Web search engines Oingo.com and Google.com have quietly launched free search services that let other Web content providers offer search capabilities based on their technologies.
The new services, which are designed to boost brand awareness of the fledgling sites, also will feature advertising components later this year, said execs at both companies.
Oingo.com, which officially launched on Dec. 8, introduced its Free Search product early this month. The Los Angeles-based company will announce this week three new versions: Oingo Search Box, where HTML codes can be cut and pasted directly into a Web site; Oingo Personalized Search, a customized version for people who want to tweak the look and feel of the site; and Oingo Integrated Search, the most customizable and programmable version of the search engine. Like the original Free Search, the three new versions will be available without cost to other Web sites, said Eytan Elbaz, Oingo.com’s director of business development.
“We think that there is a tremendous amount of value offering Web sites free search capabilities,” he said. “We’re building brand loyalty for Oingo at the customer level.”
The company expects to start serving ads off both its original site and affiliate sites in two to three months, said Elbaz. Affiliate sites will be able to serve their own ads off the Free Search link or allow Oingo’s engine to serve ads. Elbaz said the company will share an undisclosed amount of its advertising revenue with the affiliate sites that allow Oingo to serve ads.
“There’s money to be made even if only a few Web sites decide to go with our ads,” added Elbaz.
Meanwhile, Google.com, based in Mountain View, Calif., also has released a free search option for affiliates called WebSearch, which it will announce this week. Currently, Google–which has been ad-free but now will be serving ads both on its site and on others–licenses its search technology to medium and large sites, and charges them for the service based on the number of times the Google search engine is accessed per month. Google’s Silver option, which allows affiliate site visitors to search up to 1 million times each month, costs $599. The Gold version, which allows visitors to search up to 4 million times, is $1,999 per month.
The main difference between Google’s WebSearch, which is available to any Web site for free, and its for-pay sites is the way WebSearch will enable ad serving. The free version will restrict affiliates’ influence over ads, said Aidin Senkut, Google’s manager of business development. “If you pay for Silver or Gold, you’re going to be able to influence the ad results and tailor ad serving to key words and search terms,” said Senkut. “If you use the free version, we’re going to be able to serve the ads we want.”
Revenue from ad sales for WebSearch will not be shared with affiliate sites, said Senkut.
One analyst said the search engines’ efforts are a smart way to build brand awareness and prime their sites for ad sales.
“The concept of giving away a product for free isn’t new,” said Anya Sacharow, an analyst with New York-based Jupiter Communications. “It’s a concept that many traditional brands have used to create brand development and build demand for their products. Once they get people used to using their products, they can start charging for it.”
Google and Oingo aren’t the only search engines that license search technology, added Sacharow. For example, Ask Jeeves licenses its technology for free to other sites and pays them 3 cents per ad click. n