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iGoogle start pages: Vertical integration of the first, second, and Nth click

Start pages control traffic
There’s been some recent coverage of Google developing out their start page, iGoogle, and I thought it was very interesting – in particular, it fits with Google’s push to own the second click as well as the first. It’s a strategic thing for the company to do, since it lets them build on top of their "platform" – the search engine result page (SERP).

Daily usage websites
Think about the things that people do often, on a daily basis:

  • Communicate (e-mail/Facebook/MySpace/etc)
  • Entertainment (iTunes/YouTube/games/etc)
  • News (blogs/CNN/etc)
  • Reference (Google/Wikipedia/etc)

If you own the top property in one of these categories, it mean that every day, you have tens of millions of people visiting your site, which gives you a lot of leverage. This daily visit represents the so-called "first click" for each user on the internet. And from your site, depending on the context, these users then find subsequent destinations that they want to reach – this is the "second click."

Capturing user intent from the first-click/second-click transition

Of course, the transition from first click to second click is different for each channel:

  • Communication – receiving a link from a friend
  • Entertainment – seeing a "hot" video getting surfaced
  • News – browsing the latest headlines
  • Reference – looking for something specific and getting it as a result

Note that of the above, only reference is "pull" – the rest are "push." As a result, clicking on a link from a friend has less to do with your INTENT and more to do with your relationship with your friend. As a result, this type of interaction is harder to monetize. Compare this to a situation where you are specifying a specific thing you are looking for – these cases qualify the user to an extent where it becomes very easy to capture commercial intent.

Of course, Google already owns the first click for reference queries, and as a result, it only becomes logical for them to move both horizontally and vertically on the web. A horizontal move would be to capture the start page in news, communication, entertainment, etc. A vertical move would be for them to not just allow a search for "jobs 94025" but to actually give a form that a user can interact with to provide a secondary search on a specific job title. Each layer they can own allows them to further qualify the users, which makes it easier for them to cut out middlemen.

iGoogle+social = horizontal move?
Thus, you could argue that by incorporating more social activities, iGoogle is a horizontal move for Google. If iGoogle is successful in either creating their own social data or simply aggregating social network data (like FriendFeed does), then they remove a reason to check your MySpace or Facebook. Why do that when you can just go to iGoogle and see if you have any waiting messages? And while you’re there, you should do a search too ;-)

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