Commentary

Porch CEO Matt Erlichman Talks About Bing, Search, Machine Learning

Porch.com, which helps consumers find the correct professionals and costs to do home improvements, recently inked a deal with Microsoft to serve data on the Bing search engine.

Search Insider spoke with Matt Erlichman, founder and CEO at Porch.com, to gain clarity on service and partnerships.

The company has ample cost data for a variety of projects that consumers might do for their homes. The data provides costs estimates, from the minimum to the maximum, which serves up in a cost calculator on Bing.

"When Bing triggers the calculator in search, our data produces the relevance in pricing for any ZIP code," Erlichman said.  

The initial estimate is based on 300 square feet, but the number can be changed and requirements customized. The search for a professional is not only based on the project, such as painting a fence, but the hourly rate for that location. Bing pulls the ZIP code, based on the IP address being used by the computer or the mobile phone to do the search.

Bing seems to recognize the ZIP code, but not the name of the town and state. For now, only a certain set of keywords will trigger the query and content in the Bing search engine.

The search tab within the calculator box doesn’t work as well as when the person adds the ZIP code in the initial search query on Bing. Those estimates include things like whether the consumer wants the professional to dispose of the waste. (Machine learning will help improve estimates.)

However, it's a solid idea, complete with estimate calculator. But the triggers, as of today, aren’t intuitive enough. People searching for information specifically need to type in phrases such as “cost to paint a fence” and add the ZIP code if the computer or phone isn’t in that physical area.

For exampled, I tried to compare Southern California with Wyoming prices. As the ZIP code changes in Huntington Beach, Calif., and gets closer to the ocean, the price estimates rise. "It's clearly for major metropolitan areas like Huntington Beach," he said.

In those more populated areas, consumers can drill down by adding information to get a more specific quote.

Erlichman said the numbers come from a database of more than 140 million professional home projects. The company brought in labor rates and material and supply costs from large retailers.  

There are other similar services, like HomeAdvisor, but none that supply an estimate calculator on Bing.

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