GoTo Going Strong

GoTo Going Strong

From The Search Engine Report
July 1, 1998
(a longer version is available to site subscribers)

Pay-for-placement search service hit both advertising and traffic milestones in June, while also enhancing its search results.

The service announced that more than 1,000 sites are now paying for prominent placement at the top of its search results, and that it has begun serving a million page views a day, thanks to a new publicity campaign.

GoTo also enhanced its results by partnering with Inktomi, while adding new directory listings and a browser-based way to drill down into the service.

GoTo switched to a pay-for-placement model in February. Advertisers can open accounts and bid on how much they'll pay to appear at the top of results in response to specific searches. Advertisers are currently paying anywhere from one cent to one dollar a click, GoTo says.

"We could have signed up perhaps more advertisers over this time period, but we've been laying the groundwork to scale up to 10,000 advertisers," said CEO Jeffrey Brewer.

Part of the groundwork has been educating advertisers to write appropriate descriptions for their paid links and to ensure that those links take users to the most appropriate sections of their sites, Brewer said.

GoTo has also ramped up its publicity campaign in recent weeks, which it says has increased traffic to the site. Banner ads began running in key places such as the Netscape Net Search page, GeoCities and LookSmart. Ads will soon begin at Microsoft and Lycos. The company also has radio and outdoor campaigns planned.

All those new visitors are finding a greatly improved service, thanks to a partnership with Inktomi.

Previously, GoTo's non-paid results had come from the World Wide Web Worm crawler that GoTo acquired for its original launch in 1997. Those results were looking decidedly dated. When Inktomi took over in late May, they immediately improved.

Of course, GoTo's model is based on the idea that its paid listings will make it more relevant than other services, especially for general searches. Cash equals quality is the theory, and web sites that pay more are probably better sites, GoTo feels. Ultimately, the accuracy of this remains with each individual user.

What is significant is that there have been no great outcries or bad publicity about GoTo's pay-for-placement model, as had accompanied the last great experiment with paid listings by Open Text back in 1996.

Perhaps the web has matured, and these type of economic models are more acceptable. Perhaps as GoTo founder Bill Gross originally speculated at the launch earlier this year, GoTo would succeed because as a relatively new service, it had no reputation to taint with paid listings.

Or perhaps it is what Brewer thinks: no one cares how the results are determined, as long as they personally find them relevant.

"Quite frankly, there's no understanding of how any service provides results," Brewer said. "If consumers are satisfied, they really are not interested in the mechanism."

In other search changes, GoTo has introduced "Related Searches" categories at the top of some search results pages. For example, a search for cars suggests checking "used cars" or "auto parts," among other options.

GoTo is also planning to allow a second page of results to appear on the service. Currently, a search brings up 40 matches on a single page, with no way to request more.

Some users have requested the ability to dig deeper, and some popular categories such as "hardware" and "web hosting" now have so many paid listings that a second page option will soon be necessary to accommodate more.

GoTo Sells Positions
The Search Engine Report, March 3, 1998