Amazon’s search for online Holy Grail

A deal with Inktomi means Amazon has a huge advantage over its rivals

Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, is hoping to widen the gap between itself and rivals by signing an unprecedented search engine deal in the run-up to Christmas.

Amazon has signed a contract with Inktomi, a leading search engine that powers sites such as Espotting, LookSmart, msn.co.uk and Overture. The deal means all of Amazon’s vast database of products can now be accessed via an Inktomi-powered search engine.

This move should give Amazon a huge competitive advantage over other online retailers, whose use of search engines has been limited to highlighting a small fraction of their product range.

Amazon has taken advantage of a new concept in search engine marketing, called “trusted feed”. This works by supplying keyword and description data directly to the search engine’s index in database form. Each page’s content is, effectively “pre-reviewed”, in order to be ranked and listed according to the search engine’s standard relevancy algorithm.

Submissions can be updated every 24 hours, making it ideal for sites that change every day. Inclusion (but not position) is guaranteed and, most importantly, the resulting listing looks the same as any other listing, rather than a sponsored link or ad.

This means trusted-feed listings enjoy a high credibility among search engine users, increasing the likelihood of the visitor making a purchase there and then or bookmarking the page for future visits. However, it is based on a trust arrangement with the search engine and relies on a search engine optimisation (SEO) company’s standards and ethics in labelling site content correctly for maximum relevancy.

As there’s no limit to the amount of site data a trusted-feed user can supply, they can target a wide range of search terms, such as brand or product names, model numbers and locations.

David White, chief executive of SEO specialist Weboptimiser, says: “This is a hugely important development in search engine marketing. It will transform e-commerce because it allows a substantial mass of previously hidden content to be instantly accessible.

“It’s great news for consumers because it minimises the number of clicks needed to get where you want; and for marketers it ensures they receive more relevant traffic on their site.”

White adds that trusted feed is very quick and easy to implement and costs are low.

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