Blekko have announced a major upgrade which increases their automatic slashtags ("auto-slashing") to cover 500 content categories and rolling out their new UI.
Slashtags are used to bring back the most relevant, quality results on Blekko in any given vertical, such as health, news, or religion, for example. Slashtags like /date or /blog can also bring back certain types of results within the category and users can use multiple slashtags in a single query to drill deeper into results. As Mike Markson, co-founder and VP-Marketing explains to Search Engine Watch, Blekko “believes you’re better off as a user not searching the entire internet, but the top sites, because that’s where the quality content resides.”
When they first launched, said Markson, they “autofired” slashtags on eight categories. When the engine could tell which category the query belonged to, it automatically applied the slashtag to limit the query to just the top 50 to 100 quality sites within that vertical.
In July 2011, they upped automatic slashtagging to cover 100 categories. With this latest upgrade, Blekko will autofire slashtags on 500 categories. Their goal, according to Markson, is to reach 1000 categories identified as candidates for the technology within the next six months.
The new UI is partially the result of increased automatic slashtags. In the previous UI, said Markson, they were trying to show as many features as possible to the user. Now that they are autofiring slashtags, Blekko doesn’t need as many buttons and it’s a lot cleaner. “We are excited about the look and feel; it’s a sleek, nice way to produce search results and we think users are really going to like it,” he said.
One interesting slashtag is /monte. Despite the posturing and mud-slinging between Bing and Google, their results can be quite similar. Users will find that they have the same editorial voice, said Markson. Steve Ballmer admitted as much himself at the Web 2.0 Summit this fall, telling Mark Battelle, “Take any search you want and try it out on Bing, and try it out on Google... 70 percent of the time, you probably won’t care, 15 percent of the time you’ll probably like us better, and 15 percent of the time you’ll like the other guy better.”
Results using /monte are like a blind taste test. Type in any query - one column is a result from Google, one from Bing, and one from Blekko. According to Markson, “We found that when we can autofire a slash tag, we win that test 68% of the time. People really do notice the difference between curated results and other results.”
Blekko’s algorithmic approach is not link-based, but source-based. Human curation lets actual people identify top sites, with a team of former librarians on staff helping to curate slashtags and create new ones. Launched about a year ago, site traffic continues to grow month over month and they just closed a $30 million round of funding at the end of September, with Russian search engine Yandex contributing $15 million.
What do you think of Blekko’s new UI and automatic slashtags?