Oodle Upgrades Search Features

Classifieds search engine Oodle has improved its search functionality and added tools and information to make it easier for users to conduct repeated searches and ultimately make a buying decision.

Oodle, which began as a free classifieds aggregator, has grown in size and scope to include more services and content around the search results. It’s also expanded its business model, offering premium placement opportunities similar to search ads like AdWords, as well as a partner distribution network that’s rolling out over the next few months.

“When we started the company, our goal was to improve how people buy and sell locally. We came out as a search engine for classifieds, but our vision has always been much broader,” Faith Sedlin, Oodle’s co-founder and VP of marketing, told SEW.

The latest incarnation, which Sedlin calls “Oodle 2.0,” centers around three main goals: make searching simple; make it easy for users to keep coming back and save their information; and give users the information they need to make a buying decision.

To improve its search experience, Oodle has redesigned and better integrated features it had before, as well as added new features and improved search on the back end. Oodle uses some core technology from FAST, coupled with technology it has built in-house to crawl and parse classifieds.

Giving structure to the millions of “messy” classifieds ads it indexes is no easy task, says Sedlin. But Oodle can apply semantic analysis to a listing to do just that, so it knows that a listing for “2 BR in SF” means a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, she said.

Once it applies structure to the data, Oodle can also expose that structure in the form of drill-down tools for multiple criteria on its search results pages. For jobs, users can filter results by job category or title, or by industry or company. For real estate, users can plot listings on a map with a “search by distance” feature, to see just where all the [2 BR in Williamsburg” might be. For cars, there are the standard make and model breakdowns, but also the “search by distance” feature, which locates listings on a map.

All listings also offer compiled and historical data showing how often the results of a query are expected to change. For example, users looking for [SEO jobs in New York” today are shown 100 listings, and told that 20 more are expected next week. While searchers for a [Ford F-100 pickup” will find just 8 results, with only one more listing expected in the next week.

All results also offer additional data to place the results in context, such as average price for similar items in the past. For the 2 bedroom apartment example, Oodle shows several graphs alongside the results, noting average rental prices for a 2 bedroom apartment in New York, Brooklyn and Flushing. It also shows a distribution of prices for all the available 2 bedroom apartments currently listed. Similar types of data are shown for vehicles, with average prices, and mileage for area vehicles shown.

Data is gathered from past market data trends in Oodle’s database, and is updated daily. It’s intended to help searchers put things in perspective, Sedlin said. “It gives them an expectation of how easy it’s going to be to find what they’re searching for, and whether it would make sense to sign up for an alert,” she said. Users can choose to be notified daily, hourly, or instantly.

The improved search functionality is not only good for users, but for advertisers as well, Sedlin says. By allowing users to self-qualify themselves before clicking through to an ad, advertisers are ensured more qualified visitors, she says. For Oodle, this is beneficial because it leads advertisers to bid more for the top spot in its ads, since they expect more qualified leads, she says.

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