Search engines: Find it in a Snap!

snap logosnap logoLast month I attended an awards banquet hosted by Entretech and PWC, to celebrate high tech companies in the Los Angeles area. It was held at the gracious Athenaeum, in Caltech, Pasadena. Start-ups were recognized in 3 categories, ranging from revenues under a million to over 5 million. The search engine Snap was one of two IdeaLab companies that was nominated for an award - along with 7 others.

Snap.com took first prize in its category (revenue $1M to $5M). I had followed the company for a little while, and thought I would finally take a closer look at the search engine.

On the face of it, Snap looks similar to a lot of other alternative search engines. One nice feature is that clicking on any search result (not the url) shows a preview of the web page, without leaving the frame - a handy feature to have when you don’t want to get ambushed by those annoying parked domains selling random traffic.

So how well did the search itself work? I wanted to look up “tapefailure”, the site that lets your record and playback website visitor behavior (more on that in another post), so I entered “tape failure” as the search term. Snap showed tapefailure.com as its first result. Good work! On google, the site was nowhere to be found on the first page. The displayed results were mostly for tape backup systems, as were searches 2 onwards in Snap. Round one to Snap!

So how about a more commercially popular search term. This time I tried “Callaway Golf Clubs”. Both Snap and Google brought up the grand ol’ website callawaygolf.com at the top of their search.

But this is where I was a bit disappointed with Snap. The first 3 search results were golf related, but the next two were not (one was for an email program and the other was for high speed internet). Closer inspection revealed that next to the urls for these two results, there was a notation for “sponsored result”. The next set of results were unsponsored (and golf related) as were the first two. While I can understand that a search engine needs to generate revenue, I would at least have expected the sponsored results to be related to the primary search term.

One very cool feature that Snap has is Snap shots, those pop-up preview boxes that show up when you hover over snapshot logo next to a link on a web page. It allows site owners to keep their visitors longer on the page while providing additional content from different souces. Sites such as my favorite, Techcrunch, have been making heavy use of Snapshots. Besides, snapshots cleverly bundles its search box into the snapshot, which gives them a good distribution channel since no one wants to add yet one more toolbar on their browser!

So the result of my informal research on Snap was: Decent algorithm, clever preview feature, bad idea to mix organic and sponsored results. The snapshots feature is a keeper.

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