Google Ringtone Search (Beta)... the Utility of Search & the Value of Relationships vs Data

Google recently announced they are offering an ad free search service to small businesses for as little as $100 a year. They are also rumored to be working on creating a mobile search offering to search for ringtones, cell phone games, and other high margin cell phone services:

With the new system, users would search for a piece of content -- such as ringtones -- and would get back a list of companies that provide it, with links letting them easily purchase the material. Eventually, Google would charge companies for high placement in the search results, much as it does with "sponsored links" on Web search, the people familiar with the company's plans said.

If this proves effective, why wouldn't Google create search services for real estate and student loans? Off the start they likely wouldn't be any dirtier than those markets already are.

The local sites (or other niche sites) that die are the ones that don't have a supportive community...the ones that can roughly be described as data. But as you move your site away from data toward community building and user experience you increase its marketability, profitability, and longevity.

John Scott recently said

when the Internet becomes a community more than a marketplace, the community oriented merchants have the advantage.

Most general music lyric sites will lose over 90% of their traffic and value in the next 2 years. Niche value add sites like SongMeanings.net will increase in value.

Some newspapers are fighting off their own irrelevancy by publishing more ads, and becoming more irrelevant. The reason WSJ.com is worth $5 billion is because it will be one of the last newspapers surviving after many competitors are marginalized. Its brand and business relationships make it unique.

The next step for search is moving away from age and citation based trust toward user satisfaction based rating. In a recent interview Jakob Nielson said:

Of course, the big thing that has happened in the last 10 years was a change from an information retrieval oriented relevance ranking to being more of a popularity relevance ranking. And I think we can see a change maybe being a more of a usefulness relevance ranking. I think there is a tendency now for a lot of not very useful results to be dredged up that happen to be very popular, like Wikipedia and various blogs. They’re not going to be very useful or substantial to people who are trying to solve problems. So I think that with counting links and all of that, there may be a change and we may go into a more behavioral judgment as to which sites actually solve people’s problems, and they will tend to be more highly ranked.

Part of that will include collecting user feedback and personalizing results. For the commercial parts of the web, much of this will be done by search engines pushing more aggressive ad units (while using non-ads to test how far they can go), licensing content from premium publishers, and making more transactions direct to funnel traffic internally while minimizing the downside of bait and switch marketing. If Google controls the transaction they know the lead value AND the customer satisfaction stats. If something that was once good becomes spam Google controls distribution and monetization, and can kill it without a second thought.

If you are in a market that is likely to get commoditized what does your site do that makes it more than just data?

Published: July 17, 2007 by Aaron Wall in publishing & media

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Comments

Paris
July 17, 2007 - 6:01pm

Aaron,

Publish this stuff (outside of your SEO book). This is good reading. I want to see it at Barnes and Noble.

Paris

Joe
July 17, 2007 - 7:44pm

"If you are in a market that is likely to get commoditized..."

Ask any author of any investing, seo, or business blog. It all comes down to voice. If your site is just an aggregator of news/blog clips from around the web, you'll get some good rankings from search engines (by default) and maybe make some money from ads clicked on by visitors who stumbled on your site, but you'll never be considered an "expert" or get a loyal, returning following that builds your brand for you through email and word-of-mouth marketing.

The person who can do both will have a site as successful as, well, seobook.com.

As search matures, sites written by perceived experts will have to rank better than aggregators or keyword-stuffing content producers. If Google, Yahoo, and MSN don't take the lead on it, there are thousands of kids banging on keyboards right now, developing the next generation of search engines that will show content that searchers want to see, not irrelevant results from seo-smart AdSense revenue seekers or content-for-the-sake-of-ranking businesses.

My two cents.

mark
July 17, 2007 - 10:28am

Google already allow us to find ringtones... take a look at http://www.ok-cool.com/posts/read/25-get-any-polyphonic-midi-ringtone-fo...

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