Human-Powered Search

The New York Times writes:

Last month, another company, Mahalo (Hawaiian for thank you), inaugurated a search service with manually edited results. It started with several advantages: venture capital backing, 30 editors, systematic focus on the most commonly requested search terms, and the added idea of supplying Googles search results for any search not covered by its own best-of-the-best lists.

Mahalo now has pre-prepared pages for 5,000 terms related to entertainment, travel, health, technology and other subject areas. The company plans to expand its coverage to 10,000 terms by year-end, and eventually to provide results for one-third of the most common search terms.

A hand-built Mahalo search-results page has one conspicuous advantage over Googles: grouping into subthemes, which make a page of links much easier to scan and to find items of particular interest.

Google News and Techmeme

Read/Write Web discusses what the two sites could learn from each other. “It should probably be noted that Google News and Techmeme have very different aims. Google News aggregates news from across a broad spectrum of categories, mostly from mainstream sources. Techmeme, on the other hand, highlights buzzworthy news from a focused niche (technology), mostly from blogs. But they are very similar beasts. They both aggregate news very well and algorithmically decide what are the top breaking stories of the day.”

Discovery as Anti-Search

David Berkowitz writes:

If some visions for the future of search are realized, then we’ll be surfing a Web where search doesn’t matter. The emphasis will instead shift to discovery.

Through discovery, when you read your favorite newspaper online, you’re presented with a wealth of links from around the Web that should be of interest to you, including other articles, related books or products, or video clips, whether or not you’d expect them to be directly relevant. Amazon.com does this regularly, such as when it told me that customers who bought the Black & Decker 3.4 PS550B Handsaw also bought a 5-pound bag of Haribo Gummi Bears and the movie “Borat.” It’s through the power of discovery that a site like Home Depot could suggest, “After busting your butt with this handsaw, why don’t you unwind with five pounds of Gummi Bears and a satire about a Kazakh journalist touring America?”

The better discovery gets, the less search should matter, at least in theory.

Search Market Analysis

Don Dodge concludes that 1% of the search market share is worth over $1 Billion.

Each 1% of search market share is worth over $100M in revenues – Here is the math. There were 7.3 billion searches performed in March of 2007. One percent of that is 73 million searches times $0.12 revenue per search or $8.76M per month. That translates to $105.1M in annualized revenue.

The stock market values 1% market share at over $1 Billion.

Internet Advertising

WSJ has a commentary by James Stewart about Google: “It’s becoming apparent that Internet advertising, in its myriad permutations, isn’t just a new variation on traditional advertising. The ability of online advertisers to place information in highly targeted contexts in which users can click through to further information and even make purchases seems so revolutionary that it can hardly be called advertising at all. It may well be that the frequency of ad usage will generate the same data-intensive refinements that exist in the search field, yielding similar economies of scale — and a natural monopoly.”

Google’s ARPU is $1

Read/Write Web writes: “Google makes $1 per internet user. But not all of the revenues come from Google Search – they control only 50% of the search market, but the whole web is organically getting covered by Google ads via AdSense and AdWords. Therefore, even if you perform your searches from Yahoo or Live, you may end up being directed to a long tail web page powered by Google AdSense. Another way to look at it – if you use Google as your favourite search engine, you may be giving them $2 per month. But even if you you use a different search engine, you may still give ~$0.5 via Adsense and the Long Tail.”

Cringely on Google Universal Search

Robert Cringely writes:

Universal Search is Google’s attempt to destroy its major competitors who, like Gorbachev in the waning years of the USSR, have to follow suit and start spending money they don’t have if they want to even appear to still be in competition with Google. This means for these companies more software development, more sweeps of the web, as well as the greater likelihood that among their top results will be pages located at Google properties like YouTube.

It has to burn Yahoo, MSN and the others to now have to drive traffic to YouTube, but that’s what will happen if these search competitors choose to continue to compete head-to-head, which they will.

There is literally no downside for Google in this strategy.

Google Universal Search

Danny Sullivan has a backgrounder. “Google is undertaking the most radical change to its search results ever, introducing a “Universal Search” system that will blend listings from its news, video, images, local and book search engines among those it gathers from crawling web pages…The move potentially should be a huge boon for searchers, while search marketers who have paid attention to the importance of specialized or vertical search will see new opportunities.”

The Future of Search

Matthew Hurst writes about an event at UC, Berkeley.

Currently, the main stream search engines are doing a poor job of integrating social media in their results. Conversely, blog search engines take no advantage of the main stream web to analyse the influence and content of blogs. Social media may be thought of as an annotation stream on the main stream web. This model suggests some interesting ways to get leverage out of the differences between these two areas of the web. Main stream web can be used to rank social media content, and social media (blog) content could be used to rank the main stream web.

Mobile Search

mocoNews.net has a report on the London mobile search conference:

The paradigm in mobile search is not about links its about actionable and relevant answers…Another reason mobile search fails to meet high expectations is a disconnect between what advertisers want (namely reach and revenues) and what mobile search can currently offer (namely, neither). The jury was out on how to solve this one but there was a general consensus that building inventory (and thus interest among advertisers) is paramount.

New Search Engines

Valleywag lists out some potential challengers to Google. “What will replace Google? Maybe a retooled search from someone like Ask.com, or a hacked-up tool from three guys in Russia that no one’s heard of. But my money’s on the Balkanization of search, in which users check Wikipedia, Yelp, or Flickr for specific types of searches. No wonder Google made sure to corner the two prime search niches of maps and video.”

