Search Engine Blekko Brings Human Evaluation to Search Results
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a more dynamic experience, where readers can share stories and vote on them. They also created a “This Rockz” button that users can install in their browser to share stories more easily.
“It’s an interesting foray for us, Skrenta says. “ROCKZi is sort of a search result with a social layer built in. We’re pretty happy with how it has gone—our user stats are pretty strong.”
A few months in, the site has a retention rate hovering at 65 percent for socially initiated visits to ROCKZi, and it has an average site time visit of five minutes, which is on the long side for a news site.
Like the other search engines out there, Blekko’s business plan relies on ad sales. But the company doesn’t use display ads, instead relying totally on search-based ads. “Search ads are so much more important compared to display ads, because they represent intent,” Skrenta says. But not everyone who searches on Blekko will see ads at this point. Right now, only traffic from search partners like anti-virus software maker Lavasoft is monetized, meaning users who come directly to Blekko won’t see ads.
Despite the fact that Blekko is a start-up entering a market dominated (at least in the U.S.) by only two behemoth search engines, the company has managed to get some attention—and a whole lot of funding. Last September, Blekko closed a $30 million fundraising round that included investors like Russian search engine Yandex and U.S. Venture partners, bringing its total to a whopping $50 million. The company has also grown from that core engineering team to a group of 43.
To grow Blekko’s user base, Skrenta has headed to trade shows around the country. At a recent convention he found out that Blekko has a particular fan base: Librarians.
“Librarians appreciate trusted sources — -they understand the value in restricting a search to a reference collection,” Skrenta says.