New Search Startups: Positioning Is the Key

It goes without saying that any new “horizontal” search engine must be very good. But competing with Google by making claims about nouveau technology or algorithms is a waste of time. Regular people won’t get it and won’t care. And many of the VCs investing in these companies are simply deluded about potential success.

Any success against Google (and Yahoo!) in search is going to come because of smart marketing (again the engine must work from the get-go).

The Jimmy Wales’ Wikisari social search effort is interesting to me but not for the obvious reasons. The public absolutely doesn’t care about whether Google and Yahoo! aren’t “transparent” enough. But Wales, the man, is emerging in the PR and media pieces as a kind of search populist, which is a marketing hook that has some legs I think.

Many people now see Google as a kind of scary search monopoly, no longer the cool upstart company it once was — although today someone in a meeting likened Brin and Page to Willy Wonka and the Googleplex to his candy factory. Putting that aside, Google is a big powerful company, a long way from its humble beginnings.

There may be enough regular people who may care about Google’s market power to give a “populist engine” — engine of the people — a shot and use it, if it works.

Any success that might happen will partly be about the content, structure and user experience of Wikisari but also about marketing and positioning. If it’s just a new search engine that delivers “more transparent” results because of its human edited content — fuggedaboudit.

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Related: Danny Sullivan posts about Ask’s “guerilla marketing” campaign in the UK against “the information monopoly” (aka Google).


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