Blekko Slashes More Spam With “Zorro” Update

Blekko has found its mantra: the war on spam. The search startup, now six months old, is trying to challenge Bing and Google with a strategy that puts human curation and editorial judgment at the center of search and banishes spam altogether. CEO Rich Skrenta has been relentless in asserting that Google is filled with commercial spam and low-quality results (pre- and post-Panda).

Enter Zorro and 100,000 Slashtags

Skrenta continued that theme yesterday on the phone with Danny Sullivan and me in discussing Blekko’s “Zorro” update, which goes live today. Described as a major release, Zorro includes a new search index and automatic integration of the company’s trademark “slashtags” into top categories. Slashtags allow users to create customized results for any given query or category.

Skrenta and Marketing VP Michael Markson told us that human editors and “expert communities” have created more than 100,00 slashtags on Blekko to date. These represent hand-picked authoritative or high-quality sources in key categories, including the following:

Slashtags Now Automatically in SERPs

Most people who use Blekko don’t take advantage of the slashtag creation capability, but Skrenta and company have been trying make them available to Blekko users at large. The Zorro update means that slashtag-related results will now automatically appear at or near the top of a wide range of SERPs.

According to Skrenta these categories are now essentially spam-free because humans have identified high quality sites and Blekko has marginalized or entirely blocked spam and low-quality content (e.g., eHow) from results. There are minor changes as well, such as the inclusion of site and publisher logos next to results to enable users to quickly identify desired or credible sources.

There are roughly 900,000 users on Blekko doing 50 million queries monthly according to Skrenta. Half of Blekko’s traffic is from outside the US.

Play “Three Engine Monte”

The user base was characterized by Skrenta and Markson as primarily early adopters. But Blekko is clearly hoping to grow its user base beyond this initial population and that the Zorro-related changes will accelerate growth and help further differentiate from Google and Bing. While Blekko’s numbers are still very small the site is doing well if compared to recent search startups such as Powerset or Cuil, which no longer exist.

To more explicitly enable users to compare and see the differences in search results, Blekko has launched a tool that shows results for any give query across Blekko, Bing and Google — with or without the identity of the engine exposed. Here’s an example result (before and after) for “cheap Mexico vacations”:

Using this tool is interesting because it exposes instances where Blekko offers superior results, but also cases in which that’s not true. Blekko will also show results on Google and Bing that it has “banned.” For example the query “chicken pox symptoms,” features two Blekko-banned sites in Bing results.

What Success Looks Like for Blekko

While many people reading this blog post will probably spend some time playing with the “three engine monte” tool, most ordinary search users will not. However Blekko has grown through PR and word of mouth to date and Skrenta hopes to keep up the momentum with this release.

Danny asked Skrenta what would signify success for Blekko. Skrenta replied, “With several million queries we’d be in a good place. It’s probably 5X or 10X over where we are.” But Skrenta also reminded us that even a tiny fraction of the search market can be enormously profitable. “If we had 1 percent of search we’d be a billion dollar business.”

Related Topics: Blekko | Channel: Consumer | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/sardire Steve Ardire

    I wish them BOL with Zorro and 100,000 Slashtags vs http://schema.org/

  • http://www.gamerstube.com Joe Youngblood

    search for ’3 engine monte’ on blekko….

    i wonder if these results are used for improving the serps at all?

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/natewhite Nate White

    Exactly what I was thinking Joe. I did 5 searches with 3 engine monte: I picked 3 Google results and 2 Bing results. There’s no reason to believe they aren’t going to use this data to determine which pages are the best to present in the SERPs.

  • http://www.gamerstube.com Joe Youngblood

    i meant try that search query. no engine finds it at all. lol

    i just wrote a book of poetry and put it on a little PDF book website, and my facebook author page. out of all the engines (google, bing, blekko, ddg, chacha, mama, etc..) only duckduckgo found anything related to it, and that was a message on my author page for the book.

    that was the week the book came out in PDF format. It took a week but Google finally found and ranked more stuff related to the book but put Twitter, Facebook, ebook store in that order.

    Bing has a message from my author profile mentioning the title at p10 but the rest of the serps are just terrible.

    blekko has nothing with the book title

    and duckduckgo is the same with my author profile at #2.

    all in all i would say for NEW content Google is still winning, although they get the order wrong they at least found all 3 major pages related to the book.

    try it yourself by searching for “poems for an unnamed girl”

  • http://www.gamerstube.com Joe Youngblood

    oops. looks like google, bing and duckduckgo.com are all finding it now including news results, but Blekko’s own search has no idea what 3 engine monte is and includes results from /cars.

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