Aha! Search Site Targets Plans To Grow Into Niche Network

Marketers looking to target consumers with product-specific ads just before they buy may want to know about Aha! Baby and a network of niche search engines on the way. The sites aggregate articles and product information from across the Web. Advertisements target consumers based on data in profiles and preferences.

Aha! Baby focuses on baby-related information. And while it's the first of many in the network to launch publicly, others will focus on a variety of human experiences, from planning a wedding to starting a business. Site visitors plug questions in the query box to find answers that pull from resources across the Web, all checked manually, filtered and rated based on the value of the content.

A comment on each result provides the upside and downside to the article or product description. The comments tell the searcher what to expect on the page before clicking on the link. Results also tell consumers where the information originates from --for example, academic, government, or blog. Aha! Baby has 130 pregnancy-related subjects to search on.

Brands that don't focus on baby items may still want to know Ray Tenenbaum's long-term plan to launch more than 100 topic-specific sites, all with tie-ins to advertising based on information in user-generated profiles and keywords in the site's search queries. The Aha! Baby founder will develop an umbrella brand to support a variety of other topic-specific sites, such as Cancer and starting a business, which could become available as early as July.

"Think of it as a Viacom for the Web, with Comedy Central and MTV," he says. "They have a bunch of niche verticals, and right now we are launching targeted verticals that will search a specific segment of the population."

If the name "Tenenbaum" sounds vaguely familiar, perhaps that's because the 40-year-old spent time at BrandCities -- acquired by Emmperative, a Procter & Gamble company -- as well as vertical ad network Adify. He also worked at Intuit, which would explain why the small business site will offer information on legal issues and taxes; franchising and incorporating; venture capital funding; labor, employment and careers; search engine optimization; and technology.

Today, Aha! Baby works with ad networks and marketing services companies Advertising.com, Dakota and Q Interactive-- but has started to sell ads on its own, too, that will tie into queries and specific topics.

Site searches are personalized. A widget on the site asks visitors to answer questions that algorithms calculate in search engine query results. Tenenbaum calls it the "personalization widget" that creates a "marketing segmentation profile." Behavior, profile and demographic information are combined to return queries.

Filling out the personalization widget allows the site to serve up tips when the person visits specific subject pages, such as strollers. For example, on the stroller page the site might provide information on three brands and suggest the brand that most closely fits the person's needs based on the item's features and information in the person's profile.

The site is not restricted to products and services. Women looking for baby names could customize the queries based on ancestry or religion.

Aha! Baby -- 24 months in the making and started by two guys in a garage -- has financial backing from angel investors, friends and family.

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