Lycos just announced a new search subscription service, Lycos InSite™. It's actually two levels of paid inclusion with an interesting twist in Lycos InSite Pro, which is both an inclusion program and a site search solution bundled into one package. It's affordable and has customizable Web site features that any site can use and users will love. Powered by FAST's PartnerSite, Lycos InSite gives you the following:
Quite suddenly, corporate site search is hot and available from most major search engines. FAST has provided site search solutions since 1999, then AltaVista and Inktomi quietly entered the field, as did AskJeeves last year. Now Lycos and Google have joined the fray.
The need is apparent. Jupiter MediaMetrix reported that "80 percent of online users will abandon a site if the search function doesn't work well," and an IDC (International Data Corporation) study reported 50 percent of Web searches are abandoned. In fact, 97 percent of some site searches yield zero click-throughs to any results. Add that data to the earlier Forrester study that said 93 percent of commercial sites either don't provide site search or use software that fails basic tasks, and it's obvious why site search is now the product du jour.
Founded in 1995, Lycos is among the first crawler-based search engines. While based in Madrid with U.S. headquarters in Waltham, MA, its technology came out of Carnegie Mellon University research. Lycos means wolf spider, derived from the Latin Lycosidae, an arachnid famous for being the hunter rather than the hunted.
As a search engine and directory, Lycos is still very popular today, operating in 43 countries and 20 languages, reaching 109 million unique monthly visitors. It was listed on Jupiter-MediaMetrix's Global Top Fifty last November, and in Nielsen/NetRatings's Top 25 Web Properties in February -- a resilient old spider, at that.
Terra Lycos reported revenues of 170 million Euros for Q3 2001, up 24 percent, or 32 million Euros, from Q3 2000 (exchange rate at press time was 1 Euro = 0.87620 U.S. Dollar.)
All search engines are reviewing their business strategies, and Lycos is no exception. Newly appointed General Manager of Lycos Search Services Tom Wilde said, "We made a strategic decision in 1999 to outsource search technology to FAST and focus on our network strategy by building customer acquisition and retention, content aggregation, and brand." Over the past year, Lycos diversified its business model significantly by launching several subscription-based services in finance, online dating, and homepage publishing.
More Subscription Services
In order to reduce dependency on advertising, Lycos introduced fees for its Quote.com financial information and Matchmaker.com dating service sites. It also offers value-added subscription services for homepages on its Tripod and Angelfire sites.
The jury is out as to whether or not subscription services will prevail. Critics contend that netizens are spoiled with free content and services, thus loath to pay for them. But Lycos noted that ad-free Web hosting was frequently requested by Tripod and Angelfire members. "We believe search subscription services will become a significant percentage of our business," said Wilde.
A Better User Experience
Lycos improved its user interface back in November, which resulted in an enhanced version of Lycos Advanced Search, and a new version of Side Search, now called Fast Forward.
To see how Fast Forward works, look up "shoes" on Lycos. The Fast Forward feature appears at the end of each Web Results listing. Click on Fast Forward and you'll see it allows you to view all the Web Results listings from a left-side menu while viewing a destination site on the right side. This makes it convenient to click to different destination sites while viewing all your results on the same page. Very cool!
People have complained about the labeling of Overture listings on Lycos. "We now display a maximum of three (paid) listings from Overture," conceded Wilde. "We changed the heading for the Overture listings from Products & Services to Sponsored Search Listings last month," he added. This should please critics and users alike. The Lycos directory listings come from ODP (no paid listings) in contrast to Yahoo!'s Overture listings displayed above and below non-sponsored results.
Lycos will release a number of relevancy-enhancing features this year, many based on query analysis. "The next frontier in search relevancy," says Wilde. Query analysis presents the user with several choices in order to quickly narrow down a search. For example, the query "Pluto" could mean the planet or the Walt Disney cartoon character. Synonyms and related queries can facilitate relevancy. To provide many potential query interpretations behind the scenes requires a vast knowledge base and consummate understanding of the English language. "It's a major focus for Lycos this year," said Wilde.
How to Score
Want to rank high on Terra Lycos? Relevancy is the buzzword - "Nothing attracts and retains searchers more than the quality of the search results, thus we prize relevant content," said Wilde. Lycos doesn't bother with meta tags but won't penalize when they're used in relevant descriptions. Lycos will tolerate mini-sites and doorways if they honestly represent the content of the Web site and are used as an entry to relevant content. What it won't tolerate is cloaking or spam. "We watch keyword patterns and frequency of use to safeguard against these abuses," warned Wilde.
Sounds like this wolf spider is set to catch its prey, with an eye on search subscription services and a mission to provide relevancy and quality user experiences. "At the highest level, the best formula for profitability is creating and maintaining the best possible search experience for our users," opined Wilde. "Without them, none of the other business models are viable."
Paul J. Bruemmer has provided search engine marketing expertise and consulting services to prominent American businesses since 1995. As Director of Search Marketing at Red Door Interactive, he is responsible for strategizing and implementing search engine marketing activities within Red Door's Internet Presence Management (IPM) services.
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