Monday, October 02, 2006

Search, Shopping and Trademarks

How do people approach the search problem?

Hitwise just released the dog-days of summer shopping activity. But are all the product searches for the actual term used?

Searching is all about figuring out how best to reduce the clutter to find what's relevant. And at present we are more or less limited to using the text box without any help. Sometimes broad categories work, like those in the 'generic column'. Other times specific terms help constrain the results better. There are times when a brand name is the best tool for finding associated content. This is akin to using collaborative filtering and entering a book you already own for the sole purpose of finding other suggestions.

So how many people were searching in the general sense as opposed to specifically looking for barbie or ipod? Can this distinction be used to drive traffic?

Now what happens when somebody pays money for a key word that is a trademark owned by another. Is that legal? Appears to be. Google had a case against them dismissed as to whether competitor trademarks could be used in keyword searches. The argument (and I'm no lawyer) is that infringements occur when the trademark is 'use[d] in commerce' meaning some public display, e.g. on a product, in advertising etc., that a consumer can see. Apparently the internal machinations of ad-serving and page ranking don't qualify as 'use in commerce', although they do generate a lot of revenue. For a discussion of the use of a trademark in search for see Eric Goldman's blog and article on the topic.

BTW: I wonder what the age profile is of a 'generic' vs. 'product' searcher looks like? Is there a skew in how people search when shopping?

And yes there 100+ 'lingerie barbie' results on eBay.

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