Wikia Search Alpha Launch

Search is so consolidated that it is uncomfortable being an SEO. If Google decides to profile you or kill your sites there is not much you can do, especially because Yahoo! and Microsoft are losing marketshare month after month. Why are Yahoo! and Microsoft losing marketshare? Their bad marketing coupled with Google's good marketing:

The toolbar has NEVER given anyone any real information. BUT, it has given the world a perception that whatever Google ranks that must be right. It has also helped to give Google millions of devout followers and millions more who are willing to give access to a lot of private data just to see a little green go a little farther to the right. BRILLIANT. So brilliant in fact I have never understood why MSN and Yahoo haven’t done their own white paper and give away a little blue bar to "prove" it works. BUT, that is why Yahoo and MSN seem to be losing market share. Not because their results aren’t as good. It is because they aren’t as good at marketing. I don’t begrudge Google for that. I admire them.

To appreciate how bad Yahoo's marketing is, consider the following:

  • Overture Keyword Selector - their public facing keyword tool is unreliable and does not even promote their own brand or their own network on it.
  • Want to sign in to Yahoo search marketing? Go to Yup...2/3 of the companies revenues come through a subdomain of a subdomain.
  • Yahoo powers millions of domain landing pageviews every day, and are afraid to put their brand on it, all while Google puts their brand (and typically search box) on everything they touch.

Anyhow, this is Christmas and this is supposed to be a happy post. And I am happy, because Wikia Search just launched in Alpha, and plans to publicly launch on January 7th.

Given that the difference between Google and Yahoo is largely one of marketing, and given that Google has been doing more manual editing of the search results, that lends credibility to Wikia's human search model.

What happens when Wikipedia has a "search powered by you" box promoting an engine other than Google on every page of Wikipedia? Does Wikipedia keep ranking #1 for everything? Does this create another viable search channel for marketers? Does this competition make Google less arrogent and harsh in their webmaster relations department?

Here is Wikias' whitelist, and here is a blog tracking Wikia's progress. And here are some of Google's human review documents that were leaked a couple years ago.

Published: December 25, 2007 by Aaron Wall in


James Dunn
December 25, 2007 - 7:10am

Wasn't Mahalo suppose to do basically the same thing? Sure, more search engines would help diversify traffic streams from a webmaster's POV, but does Wikia really have a chance? What great marketing has Wikipedia done besides being a good idea? As much as I would like to see other search engines do well, I don't think Wikia has the marketing budget or an idea that is so great it will win over Google's users. Hope I'm wrong.

December 26, 2007 - 3:34am

Hi James
I think Mahalo has done some good how to articles, but honestly, as an engine, they are probably still a bit of a joke, IMHO.

What great marketing has Wikipedia done besides being a good idea?

Coming up with a great idea is part of the marketing IMHO. The whole search powered by you is just as powerful of an idea as the encyclopedia powered by you was.

Don't forget that Google just edited a lot of PageRank scores and ticked off a lot of people.

December 25, 2007 - 1:45pm

I was gonna ask the same thing. What do you think of Wikia -do you think they stand a chance?

Also, do you agree that the difference between Google and Yahoo is mostly one of marketing? I must say I've always thought Google did have better results (but then again perception is reality...). And to be honest I use Google about 98% of the time I do searches ;-(

December 26, 2007 - 3:36am

Hi Patrick
Google's results might be somewhat better, but the biggest difference is marketing.

I think Wikia stands a great chance. Being tied to a quasi non-profit that dominates the competition's results is huge...and so is the whole concept of openness and being powered by you.

December 25, 2007 - 2:41pm

Yes, off course there was. Its time for nostalgia. I am sitting in one of my high school classrooms. There is a an old desktop computer surfing the internet on webcrawler. Yes there was once a search engine named webcrawler and for many of us it was the default home page and you used it to search the web. Yahoo is as old school as web crawler and their portal style homepage is just as old school.

I remember when SEO and SEM made search engines like webcrawler and altavista basically useless. You really couldnt find what you were looking for because all the results were full of spam.

Then cam Google and wow, you typed a search query and it was so good that your result was usually the first if not in the top 3!

Only google dared have a button that says I'm Feeling Lucky, because it really worked most of the time.

Now till today Google's homepage is crisp and clean and ipod like in its pristine whiteness, there is no clutter and there are no annoying ads and images and hype. Yes Google has branded itself all over but lets face they are that good and better than Yahoo and MSN. Until someone builds a better search engine algorithm I will use google and so will most people looking for search as opposed to a portal.

I wish there was a way the ODP was better, It seems only logical to me that a human edited search is best but the web is formidable with billions of pages of spam to sift through only spiders and bots can handle...

December 25, 2007 - 3:04pm

>I don't think Wikia has the marketing budget or an idea that is so great it will win over Google's users.<

Neither did google in 98. If wikia will just read a few posts on seobook and realize that it is more about better marketing than even better results, I believe they have a shot, (I even believe that Mahalo has a shot if they can accept the same thing).

google started with funding of $25,000,000 and I don 't think that is beyond the reach of Wiki or Mahalo. what I do think is beyond their reach, (at least at this pioint), is the marketing savyy to realize the world is ready to accept a new PR metric and a new toolbar.I also believe there is enough market share ready to accept a different kind of Google that it could let someone with a "different" view of relevancy capture enough of that market share to have a real impact.

