I started a “deals” blog at mashupmom.com earlier this year, and have been fascinated by the search statistics. The top searches are generally all some variation on mashupmom.com, mashupmom, mashup mom, mashupmoms.com, mash up mom, and so on. So I’d idly been wondering why, in 2009, people were still putting entire URLs into search boxes.
And then I started playing with Swag Bucks, and found out one reason. Swag Bucks will probably not make your librarian hearts happy. It’s a “search to win” search engine that proclaims that its results are “from Google & Ask” — but then when you delve deeper, you find that it shows only about 30 results for any given search, of which about 1/3 to 1/2 are sponsored. And no one really cares. I posted about it over at Mashup Mom, too, but here for instance are the top results from a search for “swine flu” in Swag Bucks:
And, here’s what the same search looks like in Google:
Hmm. That’s not the same. So why do people use it? Because it’s “good enough” — and, more importantly, because every time they search they get the chance to win “Swag Bucks,” which they can then redeem for PayPal cash, gift cards, or other prizes. Out of sheer curiosity, I’ve been playing with it for 3 days off and on for nonserious searches, posted the referral link they gave me on my other blog, and am pretty close to cashing out for a gift card already. So you start to see the appeal — and if you hang out in the deal blogosphere, you’ll see people hawking it all over. (MAKE MONEY FROM SEARCHING! FREE MONEY! SIGN UP NOW OR MISS OUT!)
Here are a couple of comments I got over on the other blog:
I’ve noticed that SB searches aren’t *quite* as good as regular searches, but it typically doesn’t make much of a difference. The best way that I earn SB’s is by “searching” for a website instead of just typing it into the address box. For example, when I wanted to come here just now I did a search for Mashup Mom instead of actually typing in http://www.mashupmom.com. It does always make me laugh though when the correct link is something like the 3rd one on the list. It is the EXACT address minus the W’s! How is that not 1st!? Overall, I like SwagBucks. I’ve only earned 142 SB’s so far, but hey, I’ll take it. I’m saving to get a Kindle from Amazon!
I also use my swagbucks when I’m searching for blogs… I type in mashupmom to get here or hip2save to get to her blog, etc. I still get swagbucks pretty quickly even though I do my “meaty” searches on Google. Very interesting post though. I wondered how the site makes its money! Good food for thought. Thanks!
So maybe the question isn’t about Google vs. librarians, but satisficing vs. librarians. It takes 45 “Swag Bucks” to get a $5.00 PayPal payment at the moment. I have done some light searching and am hitting just a couple of Swag Bucks a day — so there’s not a huge payout here. (I think people make more from referrals if they have a lot of “friends,” plus they play hidden extra code games sometimes.) But it’s like gambling: There’s always the chance that the next search will pay off big. Just one more! Maybe vendors should think about building something like this into their databases — there’s a way to increase usage!