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A New Entry into Customized Search

Kevin M. Ryan
A New Entry into Customized Search Kevin M. Ryan

Searching and the subsequent finding has become an essential part of our every day lives and advertising budgets. While Google is expanding its sphere of influence in going beyond the search box and Yahoo! is becoming the media master, a new search site begs the age old question; why not roll your own?

Rollyo, the brain child of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Pell, is the latest entry into the search-outside-the-box fray. Rollyo enables searchers to create their own search “roll” via an online interface in which users designate sites they want to search.

Customized search is not a new concept and there have been a few changes in the world of aggregated search results providers. Google, Yahoo and MSN still account for the lion’s share of search activity but the sheer amount of content raises a few questions about the future of customized search and how we think about search engine advertising.

Personal search

The idea of creating a unique spin on search has been around for some time. Grokker introduced the concept of visual search when the company created a downloadable interface that aggregated search results into spheres of relevance. Similarly, GuruNet has evolved into answers.com adding another dimension to the search box-to-consumer dialogue.

Yahoo has had the Mindset creation in beta for some time now-- an interface that uses machine learning to help separate commerce and information searching. Feedster searches blogs and podcasts for relevant information, thereby sparing users the task of adding through blogs.

When these providers first began to appear, the idea was simple; search engines did not provide a rich experience for surfers so a third party might be needed to create a better, more efficient experience using index data from existing search providers like Google and Yahoo.

Many of these providers have moved on from consumer markets into the lucrative enterprise search solutions arena. I could go on for hours on aggregating search activity, but you get the idea. There are options up the wazoo, so why haven’t these sites really caught on?

Little… different… Rollyo

Pell’s idea for Rollyo stemmed from his launch of Learning Bridge-- a search site that ventured out and crawled sites to find information for schools that participated in the Learning Bridge program. Several years later in September, 2005 the easy-to-use Rollyo interface was created to enable searchers a customized search of blogs and content destinations.

The Rollyo approach is quite dissimilar from other search aggregators. A search “roll” doesn’t replace a search engine, nor does it provide search results from other search sites.

For example, if you travel frequently and want to save time in searching travel sites, you can enter specific sites that you frequent for information on your destinations and eliminate those you don’t like. You can stick to the sites that have proved themselves bookmark worthy and save yourself the pain of wading through irrelevant information.

No E-Z Wider jokes please

If you don’t know what an E-Z Wider is, don’t worry. Time saving is just the beginning for those who would roll their own. Since I first rolled my own search engine for online advertising and media, I have begun to explore how other people search-- an activity that might just transcend the cute and interesting and graduate into the exciting world of advertising utility. 

“There is a social networking component that provides a list of sites others use,” says Pell. “It is a combination of search and site exploration via a referral or endorsement of how others roll their searches.”

Rollyo also has an enterprise search component. “We have an over-the-counter version for do-it- yourselfers and enterprise solution for publishers and content providers who rely upon advertiser revenue,” says Pell. 

Advertising opportunities are on the way. Future plans for Rollyo will include sponsored listings provided by a third party and expansion of Rollyo’s existing partner programs.

Opt-in search targeting?

Targeting in search is all the rage. Until now, buying behavior was the single determining factor for how effective a search campaign is for many advertisers. Contextual search advertising components are in a state of constant refinement with user intent in mind. MSN offers the best alternative to blindly bidding on search terms without consideration for audience dynamics.

What will the next evolution of search targeting look like?

What if your search advertising spend could be adjusted according to the sites other users have deemed interesting? What if the content search habits of users world wide were rolled into one very large database of trusted domains?

A new twist on search targeting would be a welcome change from the constant jostling of terms and while search aggregators have yet to reach critical mass, each new entry into the space provides us with a glimpse of what is yet to come in this complicated, forever changing "ecoplasty" we call search.

iMedia Search Editor Kevin Ryan’s current and former client roster reads like a “who’s who” in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. Ryan believes in sound guidance, creative thought, accountable actions and collaborative execution as applied to search, or any form of marketing. His principled approach and staunch commitment to the industry have made him one of the most sought after personalities in online marketing. Ryan volunteers his time with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, and several regional non-profit organizations.

Ryan is managing partner at Kinetic Results.

One of the obvious differences is the type of Twitter Card used. The two most engaging posts were promoted with the objective that Twitter refers to as "app installs or engagements." This means that when a user clicks on the Twitter Card, they are redirected to the app store, where they can download the app onto their iPhone, iPad or other Apple device.

On the other hand, the three Starbucks Rewards tweets were promoted with the objective of "website clicks or conversions," where users were redirected to the Starbucks Rewards web page.

Was the kind of card used the sole reason for the disparity in engagement? Unlikely. In fact, prevailing wisdom says that tweets with images garner higher engagement than those without. So, what gives?

Micro-targeting for business results

Most likely, Starbucks put Twitter's audience targeting to its best use. Did you know that on Twitter ads, you can target not only by gender, region, and language, but by device as well? Simply put, with their Twitter Card redirecting users to the app store, it made sense to target only iPhones, instead of wasting money or reach on other smartphone devices, or even on other iOS devices like iPads and Macs.

Another interesting tactic is the timing of these tweets -- during the post-lunch lull, when everyone is usually jonesing for coffee. What Starbucks banked on was a potential customer scrolling through their Twitter feed on their iPhone, not really able to focus on work after lunch, coming across the tweet, and downloading the app to find the nearest Starbucks. The entire strategy -- from start to finish -- is calculated to align with business objectives.

What can you learn from this?

It wasn't just one factor that made these tweets work so well for the brand. It wasn't just that they were paid for, because other promoted tweets received much lower engagement. It wasn't just the timing of the tweets, as there was no uniformity in engagement in the same time frame. It wasn't even just the type of card used. It was the combination of all these factors, coupled with the customer insights that Starbucks has undoubtedly gained that resulted in success.

The ultimate ROI for Starbucks (and any business) is customers who are ready to buy. Though we don't have access to the number of customers in the time period of this Twitter campaign, according to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz during their fourth quarter earnings call: "The Starbucks app processed $1.17 billion in 2013, and the company has already processed nearly $1.4 billion in 2014 by the app alone; it's expected to reach $2 billion by the end of 2014."

As social media heads towards a purely paid model for brands, it will be increasingly important to tie social marketing efforts to larger business objectives.

Rick Liebling is head of global marketing at Unmetric.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.


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