Better results won't cut it. Remember, better is subjective but marketing is OBjective. Wikia comes up with non-bot rank, (people rank or some other such silliness), get 60 million people to install their cute little toolbar and now their search engine has a shot at an IPO to rival google's.

Just an opinion from the guy who had the first search engine powered by YOU,
blew it and THEN started trying to learn about internet marketing. I was giving away websites when I should have been giving away toolbars :(
I hope somebody tells wikia and Mahalo

December 25, 2007 - 5:58pm

Surely the reason that Yahoo! is losing market share is because their results are SO easy to manipulate.

I started optimising a new site three weeks ago and in Yahoo! it is already in the top four spots for almost all the relevant keywords. In Google however it is not in the top thirty results for any keyword phrase.

In my opinion unless Yahoo! learns to judge the quality of links more accurately Google will keep taking their market share.

December 25, 2007 - 7:06pm

It is interesting that you mention that. I remember reading in SEObook that when it comes to filtering out scrubby links Google > Yahoo > MSN (when I first read it a year ago).

Recently I've heard different things, though:

(I hope it's okay to post these links, if not I wouldnt mind if you disable them, of course..please keep in mind Im still a beginner so I dont really do in-depth algorithm testing, yet)

What do you guys on here think about this? Do you think Yahoo (and possibly MSN) have caught up when it comes to scrubbing out low-quality links? or not?

December 26, 2007 - 3:39am

I think Yahoo and MSN are inferior to Google at scrubbling link quality, but their marketing is much worse than their relevancy is.

December 26, 2007 - 3:04pm

Wikia Search is definitely a great step on the search engines history. Google is really good, but Google's people must understand they depend on us mainly, although sometimes we depend on them too. Internet is great! Always you will have good choices, even if a big company have a big share in the market...

December 26, 2007 - 7:42pm

What I'm REALLY curious about is..what kind of an effect will that have for us Internet Marketers/SEOs? If wikia becomes a great success (and maybe someday should take Google's place) will SEO shift even further towards marketing and influencing people as you've been predicting for a while (and possibly move away from the 'technical stuff' completely (in the very long run))?

I just did a few quick searches for wikia, but couldnt find anything about their 'algorithm'. Will this basically work out by Wikia collecting tagging and rating data (by people who volunteer to tag and rate stuff) and then working out a (more simplistic?) algorithm that makes sense of the data and tries to rank pages?

Now, that I'm thinking about it (if that's how it works) they might really stand a nice chance to get some market share. Whereas MSN and Yahoo are basically doing it the same way as Google w/o having any competitive advantage (sort of like a me-too-strategy) Wikia will be able to differentiate themselves, by not wanting directory-like/resource type of sites in their index ('seed-sites'). I think resource sites are extremely useful, but that way the wikia-top-10 will basically be such a resource itself (like wikipedia is now).

I assume what will always stay the same for an SEO (who's creating his own sites) no matter how search engines might change over the next decades is the SEO-market research-process (finding niches that have a good potential ROI by evaluating certain criteria)...and probably also influencing a certain group of people (the linkerati/webmasters, site visitors..or taggers).

Have you thought about what implications the rise of a people-powered search algorithms might have for you as an Internet Marketer/SEO?

December 27, 2007 - 5:27am

I think people powered search is already a large part of the algorithm...that is how PageRank works. But, what Wikia has is a different way of marketing it.

Imagine awareness being primarily driven by mindshare, and then having the search results re-ranked based on editor opinion.

Lots of bias and errors will happen with that, which will only make being well known even more important.

December 27, 2007 - 1:26am

Wikia had Google Ads on the side. If they really want to finish off the Google maybe they shouldn't create a portal right back to their biggest competitor. Just a thought.

People are sheep, and therefore people powered search engines will never fly. Most people want things to be presented to them rather than sift through information to make up their own minds. Maybe I have a bad view of most people, but I do thing that the majority of people clicking on my ads and buying my products can't even tell the difference between ads and real content (nor do they want to). The only way to get rid of the Google's strangle hold is to educate the consumer to be a better judge of what is bein presented to them.

I tried to create a website dedicated to this, but it is bombing. Probably because Aaron is right... you can't teach or sell people things they don't want. People don't want to think, they want to be lead, they do not want to know about the Google results and what they mean, therefore they are sheep.

PS I appologize for the long comment... too much left over nog

December 27, 2007 - 5:31am

Hi Alexander
Sure most people do not want to think, but most people want to believe in something. The tighter and more original the marketing message is the faster it will spread. And you are not aiming at the lazy people with this type of marketing messages, you start off with the influencers and then watch it spread from there. I highly recommend reading Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point.

If there is one thing people are more than lazy it is selfish.

Powered by me. Wow...

