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  • Alert: ArtPrice.com Clogs Search Engines with "Decoy" Websites

    Click here for the latest art price products and resources. Some information below is no longer current.

    Update posted October 10, 2006: This was a bigger deal then than it is now, but it's still an interesting read...

    An ArtBusiness.com commentary posted October 16, 2000.

    Artprice.com, an online art price database and source of ADEC art auction records and Artprice.com CD-ROMS, appears involved in an effort to muscle other art price services out of the top positions on major internet search engine portal sites like Yahoo, Google, Direct Hit, and Excite. The unfortunate aspect of Artprice.com's efforts to hyper-control their search engine placement is that they really don't have to take such extreme measures to suffocate the competition.

    Artprice.com is already an excellent source of art price information and, regardless of how they promote themselves online, they'll surely end up at or near the top any individual's internet search for art prices. Artprice.com has one of the best reputations in the art price information business. Their art auction price database is among the most comprehensive in the world; it's available online to search for a fee and it's easy to use; their art price reference books and CD-ROMs are also superior research tools. Virtually all Artprice.com goods and services have been reviewed here on ArtBusiness.com and the reviews have always been positive.

    In spite of all that Artprice.com has going for it, their online tactics leave much to be desired. The company may not be doing anything illegal, but they're certainly going against the grain of unspoken internet etiquette. Their methods are at odds with the basic principles of what the internet was originally meant to be-- a place for open exchange of knowledge and information, without obstruction, made equally available to anyone who wants it.

    To begin with, Artprice.com owns numerous domain names in addition to artprice.com. These "decoy" domains include art-prices.com, artmarket.com, artpriceannual.com, 13thcenturyart.com, artquotation.com, publicauctionresultscom, fauvism.com, artpricenews.com, artdatabase.com, artpriceindex.com, artpricebooks.com, artprice.co.uk, fineartprice.com, artpriceleader.com, artprice-server.com, worldartauction.com, auction-prices.com, sales-index.com, artdatabank.com, artpriceindicator.com, artauction.net, romanticism.com, world-artauction.com, art-trade.com, fineartauctioneers.com, and artmarket-index.com. They are referred to here as decoys because they exist not as independent websites, but rather as a means of funneling traffic to the main Artprice.com website and its art price database.

    Artprice.com's decoy sites appear with regularity in the majority of online searches for art price information. The decoy sites have a variety of different titles and descriptions, possibly designed to appeal to different types of people who might be looking for art price information. What the sites really do, though, is confuse, mislead, and frustrate anyone who clicks on one or another of the Artprice.com sites and decides that Artprice.com is not for them. When those people return to their searches to explore other options and inadvertently click on more decoy sites believing that they represent different options, they find themselves right back on the Artprice.com main site. The proliferation of these decoy sites in online searches is obviously limiting the choices of individuals who want art price information.

    Here are actual examples, taken on October 14, 2000, of how some of the Artprice.com decoy sites are titled and described on the internet portal search engine, directhit.com (note that spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors are reproduced exactly as they appear online):

    Art-prices.com is titled: "Art prices - 2 000 000 searchable auction results." The site's description reads "Art prices for fine arts at auction by artprice.com. Artworks features, estimates, prices, artists records."

    Artqoutation.com is titled: "Fine Art Quotation for Appraisals, Insurance, Inheritances & Estate Purposes." The site's description reads "Search for undeniable value in works of Art whether you are jurist, law officials; art professionals, institutional investors, collectors."

    Artpricenews.com is titled "Art price news - over 350 000 new auction results each year." The site's description reads "Auction update for those seeking market values for paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints or photography they can now refer to our 175 000 artists records."

    Artprice.co.uk is titled "Art price in UK with ADEC." The site's description reads "Search for British Artists and art price through our art auction database : 159 000 artists ; 1 900 000 data."

    Art-trade.com is titled: "Art Trade : Auction results data bank & upcoming auctions." The site's description reads "International Art Trade. Our company specializes in the auction sales price market with a unique database of 155,000 artists."

    Fineartauctioneers.com is titled: "Fine Art Auctioneers." The site's description reads "1,650,000 Fine Art sales results for paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures & photo. Complete auction details for collectors, dealers, bidders."

