Powerset: Worthy Of The Hype?

Whew, I haven’t posted in months.  Sorry, I was doing my nails, and I had a tricky hangnail situation so it just took ages.

So, Google.  You’ve heard of them, right?  Apparently they make a dollar or two here and there by selling ads alongside search results.  And anything that makes a dollar or two is going to spawn a host of other businesses looking to carve off a little pie for themselves.  The past couple of years have seen a brave army of search engines trying to capture just a little bit of that Googly magic for themselves; here, for example, is a list of over 40 social search engines.  There are image search engines, people search engines, and capturing a lot of late-breaking buzz, natural language search engines.  In particular, tech reporters across the country have been getting a tingly feeling in their special places over the premier of Powerset, a search engine that promises to truly understand what a web page is about and thus to find answers to queries quicker.  The site they have just premiered indexes Wikipedia only as a way to showcase their user experience; more in-depth indexing is to follow.

So is this the company that will lure the searching public away from Google and spawn the next set of millionaires?  That all depends on if it truly offers a different and better result.  As you’ll see from the link above, lots of people have tried Powerset out and reported back.  I personally like to test new engines with questions that Google has either performed really well or really poorly on in the past, so I gave it a try on a few phrases of my own, comparing Powerset, Google, and a site search of Wikipedia:

1) Which god gets his liver eaten out each night?

Powerset returns a reference to the correct answer in one below-the-fold result.  Google returns a correct answer in 3 of the top 5 results.  Wikipedia nails it in the second result, meaning that for some reason Powerset wasn’t able to correctly grok the results of the only data source it looked at.  Google was the winner here.

2) My friends and I were trying to recall if there was an earthquake in Manhattan around the time of 9/11.  So which search method does best on “New York City Earthquake”?

Neither Wikipedia nor Powerset had anything helpful at all to offer here.  Google nailed it in both its first and second results.  So once again, Google was the winner.

3) On a cross country road trip you start to see the same names over and over.  Search engines, can you reveal the “most popular town name in america”?

Wikipedia offered nothing at all for that search term.  Powerset offered nothing useful.  Google’s #5 listing points to an article on, interestingly, Wikipedia, called “list of the most common US place names”.  Google, you clever bandit!  You win again!  (It’s Franklin, which pleases me, as he has always been my favorite Founding Father.)

So my own experience with Powerset does not have me excited yet.  It wasn’t as effective as Google in returning the information I wanted, even when that info was actually on Wikipedia.  Wiki’s own site search didn’t do as well either.  So for now I’m going to stick with Google when Very Important Questions such as these arise.

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Google + Performics = Conflict Of Interest

Tech Crunch notes in this story about Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick that “many have missed one part of the deal that may raise eyebrows: Google now owns SEO firm Performics.” Welp, as an employee of another firm that offers SEO and SEM services, I can say we sure didn’t miss that element. I’ve already felt that Google’s aggressive promotion of its free paid search strategy services offered enough of a conflict of interest, but as Danny Sullivan points out at length, they will now be accepting payment from firms wishing to rank well in their own natural search results. Google has long touted that they don’t have any connections to SEO firms…well, now they do. I’m sure they will pull out their “Don’t Be Evil” flag and wave it around, as if merely saying that that is their motto means they can do anything they want and it’s still okay. But selling SEO strategy is a clear conflict of interest and I agree with Danny that they should divest themselves of Performics as soon as they can.

Microsoft To Shun Last-Click Attribution. Searching Public To Shun Microsoft.

Microsoft, oh Microsoft. So full of clever search marketing ideas you are. Your keyword research tools are actually much richer than others on the market. And your newly announced idea to distribute conversion to all the clicks that contributed (search and not)— we likey, we likey. Now if only you had the volume to make it worthwhile. Continue reading

iPhone Changes The Mobile Search Conversation

Two recent related stories point to the continued flux in the mobile search market:

1. To the surprise of no one who has paid the least attention to the hype, the iPhone has increased its share of the US smartphone market quite rapidly for such a new entrant into the market. It is now the number 2 smartphone in the US, with a market share of 28% (compared to market leader RIMM/Blackberry with 41%). It also has a reasonably strong share of the global market; it comes in #3 with 6.5% (market leader Nokia has 53%). The iPhone is popular and its popularity is increasing; more importantly, the clamor over its user-friendly interface is having a big effect on overall smartphone design. And that brings us to:

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Yahoo Users Tend To Spend Less: No Kidding!

A study released last Friday by Hitwise is causing lots of discussion: graphing search engine use against some of their demographic data, they assert that people who use Yahoo tend to buy less stuff online. To which anyone working in search replies, no duh!  Client after client, our data shows that while impressions and even clicks from Yahoo might be fairly even with Google, Yahoo pretty much never equals Google in what really matters: conversions.  People who use Yahoo just don’t buy stuff like Google users do.  Our intuition has always been that these users are younger (and thus less likely to be affluent); data like this backs up that intuition.

Beth, You Naughty Thing

Well. A sudden new entrant is taking the Beth Morgan scene by storm. Although Beth Morgan news tends to be dominated by cricket Beth Morgan, the chatter these days is about a very, very naughty Beth Morgan in Australia who approved controversial real estate developments in exchange for sex and cash. Beth! That is shocking! And I thought that porno Beth was bad for the Beth Morgan brand. This sounds like something soap opera Beth Morgan might do. I’m sure it’s been amusing to cricket Beth, who has been in Australia cricketing away while all the sordid details of naughty Beth have been making headlines there.

Update: Big shout-out to Sex & Cash Beth for causing an explosion of traffic to the blog!  As with the people seeking MILF Beth, I sadly don’t have much for you.  I’ve never even been in a position powerful enough that I *could* demand sex and cash from anyone.  Even with the husband it’s more of a negotiation than a demand.

Industry Standard: A 1.0 Brand Hops On The 2.0 Train

Remember 10 years ago, when we were all using Yahoo? In between searches we were reading The Industry Standard so we could find out all about which <insert merch>.com company had just gotten $50 million in funding and celebrated by hosting a party with Carlos Santana performing the background music at cocktail hour. (I’m kidding, of course– the party I’m thinking of had Carlos as the main act.) And when 1.0 went down in flames and we all “took sabbatical” and “became consultants”, the Industry Standard went down with it.

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