After my last post about FreePledge I decided that I needed to do a “charity-based affinity search engine” roundup. Two examples of these are Goodsearch, and Microsoft UK’s Click For A Cause experiment. I’ll start with some definitions and dive right in.
What are charity-based affinity search engines?
Internet search companies that share their paid search revenues with charities and/or non-profit organizations. These engines build a userbase simply by announcing that they share revenues with charities. People who want to support charities will opt to use these search engines over others.
Do these affinity search engines build their technology from scratch?
No, they are typically powered by one of the four major search engine companies (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Ask). Essentially these affinity search engines are “virtual” search engines. Everything is pretty much outsourced except for the marketing and branding.
What do Google, Yahoo, et al get out of it?
Incremental traffic and revenues. Search is a very competitive industry and the players are happy to sign distribution partnerships with companies that can drive incremental revenue. A good commercially-oriented partnership example would be Google’s relationship with AOL. Google recently renewed a contract with AOL to power the search functionality across AOL’s properties. This relationship is suggested to be worth over a billion dollars.
How do these affinity engines make money?
When users click on sponsored search results, advertisers pay a percentage to the primary search engine (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Ask). They will in turn offer the affinity engine a percentage of this, which will then be shared with the charities.
So let’s use the example of Goodsearch. I use Goodsearch because I like to support charities. I do a search and click on a sponsored listing. That advertiser whose link I clicked will pay Yahoo (which powers Goodsearch), and Yahoo will share a percentage with Goodsearch, which will share a percentage with a charity. To summarize, its an advertising-supported charity model.
What are the challenges?
These “virtual” search engines’ primary challenge is to grow and sustain a sizeable userbase. Other issues such as click fraud could cause more headaches down the road. This is an interesting space and I’m tracking it closely so I’ll report on any new findings I come across.