HotBot Redesign: Four Search Engines in One

“We absolutely made tradeoffs. We will take a short-term revenue hit but make up in the long run through a greater audience,” — Tom Wilde, general manager for search services, Terra Lycos.

After a period of benign neglect, Terra Lycos Monday launched a new version of its HotBot search engine, featuring an ad-free homepage and the ability to query four popular search catalogs: FAST, Google, Inktomi and Teoma.

“The question we asked when we decided to take a look at HotBot is, ‘How do we put control of the search function in the hands of users?'” Tom Wilde, general manager of search services for Terra Lycos told

A cleaner look is part of the equation. HotBot users are tech-savvy and are searching for answers to specific, often work-related queries, Wilde said. They are not trolling about for interesting Web tidbits. Starting with that fact, Wilde’s team set out to create a no-frills “productivity tool.”

The new HotBot will also seek to capitalize on the bare look pioneered by Google and recently adopted by Alta Vista and

Instead, HotBot will rely on targeted paid inclusion ads (purchased through Lycos InSite) to pay the bills. With the targeting, only about 40 percent of results pages currently contain advertising. The setup also allows page information to load faster, Wilde said.

Though there was debate between the development team and operations executives about the strategy, ultimately the argument that users could be repelled by obtrusive, scattershot ads won out. The case was bolstered by reports of the Web community’s distate for pop-up ads and decisions by AOL and other Internet service providers to curtail their use.

“We absolutely made tradeoffs,” Wilde said. “We will take short term revenue hit but make up in the long run through a greater audience.”

Terra Lycos will push the new HotBot through a multi-million print and online advertising campaign. The effort, produced by Hill Holliday, will carry the tagline, “More Search, More Engine,” and stress the “Search Four” concept.

Wilde believes HotBot can attract users from the company’s other search property, Lycos. For starters, the Lycos results page will offer users a link to HotBot. Other promotions may follow.

Wilde believes functionality will be its key advantage in a hyper-competitive field. Tech-savvy users divine subtle differences between search engines. The ability to run the same search quickly on four of the most popular engines should be appealing.

“There are no barriers to switching for the users,” Wilde said. “If you deliver an excellent user experience you will gain more users.”

Other new features include: new filters to narrow searches for images, date, language, region and offensive content. New customization tools also allows users to adjust the look and feel of the site’s layout and color scheme — or skin.

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