    Artprice-server.com is titled "ADEC : Art price server and artists database." The site's description reads "Art price server : Find the price of your Art possessions through our artists database."

    The overriding problem with these titles and descriptions is that they appear to represent a variety of independent online art price services, even to the extent that they state different facts, when, to repeat, they all belong to and represent the exact same company, namely Artprice.com. One site description states a database of 155,000 artists, one states 159,000 artists, another states a database of 175,000 artists. One site states "1,650,000 Fine Art sales results," the next "1 900 000 data," and a third, "2 000 000 searchable auction results." As the host of the TV game show, To Tell the Truth, used to say, "Will the real Artprice.com please stand up?"

    On October 14, 2000, two separate searches for art prices on directhit.com, one using the keywords "art price" and the other using "art prices," resulted in an astounding sixteen of the top twenty hits belonging to Artprice.com and Artprice.com decoy websites! Using the keywords "art auction prices," seventeen of the top twenty results belonged to Artprice.com and Artprice.com decoy websites!! The consequences of Artprice.com's antics are that they've managed to clog up the top ten-- and even the top twenty-- listings on certain search engines for innocent, well-meaning people who need art price information and would like to choose from a variety of options. Sadly, those who decide to compare and contrast Direct Hit's top twenty options in any of the above searches will find themselves shunted to the main Artprice.com website and art price database over and over and over again, whether they like it or not.

    A number of the major internet portal sites have anti-spamming policies, that is, policies prohibiting repeated submissions of the same site for purposes of being evaluated for placement on their search engines. Direct Hit, for example, clearly states on their "Submit URL" page that "any site that spams the Direct Hit URL submission service will be immediately removed from the Direct Hit search engine."

    According to Abby Berens, Senior Public Relations Specialist with Ask Jeeves, Inc., the parent company of Direct Hit, the practice of repeatedly submitting the same basic website under a variety of different domain names does constitute a form of spamming. Berens goes on to explain that, over time, Direct Hit technology ranks sites by how long users stay on them. Because users spend less time on decoy sites and more time on main sites, she says, decoy sites on Direct Hit and search engines employing similar technologies eventually decrease in popularity and are, therefore, relegated to lower search engine placements. ArtBusiness.com will make periodic checks to see whether this indeed turns out to be the case.

    The good news is that Artprice.com is only one of a number of options available for obtaining quality art price information. The following art price websites and publishers are certainly among those worth contacting. Click on the links below for additional information or to read ArtBusiness.com reviews discussing these services.

    Artnet: Artnet's art auction record database contains 2 million records of works of art-- many with illustrations of the art-- by 185,000 artists sold at auctions over the past ten years. A 38,000-record African art auction record database containing sales results from 1927 to the present has recently been added. (Note: Artprice.com's art auction record database has no illustrations.)

    Gordon's Art Reference: The best source of retail and auction price information for prints. They also publish superior photography auction records. Their listings are the most comprehensive in terms of detail and description. For a sample review of a Gordon's product, read Best References for Retail Print Prices

    Art Sales Index: The Art Sales Index database contains over 2.3 million sales records of works of art by over 185,000 artists sold at auctions from 1956 through the present. Art Sales Index also publishes art auction record compendiums and art price CD-ROMs.

    Artfact: The artfact.com database contains over 4 million auction results of works of fine art, decorative art, and collectibles at auctions held from 1986 through the present. Some results include images and, according to artfact.com, that number will increase substantially in the near future. Approximately 1.5 million records are for works of fine art.

    For free art prices and links, read Free Art Price Database Goes Online

    Anyone who needs to price a work of art for tax, inheritance, donation, or insurance purposes should consult a professional appraiser. Anyone who needs to price a work of art for buying, selling, or trading purposes should do the same. Unless you're an experienced dealer, collector, or appraiser, use art price databases to approximate dollar values for personal reasons only. Using those values as a basis for formal art transactions can be hazardous to the wallet. Click here to learn more about art appraisals from Artbusiness.com. Associations like the American Society of Appraisers the International Society of Appraisers and the Appraisers Association of America also offer art appraisals.

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