February 06, 2009

Lijit Search Is All About Relevance. Now Go Update Your Widgets!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to fly out to Boulder, Colorado to meet with Lijit's executive leadership team, at the request of Micah Baldwin, the company's friendly tireless and unique evangelist. A happy Lijit badge wearer for the better part of the year, I initially started using the blog search engine thanks to its drop-dead simple integration into my site and associated search tag cloud (see the right column), but yesterday's discussion helped open my eyes to many things about Lijit that I have been missing, and you no doubt have as well.

Under our noses, Lijit has grown from a cute widget play to harnessing one of the most targeted search engine and content archives on the Web - but has done so in a way that's remarkably different than Google. Now, before you go to lijit.com and try to find a search button, let me explain...

Google's goal in life is to find the one right answer that is true for everyone. Search for iPhone, and you should get the same answer I do at the top of the results, blanketed by potentially relevant ads from the company's partners. Lijit's goal in life is to find the one answer that is most accurate, depending on where you are searching. Search for iPhone on my blog, and you will find the most relevant responses that come from my blog and my content from around the Web, including Flickr, Twitter, Delicious, YouTube and other social sites. Search for iPhone on Steven Hodson's blog (also using Lijit), and you should get a different set of responses based on his activity.

There is no one right answer, and there shouldn't be, because we each look at the Web through a prism that is colored by our own activity. Lijit does this well. Google does not - even if they are working on it. Just think about how you search Google today. You almost certainly are searching with multiple keywords, not just one, because a broad search for "bicycle", "train" or "beagle" is going to be way too muddled. But search for "beagle" on my site, and you will get something personal.

Meanwhile, Lijit has also stepped up its game in terms of a more targeted advertising network, around its publishers and its highly targeted search results. The more relevant the search and the more relevant the data around the searcher and the publisher where the search is taking place, the higher the click-through rates. The company showed us details that illustrated significant click through differences between them and Google - the 800 pound gorilla in the space. Publishers who opt in to the Lijit network can set a floor for what they estimate their cost per click should be, and Lijit will work to get that price - promising no less than 10 cents to the publisher per click on an ad.

The company also turned on revenue sharing for publishers, so if you have been running Lijit search on your blog for some time, you should log into your Lijit account and see if you've racked up any earnings. You could have money owed you haven't collected on!

The New Widget's Three Faces

Speaking of updates you probably didn't know about... I learned yesterday that the widget I have been using for Lijit was out of date. They now offer an "all in one" widget that not only shows a search bar and search terms (and reshare when people find your site from a search engine) but also detail on those recent visitors, including geography. At one point I was running a similar script from Feedjit (not Lijit) to get that data, and Lijit gives it to me in one place. To get yours, go to lijit.com, log in, and click "Search Wijit" at the top. On the left side, you can see a checkbox to make yours an "all-in-one Wijit!". There are even new options like a "Surprise Me!" bar that will take you to a random post on the blog you are visiting.

In the past, I have been fairly vocal in terms of saying that blogging is not about the ads and the revenue (at least for me). I believe that when you cross the line from blogging for the experience and for content discovery and move to pro blogging, it becomes all about the money. But Lijit has made strides toward making ads less intrusive and more relevant to you and the visitor, making them "less evil" and likely more rewarding.

The next big step for the company will be to better explain what they do and what they want to be when they grow up. I've already seen big moves, not just between when I first discovered Lijit, and today, but also in terms of how the company is a real business with a real roadmap and big plans. They're not out to take Google head on, or anything crazy like that, but they are about delivering the best, personalized, search results to the publisher and the viewer.

Like I have championed for Disqus to become the standard for blog comments, I would strongly hope Lijit becomes the standard for blog search. It just works, and the team continues to innovate. Now go update your widgets.