Zoo and Pronto

(The digg/slashdot/techmeme wave is subsiding, so I’m re-posting this now.)

Tara Calishain takes a new search engine out for a test drive. She does the search [wii] on zoo.com, the new kid-friendly search engine from InfoSpace. Check out the results:

A [wii] search on Zoo.com

Did you spot the sponsored link? Look at result #5. See the “Sponsored by: www.walmart.com/”? That’s right, result #5 in the search results is an ad. ๐Ÿ™‚

Strangely enough, just a few days ago I did the query [wii] recently on Pronto, the new shopping search engine from IAC. When I did that search, I got two sponsored results, but look at the third result:

Search for [wii] on Pronto

The description looks like it’s for a game, but the picture looked like it was for a book. So I clicked on that result, and got a mishmash of products:

The first Pronto result for [wii]

If you did a search for [wii] on a search engine, would you prefer to get a) ads mingled in with the results, or b) have the first result be strappy shoes, stained glass, and books? ๐Ÿ™‚ Joking aside, it makes the point that search is hard, and doing it well is a challenge for any company.

18 Responses to Zoo and Pronto (Leave a comment)

  1. That is not Search – It is Advertising!

    This kind of advertising (placing ads inside search results) is also against the FTC’s advisory.

    I think we need a few more complaints filed with the FTC…

    Running search is not that hard… sneaking/slipping the advertising in the search results so no one notices is hard…

  2. Matt,

    I want to ask you a question that’s not related to this topic. Where is the best place to do this?



  3. “doing it well is a challenge for any company”

    you said it. google hudson 34667 and the google maps link says “Map of Hudson, IN 34667”

    the zip code for hudson, IN is 46747
    the 34667 zip code is hudson, FL

  4. Even Google has trouble: http://www.fusednation.com/seo/davens-search-test-mattcuttscouk/ ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Back on topic – adverts embedded within results aren’t all that bad as long as they are a) clearly labelled as results and b) relevant. I mean, Adwords for eBay (buy “careers” on eBay, buy “dead dogs” on eBay) are poorly targeted and unrelevant (and in some cases highly innappropriate).

    Maybe for searches where people are clearly looking to buy things could be more weighted towards sponsored listings? IMO that would be fairly appropriate and probably reasonably well recieved by the average user.


  5. Matt,

    Sorry to get off-topic, are you going to be in London in Feb for the SES?


  6. Talking of Wii, ha sthis suddenly become privvy to some special filter? The serps chnaged MASSIVELEY last week for Wii related terms, and we went from top 5 to 500+, without doing anything bad at all. Some data centers are still showing the “good” (for us) results, but most have bombed us. So are there any special Wii filters in place?

  7. My informal results for the ‘Winner of the Wii Search’ is…


    Sorry, Wiki as the #2 result seems a wii bit off. And Youtube at #10 is just plain bad.

  8. The Pronto issue, is probably a unification issue where Pronto accidentally mis-unified the book “Wild Fire” by Nelson DeMille with the Wii game “Sonic and the Secret Rings”.

    Unification being, in product search, the programmatic identifying of items from different retailers as being the same item for the sake of product comparison. In this case, the product is available at 11 different merchants. Unification is the cornerstone of Comparison Shopping, since without the ability to determine the sameness of products, you cannot provide price comparison across the spectrum of retailers.

    This type of unification error is most glaringly painful in a case like this where they are displaying a “product object” or aggregate view of product data to represent this product in singular fashion. Oftentimes this “product object” is the Frankenstein’s Monster of multiple retailer’s or item’s data pieced together.

    This particular error also shows that Pronto is indexing the shared content for a unified product and applying it to all products that they believe unify. This is an attempt to provide consistent search results when merchants are unable to provide consistent data across the same product. The obvious issue with this technique is when a product is mis-unified and inherits bad content, it will show up for searches where it should not.

  9. So whats up with the guys who are doing the Google Page Creator. It sets a default robots.txt file to disallow all. It seems like no one would want to publish information thats not going to be found a read?

  10. Matt,

    I would certainly prefer ads separated form search. It’s very sneaky. If you put the shoe on the other foot (is that how the saying goes?) and we did this with adsense in the same way we would probably be breaking TOS.

  11. I see this post ending in a “(By the way,” that’s not finished…

  12. Ok, Ok, Ok, matt we know that google’s the best!!!
    Hee hee…

    BTW, you might want to click my name. Helpful article for you.

  13. I preffer the Google approach with the PPC ads on the right so I know which results to ignore ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. The other common sites that I find really annoying are these slightly misspelled domains that pose as Search Engines displaying nothing but ads. Sure there is a disclaimer “Sponsored Links” but it’s clear that the site doesn’t want you to notice those two little words. Arenโ€™t these kinds of sites just web spam abusing systems like Google Adwords simply to get payments from Google and the advertiser without really providing the advertiser with a quality site visit. Really, tricking someone into viewing or clicking on a advertisement โ€ฆ isnโ€™t that clearly spam.

    Note to Matt: I just submitted a comment in the post about Hacked sites before I read this post and it is probably more appropriate to this post.

  15. It’s not worth going into; pruned. Thanks for mentioning it, Philipp.

  16. Pay per click models make this misleading click activity profitable where cost per sale or cost per action advertising models should tend to better align the needs of the user, advertiser, and publisher. Unfortunately for users and advertisers and happily for publishers and Google shareholders there is a lot of milk left in the PPC cow.

  17. I actually blogged about the Zoo issue earlier with my thoughts on the search engine as a whole, primarily in response to the ResearchBuzz blog post on the matter:

  18. Meta search engines like Dogpile have been doing this for years…and I just noticed that Zoo is owned by the same folks who own Dogpile.