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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Smart Matching Tech Developed In-House, Says FindWhat

Both Google AdWords and Overture now show their advertisers' ads on variations of the keywords in their accounts. Google calls its matching technology "expanded matching." Overture, which was first to the punch in this game, calls its version Match Driver. At first, Overture was content to match on simple variations like plurals and obvious misspellings. But both Overture and Google have been experimenting with more adventurous expanded matching functionality for some time now.

Not to be outdone, FindWhat.com today announced a similar feature called Intellimap.

I wanted to know where Intellimap came from. Did FindWhat contract this out to a third party or acquire a technology firm some time back to accelerate development in this area, as Google had done with its acquisition of Applied Semantics (or Overture with its use of technology from a company called Quigo)?

Jason Williams, a VP of Strategic Planning for FindWhat.com and an expert on the new Intellimap functionality, took some time out today to fill me in.

According to Williams, the feature was developed in-house by a "cross-functional product team" over the "last handful of quarters." Importantly, it wasn't a purely technical exercise. It took into account the needs of advertisers. The bottom line is that it was developed to help FindWhat advertisers' campaigns to perform "more effectively" and to generate "more relevant traffic in greater quantities" while taking less time to manage.

Sceptics will argue that such expanded matching features, especially when they don't come with the opportunity to opt out, can be inflationary, driving more irrelevant traffic to an advertiser's website. On the other hand, with so many advertisers tracking their results, it wouldn't be in FindWhat's interest to come out with a subpar product.

The upshot is, advertisers wanting to cover a wider swath of essentially similar variations on keywords (when the user types an ampersand instead of the word "and," for example) will be able to do so without generating large keyword lists themselves. The functionality does go beyond simple variations, though, Williams seems to concede, not ruling out the inclusion of "some synonyms" in some industry areas, or things like "compound words."

In short, it sounds very similar to the offerings provided by Google and Overture. With Google, you can opt out of the feature by ensuring you set your phrase matching options to "phrase match" or [exact match] instead of broad match. This doesn't appear to be the case with FindWhat, which doesn't, in any case, offer the phrase matching options that Google and Overture do.

Because any technology of this nature can create wonky-looking matches -- showing ads in weird places they shouldn't be -- Williams stresses that an editorial team is reviewing popular queries manually just to ensure that no major glitches are occurring. The Intellimap functionality kicks in for FindWhat advertisers beginning on January 10.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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