A case study on Ananzi: search engine exclusion policies and its implications on e-Commerce websites.
Mbikiwa, F. & Weideman, M.
Poster in Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the South African Institute of Computer Scientists and Information Technologists (SAICSIT). 20-22 September. White River, South Africa.
Mbikiwa, F. & Weideman, M. 2005. A case study on Ananzi: search engine exclusion policies and its implications on e-Commerce websites. Poster in Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the South African Institute of Computer Scientists and Information Technologists (SAICSIT). 20-22 September. White River, South Africa. Online: http://web-visibility.co.za/website-visibility-digital-library-seo/
According to some authors, there is an estimated 6 billion websites on the web, each providing publicly accessible information - over 1 million new websites are being added annually [Zhang & Dimitroff 2003]. Search engines provide access to this overwhelming complex information resource. Search engines are the primary method Internet users rely on to find websites [Sullivan 2002]. Search engines have two main responsibilities which are to index as many websites as possible, as well as to retrieve the most appropriate websites and pages when a user requests it [Sekhar 2002:8]. One author claims that being listed on the major search engines is very important for webmasters, since those search engines have the potential of generating a lot of traffic. For searchers, well known search engines generally mean more dependable results.
Search engine optimization (SEO) practices are often adopted to assist website to achieve top rankings. It is not clear how these SEO practices are viewed by search engines. In addition, there are no clear standards for assessing what are considered good or bad SEO practices. Furthermore, most search engine policies are vague as to what is considered spam. Some practices that are deemed unacceptable by one search engine will not necessarily be viewed as such by another search engine. The research problem addressed in this research project is the observation that there are no standard guidelines for e-commerce website designers with respect to interpretation of exclusion policies. This study attempts to explore gaps between the search engine policies and their indexing criteria. Another objective is to determine the impact of these gaps using Ananzi as a case study [Ananzi 2005].
It is claimed that over 80% of Internet traffic originate from search engines. Website designers often go to great lengths to ensure that their websites receive a top ranking. They sometimes adopt questionable search engine optimization practices like doorway pages, cloaking, keyword stuffing and page jacking among others, to increase their website's traffic [Thelwall 2001]. These practices are seen as forcing the search engine algorithms into giving undeserving websites top rankings.
The methodology for this research project will include the following:
create a list of practices (determined through an in-depth literature review) that are seen as potentially questionable for search engine optimisation, based on a literature review,
inspect and summarise Ananzi's policies on questionable search engine optimisation practices,
design a number of test websites, each one of these websites contradicting one element of Ananzi policies,
submit the test websites to Ananzi for indexing and check whether these websites will be indexed by Ananzi, and
write up findings and draw a conclusion.
Expected results include that some of the test websites will be indexed regardless of what Ananzi’s policy states. This would confirm an early expectation that search engines do not adhere to their own exclusion policies.
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