PlayerSearch Blog

by Ted Kasten, Founder of PlayerSearch

Yahoo: Out of the pot, into the fire

Yahoo, combined with Microsoft, had a fighting chance to compete with Google (not a great chance, but a chance; Google is en route to a dominating monopoly with search advertising, the most lucrative on-line business, just as Microsoft has with Office, the most lucrative desktop business). Now Google owns even more of the on-line advertising market.

Which of these companies should Yahoo be more worried about as a competitor on-line?

Google will surpass Windows in revenue this year and with its rapid growth may surpass Office in revenue in the not-too-distant future.

Google is incredibly smart and just landed a huge win if this passes anti-trust obstacles. Yahoo on the other hand…well, my bet is that this error will soon dwarf the $5.6 billion they wasted on the now defunct Broadcast.com. They just waived the white flag and removed themselves from the most lucrative on-line market ever.

I know there has been a lot of talk about Yahoo partnering with Google to fend off Microsoft or to force Microsoft to pay a little more…I never thought they would actually do it.  It appears Michael Arrington agrees.

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch states that we are all worse off with Yahoo giving up and strengthening Google. That statement is especially true if Microsoft cedes the market to Google and stops pouring billions into their search efforts to compete. I do think Michael underestimates Microsoft’s willingness to continue to fight…these guys are the ultimate competitors…they have been around a long time, fought many battles (operating systems, applications, browsers, games and global anti-trust battles) and unlike Jerry Yang and Yahoo they never give up.

I love Google, but as a search advertiser and founder of a vertical search engine for sports (www.playersearch.com), I will have to cheer for the underdogs to keep a competitive search advertising market with multiple options for advertisers and consumers. I guess I will finally have to sign up for an Ask.com advertising account!

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June 13, 2008 Posted by | Google | , | Leave a comment

Sports is the worst vertical for Google

According to the latest Hitwise traffic figures for the top search engines, Google accounts for 8.81% of traffic to sports websites, the lowest total of any category for Google. To be fair to Google, they have done very little to improve their results for sports focused searches…yet. Most of the people I talk to rarely use Google to find sports news and information because the results provided aren’t what sports fans are looking for.

I don’t expect Google to stay out of sports forever (77 million on-line users is large enough to attract some attention from Google) and Derrick Ekhardt at RotoNation reported here and here that Google has already added sports scores to its Mobile search results (they obtain these scores from an unnamed third party that I know very well). I am sure there is more to come from Google. The real question is how far will Google go to change their search results to accomodate sports content and stats and how deep will their content be. PlayerSearch will never have the brand or mindshare that Google has (does any on-line brand?), but if we can keep our search results 10x better than theirs for sports focused searches and we can make it easy for users to search PlayerSearch from their favorite sports websites, then we have a fighting chance.

Good coverage from TechCrunch here.

June 10, 2008 Posted by | Google | | Leave a comment

Sports enthusiasts don’t use Google to find Sports content

According to the most recent Hitwise press release, only 12.93% of visitors to sports related websites arrive through the top 50 search engines. This is the lowest figure of any content category including Health, Travel, Shopping, Entertainment, and Finance. Combine this information with the fact that demand for sports content is higher than ever and I think it is clear users know that general search engines do not provide very good results for sports searches. Most sports enthusiasts go directly to ESPN and the local website or blogs for their favorite team. They understand there is a lot more news coverage available, but they don’t have the time to go to each individual site, or find new sites, to search for their coverage of their favorite players or teams (sports fans demand for sports news and analysis is unlimited…but their time is not). At this point all sports fans are well aware of Google, but they clearly don’t go there either because the search results are not very good for sports.

I believe this is a clear indication that there is a huge void in the sports search space with incredibly high demand for sports content (over 60 million people visiting sports content sites and about 15 million people playing fantasy sports games) yet no great search solution. Clearly people are not going to Google to get their fix of sports news and analysis. The top search engines currently account for 45.10% of the traffic to health related sites (this figure includes traffic from the top general search engines such as Google as well as health specific search engines like Healthline; I don’t have market share data but clearly Healthline has been able to capture a small but significant share of health related searches). If we can get the search experience for sports correct, there is clearly a lot of room to grow this category.

April 8, 2008 Posted by | Google | , | Leave a comment

Searchers prefer blended search results

Bill Morrison at ThinkPanmure (formerly ThinkEquity) just forwarded me an interesting article on users preference for blended search over vertical search (image, news, video) by Marketingvox.com (study conducted by Jupiter Research). In this case vertical search refers to images, news, and video, not sports, finance, health, travel, etc. (so this supports PlayerSearch’s approach of using blended search results that currently include sports news, videos, photos and stats; we do not force users to search by one of those categories although they can click the View More link to dive deeper into most of the content categories).

Here is one of the charts:

Vertical search not prevantly used on major search engines

The article outlines some interesting stats that point to users preferring blended search results that include images, news and video directly in the search results page as opposed to having to click links to get only news or only images or only videos. This finding is well known, but it is always good to find hard numbers outlining users behavior.

April 8, 2008 Posted by | Google, Universal Search | , | Leave a comment

Like the boiled frog, Google is slowly becoming a destination site…

…as soon as they integrate Double-click, my bet is this pace will quicken. Comscore released preliminary data today during the Orion Panel on Universal Search at SES that showed users clicked on links and ads less often when universal search results where included along with the ten blue links. This is not surprising as Google has begun injecting content into the search results such as video, news, stock charts, etc., all of which “get the user to their answer faster”. That is good for the user on the surface…but clicks on ads drops as well which is bad for revenue…unless you replace those CPC ads with CPM ads (enter Double-click). There are three basic types of search – navigational, informational and transactional. The transactional search (Cars) is ideal for CPC and represents the most profitable search category for Google. Informational searches (News on Brett Favre) are not as profitable using CPC monetization and my bet is that Google will start experimenting with inserting CPM based ads from Double-click into informational search results to increase revenue per search.

As John Battelle points out here, over the past few years Google has added YouTube, Google News, Google Maps and Knol…all destinations and all falling into the category of “informational” searches. Google is becoming a destination just like Yahoo. They are a media company and want to keep their users attention in order to increase ad revenue. Knol is a perfect example…Wikipedia is hugely successful…Google is not content with capturing the search revenue generated by simply sending users to WikiPedia. My guess is that most searches that end up at Wikipedia are informational searches, so these searches are not as profitable for Google. By creating its own version of WikiPedia, Google can keep this traffic and monetize it beyond the search results page, or the “second click” as John Battelle refers to it (and my guess is with CPM ads).

Universal search is, in theory, better for the user if they find their answer faster. However, if Universal search places preferential treatment for Google content that may be inferior (Knol, Google Finance) to the content on other sites (Wikipedia, Yahoo Finance), then the user ultimately loses. This also sets search back ten years when “sponsored” search results where always at the top of search results and users where uncertain if they were clicking on a link because it was the best result or because that publisher paid for placement. Part of why Google beat all the other search engines was because they clearly delineated between organic and paid results. Google is becoming its own sponsored result and walking a fine line with objectivity in its results.

March 19, 2008 Posted by | Google, Search as Destination, Universal Search | , , | Leave a comment