Blekko's Tools Give Search Marketers Google Alternative

by , Aug 30, 2010, 11:20 AM
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Blekko Founders Rich Skrenta and Mike Markson are going after the search market. The search engine, based on slashtags, offers built-in analytics and search engine optimization features. Think Google, Google Analytics and support for SEO rolled into one package.

The search engine crawls and indexes the top 3 billion pages, indexing and sourcing incremental content immediately to provide a real-time view of links, rankings and more. The tools built into the search engine offer access to algorithms and data that Blekko relies on to determine relevancy.

Skrenta and Markson, who both have a deep history in technology, believe search in 2010 means more than a 20-line algorithm called PageRank. So, along with Blekko engineers, they set out to develop the technology more than 2.5 years ago, running hundreds of classifiers on every URL and storing the information in an index.

The search engine, created from scratch, could become the next Google alternative for marketers and advertisers who are looking to answer search engine marketing campaign questions.

"You can't plug into the Yahoo Boss API and say here's a list of 10,000 conservative sites, I want to sort them and now rerank by date rather than PageRank," notes Skrenta. "Other engines don't have that capability in their index. They can't do that kind of query."

Funding from two angel rounds -- about $5 million -- and more than $15 million from venture capitalists, including Marc Andreessen, will help get Blekko off the ground. Skrenta says there's a capital and technology barrier to entry, but it doesn't require a billion dollars to build a chip fabrication facility. It's the sweet spot of what VCs should fund because of the huge market potential. Google may have the majority of search share, but Skrenta doesn't believe the company owns the lock and key.

The greatest challenge that marketers and agencies face when managing SEO efforts remain managing and measuring return on investment by staying in tune with search engine indexing algorithms and technology, according to the sixth annual State of Search Engine Marketing Report released earlier this year by the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization.

Blekko's business model also opens new possibilities for search advertising and tracking results. The engine plans to offer advertising on the engine, but not in the near future. Under the existing model for search advertising, CPMs run between "$50 and $100 because you're not just selling pixels, you're selling leads," Skrenta says. "We haven't focused on the ad system yet, but there are many possibilities."

One option is attaching the ads to the slashtag, rather than the query tag. Attaching the slashtag "/digital camera" to a query opens an opportunity for a new type of target advertising. It should become lucrative for advertisers because people searching on the engine can create slashtags.

In fact, about 5,000 people testing the search engine have created more than 2,000 slashtags. People who search queries create their own slashtags based on a group of URLs. Creating and inserting a slashtag sorts sites by domain authority, making it useful when trying to find the most popular sites within a category. Type "/technology" at the end of a query and get results only from technology sites.

The engine serves up SEO data for queries providing insight into site links to specific content by date and country. The "additional data" tab provides last crawled information, page latency and rank, as well as other questions that are not easily answered on existing search engines.

Conducting a search on a keyword provides information on SEO data such as duplicate content and page sources, as well as links in real time. Choosing to index by "/date," rather than "/relevance," identifies when a site linked to a page. 

There are several other interesting features for marketers. For example, adding a "/rss" to the query, marketers can create an RSS feed of the entire Internet to monitor links in real time. It not only answers the question "who's linking to me," but "who's linking to me now." A feature allows marketers or SEO professionals to see the ranking factors such as path, anchor text, title tag, h1 and ore. Another feature on the engine allows the person who is searching to mark a result in a query as "Spam," removing it from future results.

The engine should officially launch within the next two quarters, but Blekko has provided 500 spots to MediaPost readers who want to test the engine. Email: mediapost@blekko.com.

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