Lycos Wants to Give You a Second Opinion

Accepting it won’t be users’ first choice in the hot product search space, Lycos is positioning itself as a good place to get a second opinion. It has done that by integrating shopping into its “Side Search” browser add-on, launching it for the holiday buying season.

Side Search, originally released in July, appears in a box on the left-hand side of the browser when people search on popular search engines, giving them alternative results for their search terms. Now, searches at e-commerce and comparison shopping sites will also activate Side Search. The tool displays relevant product results, delivered through Lycos’ revenue-sharing partnership with BizRate.com.

“As the market consolidates the top three or four are getting bigger, forcing the smaller players to get more clever about executing their business,” said Tom Wilde, global manager of search services for Lycos. “We are able to share in some of the success of the bigger players by positioning ourselves as a second opinion.”

A shopping search in the “Side Search” box returns first a list of shopping categories, which allow a user to narrow the search results. Below that, a list of products, complete names, descriptions, thumbnails and photos, appears. BizRate uses an Overture-style auction model to rank results, placing the highest bidder on top. Clicking on any of the results delivers the user to a Lycos Shopping page featuring the product, and others at that site that match the search query.

“All this is sort of shortening the effort of finding a comparison result,” said Wilde.

Shopping search, which includes product, price and store comparison, has become a hot category as the holiday season approaches. Lycos launched its own shopping site back in May, in partnership with BizRate.com. DealTime re-launched as Shopping.com in September; Yahoo introduced shopping search features not long after; and Ask Jeeves has also made an entry into the space.

Lycos developed Side Search based on studies indicating the average Web user visits 2.5 search engines per month. So far, Wilde says it’s been very successful in increasing the volume of searches on Lycos, which gets its algorithmic results from FAST’s Alltheweb and Inktomi, and carries paid listings from Overture.

Across all categories, the company has seen approximately a 50 percent increase in search volume, said Wilde. Wilde added that clickthrough rates in the side panel are “very strong” and the uninstall rate has been below what the company forecast.

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