Leapfish: Google Competitor or Flash In The Pan?

April 27th, 2009 by Search Influence Alumni

Editor’s note: this is the first in a series we’re calling “Don’t Believe The Hype”

Rocket Science or Pretender to The Throne

Rocket Scientist or Pretender to The Throne?

“It’s OK, you’re not cheating on Google”, says the autopopulated search box on the Leapfish homepage. But is Leapfish, the new meta search kid on the block, just another flash in the pan as far as it’s search aspirations are concerned? Innovation and new applications are always welcome in the world of search. It’s obvious however, that except for their “click-free search”, Leapfish is offering nothing new.

Better known for their free domain appraisal tool (which is still available through the search box on their homepage), Leapfish hopes to position itself as a “multi-dimensional information aggregator and search portal” that serves up results from Google, MSN, Yahoo and other engines. But do internet users really need another “me-too” meta search engine in a field overcrowded with new entrants and start-ups jostling for eyeballs?

Leapfish does have some nifty programming juju to support it. Some call it the “fastest search engine” thanks to its click-free search that shows you the search results as you type. For some users the absence of an “enter” key might be a good thing. With its unique search widget interface and reports of its “relationships through APIs in over 200 Web sites dealing with real estate, music, consumer products, traditional search engines,” news-gatherers and reputation managers might find it useful since it cuts down on the task of having to search different engines and sources for information and turns up search results they may have otherwise missed.

A Piece of The Google Pie?

A Piece of The Google Pie?

But most searchers looking for the most relevant and useful information on a topic would rather get their results “straight from the horse’s’ mouth” than from an aggregator. Internet users will always gravitate to engines like Google that give them the most relevant results, not one that returns a bunch of choices they have to dig through to find the information they want.

Leapfish’s advertising model is based on selling “sponsored keyword positions” in its top search results for a flat fee. Their 5% yearly renewal fee and openness to resale transactions leaves the field open for keyword arbitrage of the kind that Google is trying to weed out of it’s Adwords program. Selling keywords may not really be the way to attract quality advertisers. As an advertiser, you want to compete with other websites in your industry, not speculators selling your keyword to the highest bidder.

Leapfish also seems to be targeting a different kind of advertiser – those looking for “permanent ad positions” and the “Mom and Pop” businesses who don’t qualify for Google’s Adwords program because their CPC has gone through the roof, as Behnam Behrouzi of Leapfish.com stated in an interview with uber blogger, Robert Scoble, of Fast Company.

Behrouzi also claims that “everyone is competing with Google”. But Leapfish is not Google and their program for advertisers is not subject to the same quality guidelines that Google’s is. Its launch was also marred by reports of click fraud by super-aggressive sales staff, for which Leapfish’s Director of Marketing, Mark Kithcart, issued a clarification and apology.

The real question now is whether Leapfish will offer value to advertisers the way Google’s program does? Even if you don’t consider the fact that Google owns 65% of market share in online search, it seems unlikely that they will make a dent in Google’s share of the search pie anytime soon.

Reputation, market share and sound business practices mean everything to advertisers looking to put their hard earned money where it matters. It hardly seems likely that a new startup like Leapfish will be able to steal any of Google’s thunder anytime soon.

As far as our recommendation goes, Google’s Adwords program is still the best bet for advertisers looking for value and conversions. For those whose ads don’t do well on Google and are willing to shell out a few thousand dollars every year, Leapfish’s advertising model may offer some visibility..

For most internet users and advertisers trying to gain visibility, search aggregators are a mere flash-in-the-pan looking to skim some of the cream off the Big Daddy of search.

Related: Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket , Directory Advertising ROI