AOL goes a-searching
By Charlene Li
AOL released a lot of news around its search strategy, summarized well by John Batelle here (it sounds like we got the same briefing). I’ve included some screenshots that AOL provided. Download aol_search_12005_screenshots.ppt
A couple of thoughts:
- Welcome back to the portal/search race, AOL! Although they never really left, many watchers had considered them a non-player. The fact remains that they have a significant audience and are focused on re-building it, especially with its AOL.com efforts. Their new search efforts (including shopping, local, and desktop) will all raise the company’s visibility.
- AOL has long maintained that they didn’t need to own an algorithmic search engine to play in the search space. I agree with that because they’re able to pick and choose from the best of breed players out there. AOL’s revamped local search (which won’t be available until sometime later this quarter) will be built around FAST, not Google, presumably because FAST will be more flexible and integrate in properties like MapQuest and AOL Yellow Pages. Other partnerships include best-of-breed Copernic for desktop search (I love how quick, light, yet powerful Copernic is) and Ingenio for pay-per-call advertising.
- It’s becoming clear that AOL’s core competency will have to be integrating all of these technologies into an amazing experience for their users. AOL VP & GM of Search Gerry Campbell said, “You win at search with an emotional experience. We can win someone over with a great experience and if that happens, we’ll lock that person in long term.” Gerry has a point here – search loyalty is up for grabs and AOL has the right arsenal to win back defectors.
- Last point: It will be interesting to see how AOL integrates Ingenio’s pay-per-call listings with Google AdWords within its local search offering. They weren’t able to discuss details (I think they’re still trying to figure it out themselves). Which ads will appear where, and how advertisers will manage cross-platform buys remains to be seen.