Kevin Federline… and the Future of Search?

Every single word is worth thirty grand

Or maybe more
– Kevin Federline, "Playing with Fire"

I think I know what Kevin means in those brilliant lyrics. He’s promoting his search engine while lamenting escalating keyword prices. Wow.

What, you don’t think you can learn search marketing wisdom from K-Fed? This week’s column, in the extended entry, proves otherwise. The lyrics continue:

Don’t think they understand

How much cake the pancake man had

See, here, the cake is click fraud, and the pancake is the cost-per-action model Google’s trying. Nevermind. Don’t think too hard – the column’s easier to parse than K-Fed’s poetry. Enjoy.

 

What We Can Learn from K-Fed

By David Berkowitz

THE HUNT for search engine innovation ends with Kevin Federline.

Over the last two weeks, we sifted through a hundred
search engines
to find glimmers of the future, and last week we came pretty
close. As exciting as the semantic web may be, it’s got nothing on a new pursuit backed by the former
backup dancer for Britney Spears.

I know Gord Hotchkiss
disagrees
with my thesis. In a column last week, he maligned Federline, a
man who needs no more grief. After all, K-Fed has to work to pay alimony to TWO
former child stars — Britney, and Shar Jackson of “Moesha” fame. There’s
nothing wrong with launching a search engine to fund his quest to create an
entire race of Federlines. Mr. Hotchkiss, don’t dis a man until you’ve walked a
mile in his shoes.

To be fair, Gord’s problem seemed to not be as much with the man
but with his search engine, a site run by Prodege using Yahoo results that
rewards you for searching with K-Fiddy. Yet maybe we can learn something from
the man whose DNA is all over the next generation of tabloid icons. And now for
a phrase I never thought I’d utter: here are a few things we can learn from
K-Fed.

Search is ubiquitous. You could even say it jumped the
shark. If Kevin Federline is paying attention to search, everyone is. This is
bigger than President Bush saying he uses “the Google” and
former President Carter
cutting the ribbon
on Google’s Atlanta office. It’s one thing for Google to
serve as the in-flight search engine of Air Force One. With Federline putting
his celebrity behind it, search is for the masses.

Search is evolving. Consider how the K-Fed engine fits into
other major trends. First, there’s personalized
search
, where every user gets his own set of search results. Then there’s the Custom Search
Engine
(CSE), where every publisher can offer search results tailored to its
users. Thanks to Kevin, we now have the Personal Branded Search Engine (PBSE).
It’s not just about searching your site. It’s about having your own brand that
offers a unique value proposition for the searcher. In this case, the value
proposition is autographed Kevin Federline photos. (I’m not sure of the going
rate; searches on eBay for “Kevin Federline photo” and “Kevin Federline
autograph” turned up nothing. And this is a site that turns up results for
searches like “horse
intestine
.”)

Search isn’t always down to business. For the most part,
searches are all about accomplishing a mission, directing people to a goal. Yet
we still haven’t completely evolved from our “Punch the Monkey” roots; that
DNA’s a part of us. We waste a lot of time online. One of the most popular
videos on YouTube this month, with over 2.7 million views, is someone flying through their Photoshop
drawing
of the “Lost” character John Locke. Assuming viewers played it to
its completion, that video alone has consumed 30.6 years of viewers’ collective
attention spans. In light of that measurement,, encouraging people to keep
searching to win Kevin Federline photos sounds pretty harmless.

Let the market decide. There are lots of great ways to
stimulate search demand, and thereby trigger an increase in ad inventory. You
can improve the search algorithms, make the ads more relevant, focus on specific
verticals, create a more user-friendly interface, or adjust any one of countless
variables that’s part of the search experience. If in fact the market’s
clamoring for Kevin Federline autographs, and the market loves the idea of a
Personal Branded Search Engine, then there should be more of these.

Gord Hotchkiss was so unimpressed by the K-Fed engine that he said
he’d “rather wear fiberglass underwear,” an expression I hadn’t heard before
(maybe it’s Canadian). It’s a sad day when the two longest-tenured Search
Insider columnists can’t see eye to eye on such pressing issues as whether K-Fed
should have his own engine.

If Google or Yahoo launched a Kevin Federline engine, their stock
would drop. Yet as a more entrepreneurial endeavor, the engine has its place in
the search ecosystem, even if it doesn’t appeal to good taste or high-minded
reasoning. As Federline croons in his smash hit “Playing with Fire,” “I’m the
best, I rule, come test my tools.” Now that’s integration — promoting his own
search engine through his music. That K-Fed, he can teach us all a few things.

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