Thursday, February 09, 2006

Motivating switching from Google

Mike at TechDirt posts some good thoughts on Yahoo, MSN, and Amazon paying users or thinking about paying users to switch from Google:
With all three of these companies talking about bribery as a method to steal users away from Google, it becomes increasingly clear just how "sticky" ... Google really has become.

Getting people to switch is not easy. It can't just be about catching up, or being marginally better -- but about being so overwhelmingly better that people can't afford not to switch.
As Mike points out, one way to get people to switch is to be obviously better. That's what Google did to Altavista to steal the crown.

But there are other ways. In Microsoft's case, being the default search engine in the default browser in the default operating system means that, to use Google, people already need to make the effort to switch to Google. The trick might be just not to suck so bad that people make that switch when they get a new computer. Just being good enough could work here.

I think Yahoo has it harder, but, like Microsoft, Yahoo does have a group of people who use Yahoo every day for services like Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo News, and My Yahoo. These people are already on Yahoo, but are leaving to do their searches. Why? If you're on Yahoo, shouldn't it easier to use Yahoo Search than go to Google? Right now, it doesn't seem easier to me, but it should be.

With Amazon, Ask Jeeves, and the other smaller players, life is more difficult. These folks are unlikely to generate a better relevance rank that Google -- not unless Google trips and stops innovating like AltaVista did -- so a frontal assault is not a good option. Given that, if they look anything like Google, there's no reason to use them. They to be different. I think they should go after something -- question answering, personalization, social search, verticals -- that makes them obviously and clearly different than Google. It's the only way to get noticed.

But, bribing people to use their search engine? C'mon, that's just lazy, short-term thinking. Bribes are no way to inspire real loyalty. They would be much better off spending those dollars on making their product worth using.

[Found on Findory]


Arnab Nandi said...

(from my blog:)
No, that’s not true. The real reason Google is popular is because Yahoo! switched from Inktomi(in a way, AV) to Google as their search engine, complete with “powered by google” signage. So you have the #1 website on the Interweb telling everyone that Search = Google. Then, when search became important (because the Internet exploded in terms of content, and hence usefulness of web search), people had no trouble to switching from a huge portal to a dedicated search engine they already used.

Greg Linden said...

I don't agree, Arnab. Google grew popular because Altavista's search results were increasingly stale, irrelevant, and spammy. Google worked better, so people switched to it.

The Yahoo move was helpful to Google, sure, but I don't think it was the cause of Google's success.

Nathan Weinberg said...

Say, Greg, noticing your "Found on Findory" tagline, I thought, why not create a Found on Findory logo that bloggers can insert after their posts? I'd use it multiple times a day!

Anonymous said...

It remains a mystery to me as to why Yahoo!'s portal game never worked for it in the Search space

Either the Portal strategy is passe (or rather oh so Web 1.0-ish) or Y! just didn't do it right (in which case I really if anyone actually did it better)

The medium term outcome in this battle between Algorithmic / Personalised Search & Social Search would be very interesting

Anonymous said...

Amazon aren't the only people thinking about bribery. Bill Gates has mentioned the idea:

Microsoft to show search engine users the money

If it does get to the situation where all the web search engines are the same then paying users to use your search might not be a bad strategy.