Marketing a Search Engine

Since search sites themselves have no product other than the contents of other sites how do you launch a search site? How would you market a new search engine?

One idea I have thinking about is giving people the perception of user feedback. Since many search engines have editors (like Yahoo!) or employ remote quality raters (like Google) this data can be used to train the algorithms. You also could collect information from random surfers and use that as feedback, although Direct Hit proved that relying too heavily on that data is a flawed idea. The direct information from surfers may have a greater purpose though.

What if you did not necissarily use that data that much, but gave people the idea that you valued their opinions. You could maket the search service as your search. Tell the people that by searching and rating sites they personally were responsible for making the web a better place. If people believed it was true then to them it would be. If they could spread the idea far enough (telling many of their friends about how great it is) then maybe the search service could steal enough market share to sell enough ads to be able to afford the right people and algorithms to make the search the most relevant.

Of course the service would need to be fairly decent off the start as well, but it might be a decent idea. How would YOU market a search engine?

Published: June 7, 2005 by Aaron Wall in marketing


June 7, 2005 - 1:00pm

This is essentially what we are doing on, with the slight difference that we are actually doing what you suggest, not just letting the users think we are :)

Zniff uses the information gathered by tens of thousands of users of, our bookmarking service and uses that to find and rank search results.

It works. Currently Zniff delivers quite competitive results for most computer, technology and web related queries. As the user group expands to users with a wider range of interest, we fully expect the same quality for other queries as well.

June 7, 2005 - 1:10pm

>we are actually doing what you suggest, not just letting the users think we are

therein lies the problem, if your primary relevancy driver is user feedback then it is most likely not going to scale.

why? because if you had exceptional distribution levels like Google or Yahoo! some people would pay others $2 an hour to vote for various sites owned by them or their clients.

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