To see our intarweb as others see it

In an interesting (if, like me, you find search engine esoterica and chewing out journalists interesting) article about the Chicago Tribune’s review comparing MSN Search and Google, Danny Sullivan makes an assertion that struck me as incredibly odd.

The review claimed that MSN’s results contain more commercial sites and places with things to sell, compared to Google’s results with useful information, so Danny compared the results from each for “pearl harbor.” He then describes MSN’s current number two result,, as

What looks to be a hobbyist guide to visiting memorials to the battle.

Well. Here’s where I really want to know how much looking Danny did. I don’t expect him to have been as suspicious as me, to search for phrases from the Arizona page, to see that the text apparently mostly comes from the National Park Service rather than the heart, but my question is, did he scroll? Is it typical in his internet for a hobbyist guide to feature more than a hundred links to sites which all seem to have links to make hotel reservations through, each link including the same src=10006417 in the query string?

That’s actually an honest question: I spend most of my time online on open source software sites, and weblogs, and wikis, so when I wander out into the commercial web I’m a complete Jethro, gawking at all the colors and blinking things jumping around on all sides of the actual content, so for all I know, he looked directly at that affiliate network of a hundred or so domains, and said “amateur, just looking to pay for his hosting.” Is that really what it’s like out there?


Comment by Danny Sullivan #
2005-02-08 02:40:39

By hobbyist site, I meant a web site that doesn’t appear to have the backing of some major organization behind it. Sincere apologies if you took that as somehow insulting. It wasn’t meant to be. Having started my own site and run it for over a year before it was purchased by a major company, I’m well aware that colors and blinking things aren’t required for a site to be good.

If you recall, I noted about another site: ”The info may be good; it’s just the look and feel is not that of a professionally produced site.”

There’s nothing wrong with hobbyist sites — some can look even more professional that ”professional” sites and have better information. I just needed a way to describe some of the sites that seemed to have no major backing.

As for this site, you’re correct — it appears that there is more going on than just a hobbyist guide to Pearl Harbor, which I’ve now noted in the review. Yes, I did scroll — but apparently not enough! I scrolled to one of the memorial links, then clicked to that page then to another. I wanted to quickly get a feel for the other pages rather than examine one in depth. Of course, had I scrolled down further on the first page, what was obvious to you would have been obvious to me.

I wish I had the time to have done an in-depth review of all 23 pages that were listed in Google and MSN. I did not. The point was to quickly try and see if based on the single query test the Chicago Tribune did, was MSN really that commercial. As I already said in the story, it’s bad to do anything around a single query. But it did support the idea that MSN is vulnerable to some old style SEO tactics that others have noted as well — also said within my story. This site simply further supports that.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-02-08 07:56:53