Yes, we’re moving servers, getting ready for new things, and that means some stuff will be broken, acting oddly, grumpy…bear with us.
You could always search for stocks on Google, and some – like GOOG – would show a lame little icon and then click you through to Yahoo Finance or a few other sites in a rather kludgy tabbed interface. Now, you get a stock chart right at the top of the results page, and a bunch of information. In fact, you get so much, you might not really need to click through to Yahoo anymore (if you click on the chart, you still are taken to a framed view of Yahoo Finance). Innaresting. All to be useful to the user, of course. But still….see my musings on this in a past post here.
A source from one of the second tier engines recently told me “There’s simply no good traffic left anymore.” We were discussing clickfraud, and he mentioned that many engines were beset by it because they did not have enough good traffic to pour over their paid listings. Instead, they had “bad traffic” – ie, clickfraud or crappy affiliate sites with no content value. The catch 22 – they can’t afford to dump the bad traffic.
I am not an expert in SEO or SEM, nor do I spend a lot of time thinking about traffic, in the abstract. But my own investigations of the affiliate business as well as recent acquisitions has got me thinking about traffic in more concrete terms.
In the world we now live, where search is king and the princes have been crowned, more or less – AOL, Yahoo, Google, MSFT, IAC – the scarcest resource is what that fellow called good traffic. I might rephrase that a bit, and call it “good intent” – as opposed to ill intent (clickfraud). Good intent is owned, in the main, by the crown princes of search, but as Safa points out, there are buckets of it – though smaller – at other sites, in particular shopping and high quality content sites.
Haven’t we seen this before? It sure smells like Web 1.0, where it was all about eyeballs. But the shift from eyeballs to intent is important, because thanks to search, intent = revenue, and that can be measured, bargained for, and purchased.
This makes me think about recent purchases – be they Ask, Bloglines, Flickr, or Furl – in a new way. What do all those sites have? Traffic of good intent. In the case of Bloglines and Flickr, traffic that is growing headily.
I get a lot of calls from entrepreneurs and journalists who want to know if this or that new startup is going to take off. My new measure of a company’s success is pretty simple – forget the technology, the promises, or the backers. Just look at the traffic. Is it good, and is it growing? Getting good, growing traffic is a really hard thing to do. If a company manages it, it tells you a lot. Pretty simple stuff, but there you have it.
You got Indeed and Simply Hired for jobs. Topix for local news and information. Globalspec for engineering. Technorati and Feedster for feeds/blogs. And now…Oodle, for classifieds. I met with Oodle CEO Craig Donato while at PCForum last week, and I like the concept. He’s not only crawling listings where you might expect it – local papers, national papers, craigslist – he’s also crawling eBay local and other unexpected sources.
But the main difference, Craig insists, is that Oodle is buyer focused, not seller focused. The site came from his own frustration with listings – the interface was terrible. How could he make it better?
The answer was not just crawling all those listings, but tagging them with all sorts of taxonomy-driven metadata to layer intelligent search over them all, so you could find what you wanted to find. A very neat idea if it works. Will it? Too early to tell, but test sites are up in Dallas, Philly, and Chicago.
The business model is a work in progress, for now they plan to do Google ads. But imagine the possibilities – they drive traffic back to classifieds sites, so there is a referral play there, and the ability to develop their own premium listings business lurks in the background.
Cool feature: any search can be an alert. The site is in beta with its first three cities, but they plan to roll out nationally soon.
The company is backed privately, but Craig is from Excite days, as is the Chairman, Brett Bullington, who is also an investor. I plan to keep my eye on these guys.
After I posted on Google buying Urchin, I got a call from the folks over at WebTrends. They felt a bit overlooked, after all, they just got bought too. Sure, I told them, I had noticed, but they were bought by a private equity fund, and that means one thing – the company is going to be prettied up and sold again, either to another search/marketing player (MSFT, IAC, Publicis come to mind) or to the public in a Marchex-like IPO.
No no, the very nice PR person told me. They really want to make this business work, as it was not strategic to its original owner (NetIQ) anymore.
Awww, come on, I retorted. These guys want to make a buck, and that’s that.
