AltaVista puts on new face to lure users, advertisers

In a bid to woo new users and advertisers and improve overall user experience, search engine company AltaVista has overhauled its Internet search service, enhancing search tools as well as introducing more targeted marketing opportunities.

The AltaVista site, which has not only been redesigned but also sports a new company logo, boasts of new features such as the ability to search documents stored in .pdf file format, and an updated news search service.

Other amendments include four additional languages for searching, multiple language search functionality and a new precision search tool to help users further refine their results.

AltaVista Asia-Pacific vice president Mel Bohse said the company had conducted focus groups in various countries over the past six months to gauge user's views of the search company's site. While several focus group participants were positive about the AltaVista brand, many expressed a desire for more precision in search results over the speed with which those results were delivered, she said.

"Some users said while speed was a requirement, it was not a unique selling proposition anymore," she said.

In response to these focus groups, Bohse said AltaVista has increased the frequency with which it refreshes its search results so that 50 per cent of its results are now refreshed daily.

AltaVista has also placed a ban on pop up and under ads, and removed homepage banner ads from its sites globally to further placate its users.

But while the company is trying to minimize users' pop-up ad ire, it is still courting advertisers with new promotional slots on its home page, ads linked to user searches, seasonal promotions and other offerings.

Part of this includes a new Tracer ad service currently being trialled in the US. Tracer targets ads by keeping track of the user's past 10 queries over a 30-day period. If an ad isn't available for one of the topics the user is searching for, the service will insert an ad from a previous search query instead. So if the user has conducted a search for "property sites" for example, the sponsored ad with the keyword "property" will appear. If they then look for a "projector" but there's no ad associated with "projector", the former "property" ad will again appear.

As the top search engines available today were becoming more comparable, AltaVista's aim will be to differentiate itself through the relevancy of its indexes and how information is provided to the end user, Bohse said.

"It's not about being bigger or better, but how we will differentiate with assistant search tools and the freshness of the content," she said.

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