December 27, 2007 - 1:56am

One thing that I dont really understand is their marketing message of the whole open-source thing and 'transparency' saying that it's bad that search engines keep their algorithms a secret.

If I told my friends how search engines evaluate pages and that they use links, etc. some would find that interesting to know, but most of them couldn't care less really. And as you sort of suggest (flipsideinvest) this would go against the usability principle 'don't make me think'.

Are they really just saying this to appeal to the open source developers whose help they want to get the project going?

I think a better marketing message might be 'Google is storing and using your data'. Many people I know would be freaked out if they heard about that hehe

December 27, 2007 - 5:34am

Hi Patrick
I think you have to think about it 5 years or 20 years down the road. If one company has the ability to kill other businesses at will, or silence opinions they do not like, is the world better or worse for it?

Even if Google is a great company, eventually they will do some shady stuff (as all companies eventually do). Diversity and openness make the marketplace better for consumers.

December 27, 2007 - 3:50pm

Yes, I'm all for an open market place and against a near-monopoly like Google is at the moment, so Im looking forward to seeing wikiasari launch. However, I'm wondering why they stress so much that wikiasari is 'transparent' and that Google being a 'black box' is a bad thing, etc..

I mean honestly, I think most internet users could not care less how pages are ranked as long as they find what they want. Before I got into SEO knowing how pages are ranked would have been kinda interesting and all, but I couldnt really have cared less about how they do it if I find my stuff :-).

So I was wondering if maybe they're stressing that stuff so much to reinforce the worldview of a group of people that's especially important for them. Maybe not the 'connectors' in this case, but the workforce they'll need to make this happen - open source developers (who share that opinion that it's extremely important to see how stuff is done). If I read a bit here and there about wikiasari (wikia search?) and I think somewhere I read they were trying to get developers across the world to do their job for them (though they didnt put it like that), which would make me understand why they stress the 'transparency' of their search engine so much as it'd help get those people on board.

December 27, 2007 - 4:23pm

I'm wondering why they stress so much that wikiasari is 'transparent' and that Google being a 'black box' is a bad thing, etc..

Everyone has to have a marketing angle. You sound like you already understand it, but after Google destroyed one of your businesses or cloned one of your software projects you would probably appreciate their angle. Also, if you spent a lot of time developing applications on Google's search soap API only to see them take that API program away you would appreciate the open marketing angle.

December 28, 2007 - 9:39am

I hope you didnt misunderstand me Aaron: I do understand how you feel about Google's policy b/c they handedited a site on which you worked really hard, simply b/c you're known as an SEO and they found out it was your site. I would definitely feel the same way about that.

That's one of the things (probably the only thing) I dislike about SEO as opposed to other traffic work hard on something and it's worth it knowing you will/should rank eventually b/c you're doing pretty much everything right, but in the end somebody could simply handedit you out of the results for some bogus reason (I dont think that will happen to somebody whos still doing it on a small scale like myself in the near future, but I still find it a bit disturbing).

As an SEO I do appreciate such a transparent approach/marketing angle, but I think searchers (not us SEOs) couldn't really care less about that approach. And trying to get SEOs on their side is probably not what they intend to do with that marketing angle (I mean we're not crucial to their success). So I was just curious what the plan behind their marketing angle might be and if maybe they were trying to appeal to the open source developers by stressing that so much (as they are crucial to their success b/c they want to get them to help them with the development of wikia search, if I understood it correctly).

I didn't mean to say that I dont appreciate a transparent approach - I do :-). I was just curious why they were using that marketing angle and stressing it so much, because I think knowing how pages are ranked doesn't seem to be something that most searchers care about.

P.S.: Did the cloning of a software project and the taking away of an API program happen to you, too?

December 28, 2007 - 3:11pm

They stopped handing out SOAP API kits, and my website health check tool was blocked right before Google rolled those features into Google webmaster central.

December 28, 2007 - 9:04pm

Damn, I didnt know that...I only remember how you launched that tool, but never heard that it was blocked and that Google basically stole that from you

December 29, 2007 - 9:41pm


A. ...does google and other not modify their algos so that short and and generic two word phrases pull up generalist sites like wikipedia, amazon, and leave longer searches to more topic focused sites ? i am so tired of seeing the same type of sites in all my search results.


B. ...not have an option to "search big popular websites" and "search smaller, lesser known sites"

Ok, so an option would be unfeasible, but you get the idea. I have constantly seen a need for this on some type of search engine. maybe leverage google like Ask,.com does, or a toolbar/firefox plugin; which checks Alexa to eliminate say, top 1000 sites or something i wouldn't want to go above 2000, cause then your site would be gone too).

I have thought about this for years but am not a developer myself, otherwise I would have made one.

December 29, 2007 - 11:00pm

I think the current dominance of Wikipedia, etc. by Google is as much to hold back spam from ranking as it is to actually be relevant to the queries.

As/if content quality improves on smaller sites AND larger sites start becoming more interactive platforms with spammy user generated content I suspect the reliance on domain authority as a core ranking signal will be depreciated to some degree.

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