Then I got to thinking. Why is there a buck to be made in this space, anyway? Ahh…there’s the rub indeed. Arbitrage, of course – knowing what others want to know and profiting from it. Companies like Urchin and Webtrends offer insight into what visitors really are doing on the web, as well as insights into how marketer’s campaigns might be going, and what might be the wisest use of your marketing/sales spend. For the time being, such knowledge is hard to come by – Google is one such repository, Yahoo another, and then there are a number of independents. One was Urchin -but Google now owns it. Another is WebTrends. Watch this company over the next year. My prediction: It will be sold again.
PS – Good overview of the Urchin purchase by Andrew Goodman.
…Here let me be more concrete, if I’ve got a 1GB memory card in my mobile phone and most of that filled with messages and media, well there’s no reason why that stuff can’t be found by a web search, no? …
…Now I go to the Yahoo Search, and click on the “social” tab (it’d be right after the image search) and I’d type in something I’m looking for. Maybe it’d be tag names or maybe it’d be something more detailed. The search engine goes through its list of mobile items and presents the results. When the user clicks on a link he likes, well it’s not to get the item right away – it’s to request it. A message goes off to the mobile repository that says something like, “Hey, remember that item you said you had available? I’d like a copy of it. Now would be preferable, but if you want you can wait until the next time you have a chance. Thanks.”….
… It’s really about asking for anything and then getting it. To me search isn’t just about finding stuff that’s been indexed on the web, it’s the Quicksilver type interfaces as well: Ask and you shall receive. Now the rest of the problem is just figuring out 1) How to find the data (where ever it may live) and 2) How to get it back to the person who’s asking for it. With mobile phones, this means jumping through some hoops because of bandwidth and use cases, but it can be done, right?
Randy Farmer, head of the Yahoo! Community Projects team, blogs about Yahoo’s new 360 social networking/blogging/etc product.
From the Yahoo Search Blog:
Now, I get to tell you about Yahoo! 360° — a new model for online sharing that’s easy and convenient for everybody.
During my years of online community building, I’ve seen many types of social software emerge: email, chat, instant messaging, forums, groups, multiplayer games, blogs, and twikis (to name a few).
Until now, most social software worked on a shared view, what I’d call a we-centric model, where every participant sees the same information as all the other participants. We all see the same posts on a message board, the same conversation in a chat room. In effect, communications are either public or private.
These days, as we publicly post more of our opinions, photos, and sensitive information on the net, there’s growing concern about spam and other threats to our privacy. And there’s a need for tools to help us manage real-world relationships that are becoming more and more digital. The time is right for me-centric community – a way for you to get the information and connections you want, without giving up control of your information. Yahoo! 360° lets you control not just what you see but what others can see about you.
Unfortunately, the main link to the 360 site gives you this:
You can check out Randy’s site on 360 though…
Intelliseek launched BlogPulse 2.0 yesterday, adding more sites, more search, and more analysis. It only has six months of data though (before it only had two months). I wish we’d get working on that web time axis! On first glance (and that’s all I’ve given it, caveat) there seem to be some powerful tools in this release, like the Trend Search.
Here’s the release.
Safa Rashtchy of Piper notes in a research report (click on the March 28 note) that the Ask/IAC deal could augur more Internet consolidation.
After ASKJ, What Is Next? The announcement of Interactive Corp.’s intention to acquire ASKJ is likely to be a catalyst for the Internet and search sector, especially given the recent misconception about weakness in search. As we have often stated, we believe a number of companies in our universe are perfect acquisition targets – perfect because they represent sectors that are on the rise, such as search, comparison shopping, lead generation, or content, and because their value can be significantly higher within a large company. We believe three key areas of value include content and search traffic, conversion technologies and comparison shopping platforms, and local search and listings platforms. Companies that are well represented in these areas include Marchex and Shopping.com, as our two favorites, as well as InfoSpace, CNET, and Homestore.
While we are not predicting the dawn of a new era of M&A activity within the Internet sector, we do believe that for the first time in many years there are distinct areas that are highly valuable for consolidation.
In short, Safa points out that high value traffic, especially search, is at a premium these days. Given that there is not a lot of search traffic available, other kinds of well understood intent, like at shopping sites, high CPM publishers, etc. are seen as attractive.