Instant Search, and Return on Investment

Ian Lurie

Yahoo Search Bar
Yahoo has added this nifty new instant search feature. You can check it out here. Really, it’s nifty. It also looks like a monumental waste of money. Here’s why…

Yahoo probably expended a fair amount of time and money on this tool. It shows you best match for a given search, before you even click the ‘search’ button, thereby saving you maybe .5 seconds. What does that do for me? Or Yahoo?

Not much. For me it’s an annoyance, as I want to see 3 or 4 listings, not 1. We all know search engines are rarely perfect – I want to scan a bit. And I’m not so carpally impaired, even after 25 years of video gaming, that I can’t click the ‘search’ button.

For Yahoo, it creates a little buzz, but where’s the sustained payoff? Will they get more searchers because of this? Unlikely. Will they generate more ad revenue? Also unlikely. My guess is that their development team built this so they could show off a new trick.

If you want to see a good, similar gadget, try Google Suggest. That doesn’t interrupt my use of the search engine, and it provides useful results. It might bring more searchers, someday, and therefore offers some potential.

I’m not writing this to critique search tools, though. There’s a broader lesson here: When investing in technology or other widgets on a web site, don’t add things just because you can. Ask hard questions, first, and make sure there’s going to be a payoff, in increased revenue, happier users or some other larger web site goal. If a new e-gadget isn’t going to help ring the cash register, one way or another, find a way to change it, or don’t use it at all.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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