UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Is Blekko’s Traffic Really Going Through The Roof? Will It Challenge Google?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 April 2012

A tweet from @philbradley alerted me to an article on Searchengineland.com which announced Blekko’s Traffic Is Up Almost 400 Percent; Here Are The CEO’s Five Reasons Why. Phil was enthusiastic in his tweet: #Blekko traffic goes through the roof – for good reason. Try it out! 

The reason for the Searchengineland.com’s headline seems self-evidence from an image showing the growth in traffic for Blekko.com since January which, to provide a comparison, is contrasted with traffic for the duckduckgo.com search engine. As described in the article:

According to comScore’s numbers, Blekko is now getting about triple the traffic of fellow underdog search engine DuckDuckGo

Blekko’s CEO seems to have provided a significant contribution to the article, and is quoted as including the following reasons for Blekko’s popularity:

  1. Improved index quality.
  2. Dissatisfaction with Google.

Are we seeing an example of weak signals of a significant change in the search engine marketplace? And if this is the case, should institutions be making plans for changes in working practices?

Using Alexa to compare the daily traffic for Blekko, Duckduckgo and Google we see a different picture: or perhaps it is difficult to see the story, because the traffic for Blekko and Duckduckgo fails to move above the x-axis, with a percentage traffic close to zero. It order to see a comparison of the traffic rank, there is a need to display this information on a logarithmic scale, as shown below.

Although there is a need to monitor indications of new developments, there is also a need to avoid over-hyping something new. I think there was a similar over-reaction when Yahoo sold the Delicious.com social bookmarking service, with some of the teething problems encountered in the migration of the service to new ownership leading to people migrating, perhaps prematurely, to new services. Perhaps a more appropriate headline for the Searchengineland.com article (which appears to have been based on a press release) would be “One Little Used Search Engine Used More Than A Rival“.

However one interesting aspect of the story was the suggestion of user dissatisfaction with Google. Yesterday the BBC featured an article which described how Google tackles temporary Gmail access failure which began “Google says it is looking into why thousands of users have been unable to access their Gmail accounts“. The thousands of Gmail users were apparently less than 2% of Gmail’s user base. But closer to home, yesterday Tony Hirst tweeted about how his OUseful.info blog had seemingly disappeared from Google, and he was no longer receiving the large amount of traffic which Google sends to him blog. As a prolific blogger (who has an entry in Wikipedia) Tony described his experiences in a post entitled So Google is No Longer OUseful.info’s Friend…? Use Bing.com instead… But today a Google search for “Tony Hirst blog” now seems to be working. Another minor glitch, it seems, which is quickly fixed.

I can’t help but feel that the more significant issues surrounding Google aren’t to do with performance and reliability issues: after all we have no evidence that Bing, Blekko or Duckduckgo will provide a reliable service if they had the volume of traffic which Google has and, as described last year in a post which asked Time to Move to GMail? local email service can also be unreliable. For me the more significant stories which we have seen in the past few days which may have an impact on Google’ longer-term relevance are to do with legal disputes with the BBC News describing:

and Google’s battles with Facebook and Apple being highlighted in the Guardian:

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4 Responses to “Is Blekko’s Traffic Really Going Through The Roof? Will It Challenge Google?”

  1. Tony Hirst said

    @brian The disappearance of OUseful.info was, maybe, a minor glitch, quickly fixed, or the side effect of an algorithm change which may or may not have been tweaked, untweaked, retweaked or detweaked. Part of my concern was that I had no way of finding out why my blog appeared to have disappeared from organic search listings (search limits using site:blog.ouseful.info seemed okay), nor whether it would ever return. Google Webmaster tools appeared to show nothing out of the ordinary either. There is no one to appeal to or to ask. I tweeted it was Kafkaesque (you replied suggesting I was being a bit melodramatic;-), but I meant it in the sense of being a little person trapped in a situation with a a process over which I have no control, nor did I have any information about what had actually happened, or why, or how long it would continue or how/whether/if it would ever be resolved.

    One thing I learned from the experience was that Google is essentially responsible for about 60% of my traffic. Another is that the only reason I noticed my set had disappeared was a drop in traffic (I’ve moved to Bing as my primary search engine because Google results were starting to feel a bit samey to me and all sorts of clutter seemed to have been finding its way onto the search page that I found intrusive.

    I think Google search options are in many ways richer than other search engines, but other search engines are good enough for me most of the time; so why should I continue to use Google search, especially as it’s “independent” search results proposition is being diluted in presentational terms at least by the increasingly aggressive cross-marketing of Google apps and services across its offerings.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      I suspect we’ll all find that large-scale pieces of software will behave in strange ways. Coincidentally after encountering a problems with an RSS feed on an in-house instantiation of the open source WordPress.org I just received the following comment: “FWIW this RSS feed is no longer showing this symptom. However, it did show up on another blog today“.

      The point I was making was that if you move away from one systems which behaves oddly but otherwise delivers the goods, there is no guarantee that the alternative solution won’t also exhibit problems – especially if it gains significant usage. This seems to be true of Delicious, which now seems to be working fine, after some technical issues during the migration to a new provider.

      It may also be the case that alternatives fail to provide information on how they work – this was the case after I asked how Blekko’s algorithms work, but failed to receive a response.

      BTW ebuzzing (formerly Wikio) is still analysing your posts and the comments.

  2. Philip Kegley said

    Brian, perhaps this series of posts will provide the information you are seeking on blekko:

    http://highscalability.com/blog/2012/4/25/the-anatomy-of-search-technology-blekkos-nosql-database.html

    If you view the world through SearchEngineLand’s eyes (and indeed many end users), it’s not hard to understand why they are excited about new search engine options beyond Google and Bing. After several disappointments in recent years (Ask and Yahoo! exiting search, Cuil’s poor launch) it’s very exciting to have some new entrants vying for users attention…albeit DDG is a metasearch solution. End user dissatisfaction with Google is beginning to reach a tipping point and I for one am very excited to see if new entrants can steal market share away from the Google monopoly.

    • Many thanks for the link to the article on “The Anatomy Of Search Technology: Blekko’s NoSQL Database” – it is interesting to read about the approaches being taken in the management of ‘big data’. However I don’t think such technical aspects are relevant to end user perspectives of the service – and I have no doubt that Google will also have efficient ways of managing their large data stores. I also not that the article was written by Greg Lindahl, CTO of blekko so we will expect the article to give a positive view of the service.

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