Search Engine Takes On Google, Bing, Focusing On What, When, And Where


  Those looking for a haunted house to visit before Halloween might find it indexed in The site, which pinpoints events and times in a specific area, offers about 200 categories. The niche site plays off the idea that Google and Microsoft's Bing, which have begun to index updates from social sites such as Twitter and Facebook, can't serve up specific information on what, when and where.

Aside from finding a haunted house, people who search can find hiking trails, bed and breakfasts and more. Goby's spiders crawl the Web to find databases containing information on events, locations and times. Although the bots don't crawl the entire Web, they do hit sites crawled about once weekly.

Mark Watkins, the engine's co-founder, calls the Web crawler "smart" because the algorithms organize, structure and categorize the data, so when someone comes to the engine and types "haunted house" or "hiking trails" in the "What would you like to do" search query, the engine spits out specific destinations. Add entries in "Where?" and "When?' to get locations and times.

"It's kind of difficult to ask Google what events are playing this weekend because the engine doesn't understand the concept of time," Watkins says. "We are more focused on this one task, so we can give you an exact time."

Watkins believes this site will survive the onslaught of startups because it indexes original content and tackles the problem of information overload. The tsunami of information being indexed on Google, Bing and Yahoo can prevent people from finding specific information. Microsoft's search engine Bing has tried to solve that problem by providing people with categories such as travel, retail, and soon, health care.

Plans are being made to add paid-search campaigns, affiliate programs and contextual advertising to Goby, Watkins says. The site, which officially launched about a month ago, is negotiating with travel brands to add site search for visitors. Part of the business model is to produce cobranded versions of Goby and provide site search through licensing fees or revenue share programs.

Online budgets could become tighter as the industry moves into 2010, according to JP Morgan Analyst Imran Khan. While overall advertising budgets fell in 2009, more money went toward digital campaigns. "It's our belief that advertisers sought accountability for ad spend as well as to achieve a better alignment of marketing spend with the percent of leisure time spent online," Khan writes in a research note published Friday.

Khan expects the trend to continue. The firm's survey of 20 media buyers and planners suggests that Internet ad spend -- including search, display, email, and other forms -- in 2010 will account for 29.0% of budgets respectively, versus a 25.8% share in 2009.

While search advertising outperformed display in 2009, ad budget cuts bled through. JP Morgan continues to see performance-based advertising hold up better than banner advertising. "Long-tail advertisers continue to allocate additional dollars to search," Khan writes. "However, keyword pricing fell in the first half."

The report goes on to point to marketers pulling back in some segments, including travel, autos and retail, as 2009 progressed. As a result, JP Morgan has lowered domestic fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010 search growth estimates to 5.8% and 14.0% year-on-year, respectively, from 9.9% and 26.0% year-on-year growth.

"You do startups -- specifically search engines -- because you love it," Watkins says. "It's just too much work otherwise. The vision about IPOs and acquisitions doesn't really apply. You just have a passion and try to build a successful business that solves problems for people. On the other hand, if you're just philanthropic about solving problems, then eventually you run out of money."

4 comments about "Search Engine Takes On Google, Bing, Focusing On What, When, And Where ".
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  1. Greg Hall from Yebol, October 26, 2009 at 10:42 a.m.

    I'm not sure Goby's ready yet. I tried luck. I did get better results using Yebol (

  2. Mark Watkins, October 26, 2009 at 5:02 p.m.

    Hi Greg,

    This is Mark Watkins, I'm the CEO of Goby. Could you let us know what you were searching for? That will help us improve our service.



  3. Nicholas Johnson, October 28, 2009 at 12:33 p.m.

    The real problem is that Goby is relying on information posted on other directories, which is more often than not unreliable and outdated.
    A search for Haunted Houses in Salt Lake City resulted in only 8 results, 3 of them duplicates, and 2 of them out of business.
    A search for bars and pubs first 15 results were of old reviews, out of business pubs, wrong addresses, and terribly unreliable reviews from

    As with every other "local" search engine, directory, and website the information is never current, never comprehensive, and rarely accurate. It isn't Goby's fault, but my question is why would a company spend so much time developing a tool to aggregate bad information?
    Without local representation to constantly update, search for the accurate local information sources in each area, and serious area evangelists, every "local" site will simply frustrate people more than it is worth. Users will simply stick with Google because the information is more often reliable due to searching for actual businesses sites rather than disgruntled customer reviews and abandoned directories.

  4. Mark Watkins, October 29, 2009 at 4:32 p.m.

    Hi Nick, thanks for the comments and feedback.

    There's no doubt that getting accurate local business information is not 100% perfect, and it's a problem with any service that relies on web data - that is, most any search engine. I believe there are things we and others can and will do over time to improve that situation for business listings, and as a new service we are constantly working to improve. And as you indicate, there may be a role for the community to play in helping curate such information.

    However at Goby we believe that there's a much more fundamental problem people are faced with every day when thinking about their free time - finding focused, relevant information for their task at hand from amongst the ocean of information that's out there. Much of that information is not in fact a business listing, it's a hiking trail or a beach or a musical concert or a tour or one of hundreds of other kinds of activity. As you say, not all 100% of that information will be accurate - but today even the 95% that *is* accurate is lost in a sea of millions of undifferentiated search results.

    Most any activity search (say, for a hiking trail) involves hopping from site to site to site, trying to make sense out of information spanning many different websites and differing presentation formats. All we are doing is accelerating the early discovery stage so people can quickly explore their options and narrow in on what they are interested in, and they will no doubt continue to explore that information on the source sites we lead them to and other resources.

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