Search Engines: It’s the Economics, Stupid

Posted by on July 11, 2007 at 7:38 am.

I’ve been meaning to play around with Google’s custom search for awhile and a recent prod to try Lijit Search was enough to push me over the top. I’ve also been using Swicki at FVB for some time. Each of the services have their pros and cons, and none of them have everything I want, yet.

Instead of a full rundown of pros and cons for each, I’ll just summarize what type of person might be best served by each.

Swicki: Best if you treasure customization of look and feel, including pre-populated tag clouds, open-ended color options and voting on search results.

Lijit: Best if you like the focus of social media search, across your various properties and social networks.

Google Custom Search: Best if you like standardizing with a player most likely to include all bells and whistles over time, including the best site-based results prioritization and labelling.

Google ties in AdSense from the start — sharing revenue produced from sponsored results alongside your search results. Swicki hints about future sponsored search potential. I haven’t seen a direct sponsored search claim from Lijit, but any business in the search space will ultimately have to offer sponsor revshares.

I think this last part is the most important for any new search entrants. The reason Google is so powerful in web search is not because they have the best technology. It’s because they have the best distribution and the economics that distribution partners cannot walk away from for a “better” search engine. As such, Google only has to be “good enough” in search to keep their distribution.

However, blogs offer a growing distribution channel that isn’t already addicted to Google rev shares. The new entrant that gets blogs addicted to a revenue stream stands the greatest chance of challenging Google in web search.

Is that crazy talk? What are your experiences? What new search engines should I be watching?

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