The Snap.com search engine is expected to relaunch today with a variety of user interface changes — chief among them a page preview and the interspersing of sponsored results with organic listings.
The left side of the search results page shows text summaries of each site, with ads designated by a “sponsored result” tag, and the right side displays a preview of whichever site is highlighted on the left. Advertisers can customize the right-hand preview that is displayed in conjunction with their ads. Users can scroll down to display different previews and, on some browsers, even interact with the actual site on the right pane without leaving the search engine. The idea is to avoid the phenomenon in which users click through to search results pages only to click back when they find it’s not what they wanted.
“The ubiquity of broadband allows us to do things in a different way,” Tom McGovern, CEO of Perfect Market, the parent of Snap.com, told ClickZ. Perfect Market is part of the Idealab network, which spawned search pioneer Overture, later acquired by Yahoo.
Other players, notably Ask.com with its binoculars feature, have experimented with offering users previews of landing pages, but Snap.com’s previews are larger and they permit more interaction than those of others.
Though some might argue that interspersing ads with organic results would result in a commercially tainted service, McGovern contends that sponsored links can be very relevant on certain searches.
The company uses a combination of factors to rank results including post-click behavior, conversion ratings, text analysis and link analysis. Because Snap.com allows advertisers to buy on a cost-per-action basis, it must gathers information on conversions from advertisers’ sites. It uses that information to rank results. The company also buys anonymous clickstream data from third parties to analyze post-click behavior.
“By using the power of the masses and all their brainpower, we synthesize that into people’s intent,” said McGovern. Later, McGovern said the company wasn’t in any hurry to overtake Google or Yahoo. “This is a type of search that some people will like now. In five years’ time, I think it’ll be an important part of search.”
In conjunction with the launch, Snap.com is conducting a contest called “The Other Way to Launch.” Until June 9, the company will solicit marketing and advertising ideas from its audience, asking them to post them to its blog and vote on others’ suggestions. At the end of that time, the company will award $5,000 to the person whose idea got the most votes. It will also give $5,000 to the blog that refers the person with the winning idea.