Answers on Mobile

MEX writes:

I find the most effective way to obtain the information I want in the mobile environment is through 82ASK. It involves no graphics or Java downloads and is available on even the most basic mobile handsets. You simply text your question to 82275 (in the UK) and they send you back an answer.

Each question costs GBP 1.00 and it can take several minutes for an answer to arrive, but the experience is superior for several reasons. Firstly, the answer is almost always exactly what youre looking for and, secondly, the time delay is asynchronous. The interaction method of SMS is perfect for the mobile environment, because you can quickly input a question and then put your phone away and forget about it until it beeps to alert you to the answer. When you’re walking down a street or standing on a train, this is a much better way to request information than the synchronous continuity of the browser environment.

Personalised Search

WSJ writes:

Search engines have long generated the same results for queries whether the person searching was a mom, mathematician or movie star. Now, who you are and what you’re interested in is starting to affect the outcome of your search.

Google Inc. and a wide range of start-ups are trying to translate factors like where you live, the ads you click on and the types of restaurants you search for into more-relevant search results. A chef who searched for “beef,” for example, might be more likely to find recipes than encyclopedia entries about livestock. And a film buff who searched for a new movie might see detailed articles about the making of the film, rather than ticket-buying sites.

Banner Advertising is Back

Fred Wilson writes:

Many marketers have reached the point that they can’t easily buy more search. It’s getting harder. Keyword markets are becoming efficient and supply and demand are coming into balance. Of course, that alone doesn’t mean that all the other money will move into banners. Banners also need to produce measured returns.

But, banners carry branding value that text ads don’t. The return on investment measure is not as cold and hard with banners. And the big branded advertisers that are leaving TV and print in search of better performance on the internet want to be able to brand with their ads. And they want to control where those ads are run. They’ll pay more for those two features.

So branding/banners may grow faster than search/CPC in the coming years, or at least grow as quickly.

Social Search

Dave Winer writes: “By 2007, with search integrated into society at a very deep level, and only getting deeper — it seems like it’s way past time to fix this. And we know how to do it, and it’s not even very hard…How? Integrate social networking and search and learn what people who I’m connected with, people like me, choose when they search for RSS and adjust the results accordingly. It’s collaborative filtering applied to search.”

Google’s Money Machine

Read/Write Web writes:

Google – through its text ads strategy – has managed to weave itself into the very fabric of the Web. In doing this, the company freed itself from even Internet geography and became ubiquitous. By empowering companies and individuals to publish Google ads on their sites, Google solved the unlimited supply and demand problem in one fell swoop.

So how does Google compare to Starbucks, which is a very good money making machine in the real world? The key differences between Google and Starbucks are:

* Starbucks spends money on expansion, but Google ads spread themselves;
* Starbucks spends a lot of money on maintenance, Google spends little;
* Starbucks spends money on marketing, but businesses flock to Google because it just works;
* Starbucks relies on people, Google relies on software.

These differences make Google by far the more attractive business, compared to Starbucks. To put it simply, Google has almost no friction.

Video and Mobile Search

SearchEngineWatch writes about a recent conference:

The buzz around video throughout the marketplace has largely been driven by the awareness and popularity that YouTube has brought to the medium. But this has more recently reached a local level, with an ecosystem that is beginning to form around the production and automated distribution of video advertising for small businesses.

The challenge [in mobile search] will be pushing out mobile local search applications given the fragmentation of mobile services, and the carrier control present in the US mobile market that makes it difficult for mobile search providers to get applications in front of consumers.

Google’s Power

Business Week asks in a cover story if Google has become too powerful.

To the consternation of many of those companies and more, Google is now using that market cap, along with its $11 billion hoard of cash and investments, to storm a wide range of traditional markets. It’s selling ads in newspapers, magazines, radio, and, in a trial program, television. In February it fired a torpedo at the software industry with a suite of online office software it is selling for a small fraction of the price of Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT ) Office. It’s spooking the telecom industry with fledgling efforts to provide free wireless Internet access. Google’s phenomenal ad machine, in short, has the potential to vaporize the profits of any industry that traffics in bits and bytes and to shift the economics to the advantage of Google, its users, and its cadre of partners. “It’s Google’s world,” shrugs Chris Tolles, vice-president of marketing at Topix Inc., which makes money from running Google ads on its news aggregation site. “We just live in it.”

Googlezon, GoogleWorld, just plain Googlewhatever you call it, it’s scaring the wits out of everyone from the power lunchers of Hollywood to Madison Avenue ad moguls to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Now, after years of hand-wringing and thumb-twiddling, some of them are pulling out the heavy artillery and firing one round after another on the Googleplex, the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Mobile Search

Via Chetan Sharma from an article by Peggy Anne Saltz: “A key problem for the mobile data industry is subscribers trying to find a specific piece of content or a specific application. All of the major operators offer an excellent and expansive range of games, ring tones and many other applications. While choice is great for the consumer, if they can find what they are looking for, the sheer number of options available is bewildering. It is impossible to browse and navigate the labyrinth navigation structures available today. Mobile search helps tie together otherwise silo‟d catalogs and deep navigation trees for ringtones, graphics, games, music, sports, news and other content.”