No longer do you have to weed through hundreds or thousands of search results to find a discussion forum or product specs for Aston Martin’s Vanquish. With Become, you can search for ‘Aston Martin Vanquish’ or any other product and then filter by Product Reveiws, Buying Guides, Discussion Forums, and Product Details.
As Jon Glick, Become’s Sr. Director of Product Search told me, “users can see what type of listing it is before going into it.” I think this is an extremely useful feature. My original search results for ‘Aston Martin Vanquish’ (yes, I’m obsessed) contained 171, 573 results vs. the 51 returns for discussion forums (which I really wanted). This is a search engine starting to answer my questions as opposed to just returning a bunch of irrelevant results.
So how does this work? Jon immediately went over my head in his explanation (all of you know how sophomoric my tech undertanding is), but here’s what I was able to grok. The 4 month project started with human input to define the parameters for a buying guide or discussion forum (a buying guide has characteristics X, Y, and Z while a discussion forum has characteristics D, R, Q, and Y). Then the machine learning takes over, looking at each and every page that Become.com crawls to try to put it in a bucket. But this has to be done in an efficient manner balancing precision and recall and this has to be done for all 4 filters. And then there’s the added issue that one web page can be both a product review and product detail page (think Amazon’s product pages). As a marketer, I have no idea how difficult this is to pull off, but it didn’t sound easy and I don’t see many other companies with a similar feature set.
What immediately came to mind when Jon explained Search Zoom was Kosmix’s filtering and personalization options. Kosmix also crawls the web, searching over 3.2b pages, and has what I’d consider advanced filtering options. The company also looks at individual web pages, not just the website as a whole.
So if I find the results from Become’s Search Zoom so helpful, why don’t the general search engines do this? Jon explained “If you’re a general purpose search engine, you can’t have 30 buttons across the top. As a vertical search engine, we just wanted to limit the choices to the decisions that people who need to make a buying decision need. We have a more constrained problem. We can help people in ways that Google as a general search engine can’t.”
With Search Zoom, Become has an extremely useful and easy to understand product which it should try to syndicate. As I mentioned last week in reference to Zillow’s partnership with Yahoo!, biz dev deals are an attractive alternative to spending millions on the PPC engines. First on the biz dev list should be Shopping.com. Become is syndicating Shopping.com’s price comparison listings to supplement its own…there’s already a relationship. Shopping.com recently added a ‘Buying Guides’ section…this could be 227x better with Become’s assistance.