Eight Search Sites to Watch

Today’s column ran in MediaPost and continues in the extended entry. If you know of other sites I should check out, comment here or write to marketersstudio [at] gmail [dot] com.

When the research analysts at Hitwise, Nielsen, and Compete
release their monthly search engine rankings, you can sometimes feel their pain
in covering the same story over and over again. Check out Jeremy
Crane’s latest post on Compete’s blog
where he tries to lighten things up
by talking about his wife’s birthday (happy belated, Mrs. C.!) and laments in
the headline, "Microhoo gets boring." I feel your pain, Jeremy.
That’s why we’ll mix it up a little this week and focus on eight search-related
startups.

Note that this list is random. There’s no methodology — no
ranking by buzz, funds raised, visitors, customers, parties thrown at SXSW, or
volume of schwag sent my way (though the schwag’s always welcome). These are
companies that caught my radar at some point or another, whether through a news
article, blog post, word of mouth, or personal contact from them, and they all
shed a bit of light on where search is heading.

Local
Search

NearbyNow:
Search for products at a shopping mall near you, and you can reserve them for
in-store pickup. This local search player aims to close the loop between online
shopping and offline buying. For shoppers who like the convenience of malls but
don’t want to spend all day there, this should find a receptive audience.

Visual
Search

ManagedQ:
This visual search engine responds to your query with a matrix of snapshots of
the relevant sites. It takes me far longer to scan this layout than a standard
page of text results, though I do like the related person/place/thing tags to
the left.

Quintura:
Alongside the natural search engine results is a tag cloud showing related
keywords and phrases to help you explore more. For me, this only slows down the
search process, though I’ll keep an open mind. Quintura
for Kids
may be more useful, but a search on ‘new york governor’ turned up
just one result that seemed to be about former governor George Pataki, and a
search on ‘eliot spitzer’ turned up no results. At least that means there are
no Emperor’s Club screen shots.

Social
Search

blippr:
Search is only a small part of what blippr does, but it plays an important role
in this new social search engine. You rate books, movies, music, and games,
write a brief reason for your rating (at most 160 characters) and invite
friends to take part so that it delivers personalized recommendations. Search
the site for Indiana Jones and it brings up several DVDs to rate, along with
friends who rated it. It sounds like many other sites and Facebook
applications, but it’s strangely addictive, and it’s still in beta.

Message
Boards

Dipiti:
Users search for support and assistance on this meta-message board search
engine that focuses on health, legal, money, and pet care. It pulls from an
impressive array of communities, but with engines like this, the question
remains whether they’re too specialized for a mass market. When you have a pet
problem, do you want to find a community, or do you just want an answer
wherever it is? In the latter example, a regular search engine should suffice.

News Search

Silobreaker:
Have you ever thought that news search results were good, but not cluttered
enough? Enter Silobreaker, which provides a higher grade of link smack for news
junkies. Say you’re searching for news on Eliot Spitzer, in the event that he’s
done something newsworthy lately. Querying Silobreaker brings up way more
information than you can possibly process: a biographical snapshot, top stories
from an array of sources, blogs, YouTube video clips featuring breaking news, a
chart showing article volume over the past month, links to related topics
(David Paterson, Emperor’s Club), a network map showing how those topics are
connected, hotspots showing geographically where the news comes from, trends
for news on Spitzer and related people (Paterson and Hillary Clinton), and
quotes. Clearly this is overkill for many people, but others will be hooked.

Mobile

Mosio:
Send a text message query and it’s answered by the community of other users. I
used it last year to ask for recommendations for the song to use for my
wedding’s first dance, and while I like to think I did a little better than
their answers (come on, John Denver?), a number of thoughtful responses came
back instantly.

ChaCha:
This search engine was better for entertainment purposes than actual search
value, but now it has a mobile component that makes it incredibly useful. You
text CHA CHA (242 242) from your cell with a question and a real person sends
you a response with all the relevant info, assuming someone can answer it. For
instance, if you’re the governor of one of the most populous states in the
Union, you’re on the Amtrak to D.C., and you need to know how to get in touch
with the Emperor’s Club, just text 242 242 "What’s the number for the
Emperor’s Club?" and someone will write you with the phone number. I tried
this myself and the respondent said, "The prostitution ring known as the
Emperor’s Club has not made its contact information available online."

Governors must use some other sort of search
engine. While I’m not sure which one Spitzer might have used, there’s an engine
out there for any query you can imagine.

One thought on “Eight Search Sites to Watch

  1. For a useful, more general message board/forum search, check out twing.com. It’s got a natural-feeling search refinement flow; an inital query takes you to a results page with search refinement options immediately available.

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