SearchReviews has just launched a search engine with more than 40 million reviews in its system, and plans to hit 100 million reviews by the end of 2011. Those 40 million reviews cover about four million products and come from more than a thousand sites such as TripAdvisor, Amazon, Zappos and others. Those are impressive numbers, but is SearchReviews any good? More on that below along with a look at how it works.
How SearchReviews Works
SearchReviews appears to have the largest searchable database of strictly review content anywhere. Buzzillions advertises having 13 million reviews; Bazaarvoice claims to have “served” 175 billion reviews, but that happens on its client’s sites; Bazaarvoice doesn’t offer a direct search engine of reviews. There’s also Google Places, which has an enormous collections of reviews and sources; but the company has repeatedly declined to share any statistics in the past and didn’t reply to our e-mail in time for publication.
One thing that distinguishes SearchReviews from these competitors is the mix of review content. Whereas Buzzillions has product reviews (shoes, electronics, etc.) and Google Places has place-related reviews (restaurants, hotels, etc.), SearchReviews has both. That offers a somewhat more convenient search experience, especially for mobile users who may be looking for a place to eat and shopping at the same time. SearchReviews launches with apps that are available for both the iPhone and Android devices.
SearchReviews crawls more than thousand websites for review content and aggregates them into its database. The company says it’s adding about two million reviews every week. Right now, it has no formal partnerships with any of the sites that it’s crawling; a spokesman says SearchReviews hopes to do formal agreements now that the site has launched and the review sources can see the search engine in action.
A Look at SearchReviews
Here’s a look at the results for “new york hotels” on SearchReviews:
Clicking on any result brings up an interstitial page that shows the SearchReviews result as an overlay above the actual source of the review. This is how SearchReview says it still “drives traffic and revenue back” to the original source (but those sites may still not appreciate the interstitial).
The site offers a number of tools that you’d expect to find: filter by star rating, by source, and by location. There’s also a tag cloud for further drilling down, or just for getting a sense of the sentiments related to the search results.
Those filters are necessary because there’s no apparent rhyme or reason to how the initial set of results is ranked, and tens of thousands of reviews of New York hotels is useless without further refinements. The filters also reveal what I’d call a flaw in SearchReview’s system: over-reliance on certain sources. Consider the search above for “new york hotels.” Looking at the source list shows that TripAdvisor is the source of more than 99% of the search results, while Yahoo Travel provides less than 100 of the 52,000+ reviews.
No doubt TripAdvisor is a valuable and trusted source, but SearchReviews will need more variety if it’s to add value as a reviews search engine. The problem is somewhat worse on the iPhone version because those filtering options aren’t (yet?) available; on the search shown earlier in this article for the LG BD550 Blu-ray DVD player, the 20 reviews I saw were all from Walmart.com.
One of the impressive aspects of SearchReviews is that it indexes review content, not just business and product names. So, someone looking for “spicy thai food seattle” can find reviews that very specifically mention those words.
SearchReviews has a couple extra features I should mention: a tool that lets searchers connect with Facebook friends to ask for recommendations and a widget for publishers to embed SearchReviews content on their sites and share in the site’s advertising-based revenue.
All in all, SearchReviews is a bit rough around the edges right now, but with some further development it looks like it could become a promising source for consumers seeking out review information.
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