Friday, May 29, 2009

Search Insider: What's New In Search?

What's New In Search?

There is so much going on recently in the search space, I cannot even decide where to begin.  Wolfram|Alpha, Kumo...I mean Bing ,and possibly something else before I complete this column. I am going to focus on these two today. 

Let's start with Wolfram|Alpha.  I am a fan.  You just have to use it appropriately.  It is a fact finder, not a search engine as we are used to the idea of a search engine.  Play with it a little and you will be quite impressed with the facts you can learn about your query.  For instance, try your birthday on Google, Yahoo and Wolfram|Alpha.  My search query for my birthday was formatted month/day/year (two digit year).  Google and Yahoo both assume a mathematical equation and divide month into day and the result into year, equating to 0.0039018952. On the other hand, Wolfram|Alpha tells me some cool things about my birth date.  I get the exact number of years, months and days that have passed.  It is National Hot Dog Day and I share my date of birth with a singer, Stephanie Sun.  Oh yes, and the phase of the moon was waning gibbous moon, which means it was 86.89% illuminated.  

Bragging rights will be awarded to the first search geek that figures out my birthdate and posts it as a comment.

 Maybe there is no value to this information, but this was my exploratory searching, or rather querying, on   I was simply getting a feel for it.  The next day, I had a very practical use for this new tool.  In the process of budget forecasting for the remainder of the year for a client, I queried June - December 2009.  I was hoping to get the total number of days without thinking about it myself.  Wolfram|Alpha not only told me the number of days, but also the number of weekdays.  How did it know my project was for a B2B client that focuses the bulk of the budget on weekdays?  And just like that, I became a fan.

It isn't a Google killer, though.  In fact, despite my admiration, the majority of my search queries still occur on Google.  It is a new tool that some will adopt for specific purposes.  There are not results to comb through, it is just the facts.


Microsoft is just days away from launching a rebranded, new and improved search engine.  Rather than regurgitate any of the commentary that has already been published about Bing, I want to focus on Microsoft's sentiments during this rollout.  They are confident and even proactive.  Already, our ad reps are prepping us for "an increase in impressions".  Backed by the largest marketing budget since the Xbox, I certainly hope they get some bang, or should I say Bing, for their buck.

Conversion rates and ROI are almost always better on Microsoft than any other engine, so I can only hope that the quality is maintained and volume increases.  Will this be Microsoft's search savior?  Only time will tell, but I can guarantee I will give it a shot.  

Janel Landis is vice president of search marketing at SendTec, Inc., a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based direct response agency specializing in search engine marketing and direct response television. She can be reached at

Search Insider for Friday, May 29, 2009:

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