Copycats abound in the search business

Is it me or is that it seems Yahoo and MSN just sit back and watch Google’s application development and marketing and then essentially put out their own offering of the product/service in an attempt to get users to use their offering. Instead of being innovative towards their webmaster tools and products, the “other” two search engines just seem to take a back seat, unwilling to invest the capital and embrace the risk that is associated.

First it was Yahoo’s purchase of Index Tools, a good mid-market analytics application. Index Tools could potentially be more robust that the current Urchin platform that is used by Google Analytics, because of the already established bid management tools. Rumor has it however that Yahoo is not going to go down the same route as Google did by making the software free. This I feel is a tremendous mistake.

If the goal for Yahoo is to either gain more data on advertisers, or educate advertisers into site & marketing performance so that they spend more, then the focus should be mass integration (i.e. getting as many users as possible). To get businesses to integrate the Yahoo analytical tags on their site, Yahoo has to position their data as an alternative to Google, but they can not lose fact of the fact that Google Analytics is and always be free, and even a low cost paid alternative will likely have very slow adoption.

Microsoft on the other hand is trying to get a slice of the market for which Google’s webmaster tools owns. For those who may not know what webmaster tools is, in a nutshell it helps websites understand the way a web crawler sees them. Webmaster Tools allow a user to see crawl rates, broken links, create sitemaps, and gain visibility to the overall “health” of the website.

Because Google likes clean code, and has put out so much information to the SEO community about the importance of the indicators in the toolset, it has to be a vital part of site maintenance and management.

Microsoft’s alternative is much less robust and has a ways to go to catch up with Google’s offering. It seems the real goal of the effort is to attempt and get businesses to provide their Geo-location data so MSN Live can provide the type of local search results that Google provides today. If I was Google, I wouldn’t be too concerned about this latest challenger as well.

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