Search Tidbits From A to X
A number of column ideas routinely get left on the backburner, so today we'll fly through 10 that merit at least a mention. Some of these will star in their own columns down the road, but other entries below serve dual purposes of clearing my in-box and my conscience, in that order. Lastly, some of my favorite columns on the docket are omitted intentionally. And now, the remainders:
Answer engines: Search engines are gravitating this way. GuruNet/Answers.com set the bar here, and MSN proceeded to take a page out of the Answers playbook. A reader who commented on last week's piece introduced me to Answerology.com, a community of anonymous users who share relationship questions and advice. It's not exactly a search site, as every term I searched for (dysfunction, jerk, love, tractor) yielded 47 results. That aside, it all adds up to a trend worth monitoring.
Become.com: I didn't mention this in my vertical search column because I didn't get the big idea at first. After meeting with the founders for a sneak preview of their next version, v2 will handily pass the "sites I'd recommend to my dad" test with an intuitive way to combine product research and shopping. Its ad model will allow product visuals via retailers' feeds where it currently runs Google AdWords links. Become will test whether the feeds or AdWords ads perform better, so it may well spawn a new ad model once the results come in.
Catherine Seda book: Catherine Seda, a true search guru, published a book last year, "Search Engine Advertising: Buying Your Way to the Top to Increase Sales." Buy it, and I'm not just saying that because I'm thanked in the acknowledgements.
Digital Center study: In case you missed it months ago, go to DigitalCenter.org for the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future "Surveying the Digital Future, Year Four: Ten Years, Ten Trends" report, a juicy and free read.
eBay Search Engine: I mentioned eBay in the column on vertical search sites, and I still contend that it's one of the most interesting companies to watch in the search space, regardless of what you think of its search functionality. Amazon, a natural search engine optimization wizard, launched its own engine, A9. Why wouldn't eBay try and do something similar, especially since it keeps grousing about rising paid search keyword prices? Meanwhile, eBay's complaints really have to do with the thin margins, since it only takes a small cut of each sale. eBay thus feels a greater impact from keyword price fluctuation than traditional retailers, and factors such as latency and multi-channel buying don't apply to the auction giant. Lastly, some merchants have claimed to find more success selling directly through paid search than through eBay. No wonder eBay is antsy.
IYP and correcting injustice: This passionate column idea was going to discuss how search engines are helping, not eradicating, Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) sites. My position remains the same, though I think the column would largely preach to the choir.
Latin America search: I neglected Latin America in the "Search Around the World" trilogy, but Marcelo Sant'Iago, President of Associação de Mídia Interativa (Brazil's rough equivalent of the Interactive Advertising Bureau), will be featured before long.
Snap.com: I'm still curious where this search engine is heading, and an insider there is trying to give some answers. Snap prides itself on transparency, not only showing advertiser's ad costs, but also displaying search and revenue volume on its own site. Lately, search volume has been declining while daily revenue is erratic. One to watch.
Terri Schiavo: A reader suggested covering the issue, so here you go, Bob. The two AdWords advertisers in Google at the one point I checked last week were a lawyer and the Washington Post. On the natural side, in Ask Jeeves, an Associated Press article on the Jerusalem Post ranked fifth. A banner ad on the Jpost.com article reads, "A dream home for you in Israel." Hmm. In general, sites for people and groups favoring keeping the feeding tube in are much better optimized than sites from the opposite view. Google's results include the most news sites, Ask Jeeves has the most partisan sites, and Yahoo! has a mix of news, partisan, and legal links. Maybe this is worth a full column after all.
X1: DoubleClick's Rick Bruner first alerted me to this desktop search company. Shortly afterward, Yahoo! partnered with X1 to power its consumer desktop search, and X1 continues to develop enterprise solutions. Considering it's still hard at work after the Yahoo! distribution deal, expect more to come from these folks.
Many of these ideas have come from reader input, so thanks to all who've responded to date (even those who haven't responded kindly).