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SearchQuakes! Overture/AltaVista/FastSearch Rumble

By Mike Banks Valentine
Posted Thursday, September 23, 2004

The ground moves with a confusing shift sideways, followed by a bump, then a lurch and finally a massive rumbling explosion that splits the earth and swallows whatever is in its path on the surface. This happens with disturbing regularity lately and aftershocks knock formerly solid firms off their strong foundations. Infoseek,, Direct Hit and Excite collapse.

Yahoo! swallows Inktomi, Overture absorbs AltaVista in quick succession as AskJeeves subsumed Teoma and LookSmart encircled and enclosed WiseNut in previous SearchQuakes.

This shifting and rumbling landscape is not a place for the timid. Search engine optimization specialists [SEO's] scan and survey the wreckage and dig through the resulting rubble to find the surviving strategies that will pull their clients to the top of search results and out of that rubble to the surface. There is often a dazed stillness that follows such natural disasters while survivors sort out what to do now that everything has changed with one sweeping event. SEO's are rescue workers on scene clearing debris and rebuilding.

Admittedly, it's not all that dramatic for most small to medium sized businesses on the web. But it does mean that they need a professional on the case for them keeping them abreast of changes. The earthquake analogy probably only applies to those deeply involved in web business, almost as though web businesses live on the other side of the planet from the disastrous shift in the search landscape - jerking portal partnerships and often disastrously disturbing other industry alliances that had settled into working relation-ships. Everyone is nervously checking to see if any damage is done to their own partnerships and who may be injured?

Unlike earthquakes, searchquakes seem to occur with reasons, but still tend to be unexpected and sudden. Directories buy up crawler-based search engines in order to have an in-house solution to provide backup results when unable to provide results from the directory database. Overture's pay-per-click engine now provides PPC results to organic [free] search engines. But existing partners began to fret that Overture is threatening their territory of crawler-based search. Yahoo! stated in their press release that the paid inclusion facet of Inktomi was attractive and contributed to that purchase. Google previously provided back-up results to Yahoo! and now may be dropped as a search partner due to the perception that they are becoming competitors with similar services.

Meanwhile, Google purchased Blogger recently in a move that many search industry pundits are still analyzing for its effect on the web landscape. Whatever the result, one thing is quite apparent in the shifting and eroding scenery of search engines.

The conclusion can only be that search matters on the web. It matters to all businesses that require visibility in the ever more crowded search landscape.

It will be interesting in the long term though, as each engine buys up supporting services to become more independent. Will any of those search properties need each other at all when all of them have their own paid inclusion, pay-per-click, shopping search, news search, image search, blogger search, directory, financial channel, auto channel, auction channel, music channel, etc. Aren't they headed back toward the mostly failed portal model that commentators are pointing to for the reason AltaVista failed, the reason Yahoo! wobbles under its own sheer size and weight, the reason they each had for becoming more like Google?

Just like the natural disaster of earthquakes, it all seems so senseless sometimes. Well, we'll all recover and move on. But you've got to wonder sometimes if there's an end in sight to the ever shifting searchscape of this treacherous terrain. ;-)

About the Author
Mike Banks Valentine is a Search Engine Optimizer specializing in ethical small business SEO (


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