Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Scratch and Sniff: I Have a Hunch that's the Smell of Victory

In today's Search Insider, I cover a lot of ground...

-All the various ways people search (along with ways information is returned to them)
-Positioning of the various search engines
-Comparison of Google to McDonald's and Bing to Wendy's
-Advice for Microsoft on how to better brand and advertise Bing
-Specific examples of the options people have for querying
-Reminder that everything comes down to decision-making and that's why Hunch is more than just the flavor of the month

I wrote this column on the plane back from vacation this past weekend. My wife asked me what the topic was so I explained. She argued that not all searches she does are related to making a decision. So I asked for an example. It played out much like I envision a convo with my daughter will go when she's old enough to ask, "Why?"

"Sometimes I know what website I want to go to and just google it to get there," she said. Then the decision you're making is "What's the fastest way to find website X?"

"Sometimes I just want to browse and find a funny video." Then the decision you're making is "How should I spend the next 30 minutes entertaining myself?" or "What video will make me laugh?"

"What if I just want to learn about snorkeling?" Then the decision you're trying to make is "Where can I learn about snorkeling?"

"What if I just want to know when the Cubs are playing?" It's still likely tied to a decision. "Can the next Cubs game fit into my calendar?" or "Should I drive to that restaurant near Wrigley Field or take the CTA?"

Finally she realized she was not winning this one and gave up. (Hopefully, it will be that easy with my daughter!)

I realize it's all a game of semantics but I really do think every single search query ultimately ladders up to some decision a person is trying to make. And, it's only after accepting that fact, that one can see the potential for a player like Hunch if it can really crack the code. As I acknowledge in my article though, it will take time for this utility to become truly useful.

Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with the proper analogy for what everything about McD's and fast food ladders up to. Quenching hunger? That leaves out the entertainment/social aspect of going there.

Accordingly, I couldn't think of what the ultimate McDonald's killer would be. A pill that satisfies your hunger, costs less than $1, smells like french fries, tastes like any food you imagine, and gives you the feeling of being social? Sounds like something out of Harry Potter! Perhaps, that's why McD has been the category leader for so long.

Ok, without further ado, here's the blurb...

The Many Flavors of Search
There are many ways to slice and dice search query intent: Navigation vs. browsing. Entertainment vs. information. Commercial vs. non-commercial. Accordingly, there are many different types of search engines: General vs. vertical. Real-time vs. all-time. Assets vs. answers. Pages vs. people. Facts vs. decisions. Whenever a search startup goes out to raise money or a stalwart rebrands or advertises to steal share, it typically focuses on one of the aforementioned flavors of search and sprinkles on a dash of differentiation.Of course, the irony in all this is that Google already serves most, if not all, of the flavors above in some shape or form. And it serves them well.

I love the smell of napalm in the morning... smells like victory!
Update: In a post on the Hunch blog Chris Dixon talks about how far Hunch has come in the few weeks since its launch (from 70% success rate to 81%) and how far it still has to go.

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