring Overture. Microsoft has watched as they have been moved from being the primary supporter of both Inktomi and Overture, to a bystander as both these leading technologies were acquired by their most dominant competitor. This leaves Microsoft with a choice; Continued support for Overture, even though it is now part of its biggest competitor; Build their own replacement for Overture; Or acquire LookSmart, or perhaps a combination of build and buy.

While all these changes have been occurring., and in particular in the last 3 months, the other dominant player in search engines, Google, has more than anything been hurting itself through its own internal failures. They adopted major algorithm changes which were designed to improve results, but were widely panned for delivering irrelevant results. They withdrew the changes two weeks later, but have slowly been implementing more tweaks, to mixed reviews. In the meantime, FAST and Teoma both vastly improved their algorithms and are consistently improving their search results. They may not be on par with Google, yet, but they are getting close.

What should we expect in the next 6 months? For one, we know Microsoft will be getting closer and closer to releasing its own search engine. It should be interesting to see how different it is from all the others. We know AOL will continue to support Google, and we know that the day is coming closer when Yahoo! will either drop Google, or buy it outright. What we do not know as yet, is which engine(s) will emerge to fill the void in the market. Teoma looks strong, technologically, but without major distribution partners, the market is not appealing for them.

Expect more mergers and acquisitions. At least one of the aforementioned companies will begin looking beyond their own internal technologies to drive pure search results.

MARKETING: Those Long Hot Days of Summer
Robert McCourty

Changes in the amount of business your company does is often affected by seasonal changes. Sometimes these changes are subtle such as the end of the school year. Most parents plan vacations during the summer months to spend time with their families. Great if you are involved in the tourism industry or happen to have a local business in a popular tourist destination. For an Internet based or e-commerce company relying on online revenues however, this can mean a lot less people in front of their computers. A sudden and dramatic loss of traffic to your web site can cause consternation to your sales cycle. The best way to prevent any nasty bottom line surprises is of course being prepared for seasonal changes. When things are good, put some funds away for the lean times. It's a common sense thing to do but you may be surprised at how few companies actually have the foresight to plan ahead for exactly these circumstances.

The winter holiday season is another example. Retailers often rely on this short selling season to generate a high percentage of their total yearly revenue. Not an entirely wise approach. Aspects such as disposable income levels, consumer confidence in the economy and job security all contribute to spending patterns of consumers. Relying entirely on one good selling season is indeed, a fickle and most unpredictable way to guarantee your businesses future. You would be much further ahead to plan and budget at minimal income levels for a constant burn throughout the entire year. This way if you have a "good season" it will be a bonus situation and should sales not increase as predicted or heaven forbid, slip a little you will still be able to handle the seasonal changes in stride.

Here's a few tips to help you recognize and plan for seasonal changes. Analyze your monthly sales history for the past year. Write down any noticeable trends. Is your business affected (either positively or negatively) by major holidays? Does your data show more sales on a Monday rather than a Friday? Are the warmer months better or worse than colder ones? Some of these factors may seem insignificant by themselves but once applied to a longer time frame the sales trends may become all too apparent. Taking a step back from the day-to-day routine and looking at your long term sales cycles can provide valuable clues to your businesses strengths and weaknesses. It can also help provide indicators as to when you should be gearing up your marketing efforts. (big season coming up) or when it should be OK to coast for awhile. Most importantly, it will let you forecast the slower times well in advance, so you can prepare accordingly. Start putting a percentage of your revenue away in a 'rainy day' fund. Use it during the slow times to get you through until your sales cycle returns. If nothing else, it's one heck of a stress relief technique.


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