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AltaVista (2003 Overview)

Note added Feb 27, 2003
Overture bought AltaVista this week. For updates on this and my overview of how this impacts SEO, subscribe to the EnginePaper Newsletter.
Note added August 10, 2003
Overture (and AltaVista), was bought by Yahoo!

AltaVista URL's

Advanced search:
Submission page:
Contact page:
Physical address: AltaVista Company, 1070 Arastradero Road,
Palo Alto, CA 94304
Phone number: 650-320-7700
Babel Fish (Translation tool)
Settings / Preferences

The Company

AltaVista has come a long way. It is one of the oldest and largest search engines. Over the years it experimented with different databases. Included in AltaVista search results have been listings served from Ask Jeeves, RealNames, Overture and at one stage even their own Usenet database.

The New Look

In November 2002 AltaVista surprised us with a brand new logo and look. As far as I could tell from discussion forums, the general consensus was that it’s an improvement. The most significant thing about the change is that this old girl is showing signs of life.

It was a brave move and a good one.

Well done, AltaVista. Let’s hope the improvements continue. I for one would like to see AltaVista again become a force to be reckoned with. That would of course take more than a facelift, but it’s a good place to start.

AltaVista Notable Facts and Figures (Highlights from the AltaVista site):


• Delivers Internet's first Web index in 1995
• First to provide multilingual search capabilities on the Internet
• Maintains over 20 country-specific indices including the index of more
than 550 million pages
• Search software provided to more than 1,200 clients, including,, Borders, Ariba, FBI, Deloitte & Touche, Colgate Palmolive, NASA, and


AltaVista launches “Prisma”

In an ongoing effort to keep their slice of the search pie, AltaVista has launched “Prisma”, known as “AltaVista Paraphrase” during beta testing. It’s similar to a system used by Teoma whereby the user is presented with words, phrases, names & concepts related to a query. Essentially, the system suggests parallel fields of inquiry that might (or might not) be what the searcher was really looking for. Prisma takes the search word/phrase and scans the most relevant sites for that query.

It comes up with 12 words called Prisma terms – those 12 words most closely associated to the original search term(s). The Prisma terms are displayed on the results page below the search box. Clicking on one appends it to the original term for a new search. The new search of course generates new Prisma terms and so on.

Getting Your Site Into The AltaVista Index

AltaVista offers a choice between free submit and “Express Inclusion”.

Benefits of Express Inclusion:

· Your site is added to the index faster.
· Automatic daily refreshes of your pages.
· Track submissions and transactions online through the “Account Management Center”.
· Enhance your listings by adding logos, icons etc. See below for more details on enhanced listings.
· If you have country-specific URLs you can add them to the local index that matches your site's domain extension.
· Promote and optimize your URLs using infoSpider's Business Services programs.

The Cost of Express Inclusion (Dec 2002):

URL 1 $39.00
URL #2-10 $29.00 each
URL #11-500 $19.00 each

Worth it?

The free submit apparently does work, but patience and persistence is required as acceptance is not guaranteed and it takes around six weeks for your site to be added to the index. The main argument against paying for inclusion is paid listings available through Overture. Paid Listings Via Overture AltaVista receives paid listings from the pay-per-click search engine Overture.

As we reported last year in SEY 2002, AltaVista still insists on calling its Overture delivered paid listings “Products and Services”. Not completely misleading, but AltaVista might as well follow the rest of the search engine world in simply calling them “paid listings”, “sponsored results” or something similar. AltaVista displays paid listings above the regular results so, effectively, paying Overture will get you listed higher in AltaVista than paying AltaVista for Express Inclusion. The other side of the argument is that people seem to get desensitized to paid listings…

… even when they are presented as “Products and Services”.

If you’re like me, you simply skip over them to get to the “meat” of the search results.

Listing Enhancements

One of the perks of paying the fee for Express Submit is that you get to add some spice to your listing. Personally I feel the search results page would look like a carnival if all listings were “enhanced” in this way, but from a marketing point of view it will make Express Submit more appealing to those struggling to stand out in the crowd.

AltaVista (2002 Overview)

AltaVista URLs

Advanced search:
Submission page:
Contact page:
Physical address: AltaVista Company, 1070 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304
Phone number: ?
AltaVista's SEO tutorial. A must-read for webmasters:
How AltaVista works:
Query relevance at AltaVista:

Notes on AltaVista

AltaVista has come a long way. It is one of the oldest and largest. Over the years it experimented with different databases. Included in AltaVista search results have been listings served from Ask Jeeves, Realnames, Overture, even their own Usenet database.

Paid Listings At AltaVista

These days AltaVista only adds Overture's paid listings to its own.

Unfortunately, they're still committing the number one search engine sin:
Not clearly differentiating between paid and editorial listings.

The paid listings are called "Products and Services" and are listed at the top and the bottom of their search results. Personally, I can live with these advertisements (that's what they are) at the bottom of the page, but, if a was a regular AltaVista user, I'd be pretty upset about 5 paid listings with descriptions at the top of my search results.

Getting You Site Into AltaVista

To pay or not to pay. I didn't pay and a couple of Pandecta's pages are in the AltaVista index. Actually, I didn't even submit my pages to AltaVista. They picked them up on their own.

The paid inclusion: Why bother?

If you're going to fork out money to get on AltaVista, it would be better spent at Overture, since Overture paid listings go above AltaVista editorial listing anyhow - and they show up on many other engines as well.

The free submit: It still works, but patience and persistence are required.

AltaVista is a full-text search engine. That means that it will index every word on your page. Keywords near to the top of the page carries more weight than keywords further down. AltaVista also looks at your keyword tags, comments tags and headings when determining relevance.

Search Engine Book: Search Engine Year BookThis page is based on information contained in the Search Engine Yearbook 2003. For more detailed search engine information & help, please refer to the current version of the book.

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