Blekko Launch Heralds Rise of Social Search


searchADOTAS – Another year, another search engine: Blekko has expanded from limited private beta and is open to all who feel like employing slashtags for advanced searching options and viewing community-approved search results. Yep, it’s a social search engine, with an impressive $24 million in a funding to back it up.

While it has some nifty features like an SEO button for each search result that takes you to an analytics page (though what the rankings mean isn’t obvious) and a spam button that will remove a site from all your searches forever (but let’s say you change your mind and want it back?), Blekko is not the future of search — if anybody uses the term Google-killer, I suggest slapping him or her ASAP.

Marketing Pilgrim’s Andy Beal makes the point that “Any search engine that requires a video tutorial is not destined for mainstream success.” While attitudes could change, users don’t seem anxious to get into relationships with their search engines, but that’s what Blekko is offering — basically a social network based around customized search.

The main selling point of Blekko seems to be its ability to avoid “spam” in searches and get to the meat as the community decides — in other words, bypass junk websites that game Google through SEO. Many in this industry will tell you that SEO is about far more than gaming Google’s algorithm (people who do it well know it’s not even about that) and the amount of lousy hits in Google search results isn’t something that people scream and moan about.

Business Insider’s Henry Blodgett also makes a simple point — Google isn’t broken, and I’ll add that Blekko doesn’t improve on Big G’s engine, just complicates it. I got similar results in Google without using slashtags, and honestly Google Instant made it far faster to search. The coolest feature is the spam button, which is the equivalent of a dislike button.

The bigger problem is the content itself has become crappier. I’ve given up on many of my favorite commentary sites because their top stories began to look more and more like attempts to cash in with pageviews on the latest public zeitgeist instead of publishing interesting thought pieces. Web content providers have turned themselves into slaves for Google out of desperation — but is that Google’s fault?

Of course, one’s mind immediately goes to content farms like Demand Media or crap aggregators such as Newser. Lately I found myself painfully viewing a Demand-produced video tutorial on a piece of music software, but it was the best one I found. All the UGC on YouTube was laughably awful and the software maker’s own video tutorials were surprisingly unhelpful. Part of Demand’s model is filling in content gaps at the lowest possible production price. Demand isn’t spam, it just tends to be cheap.

So how do we get better content? Well Blekko has one idea — socialize search. But Blekko is the upstart, trying to build a network to socialize its results, while Google and Facebook already have a wealth of social data waiting to be put into action.

The question Blekko’s launch has made me ponder is as Google socializes its core components, will it offer a similar search process? When I search will Google customize my results by analyzing my contacts’ queries and clicks? Will Facebook attempt to do the same?

Do I even want that?



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