WhitePages.com: Reach Out And Search Someone

With more and more Web users craving the ability to find anything in the free world, vertical search engine WhitePages.com, Inc. this week launched a new application designed to help people find, well, people.

Power Web Search aggregates peoples’ phone numbers, home addresses and e-mail addresses with Web content and displays the information in one window on a computer screen.

WhitePages.com President and CEO Max Bardon told internetnews.com Power Web Search will provide searchers results from three categories of content, including specific Web results, public records and professional profiles.

WhitePages.com, which crawls public databases for people’s records, partnered with MSN for the Web search and ZoomInfo for the business information.

Users can also now find e-mail addresses on WhitePages.com. If a search subject’s e-mail is listed in the WhitePages.com database, the searcher can send an e-mail through WhitePages, in which the recipient’s address is not exposed.

The recipient can then decide whether or not to reveal his or her address to the searcher.

The e-mail search is a paid subscription service. WhitePages.com currently holds 20 million addresses in its database, but Bardon said the company hopes to raise that number 30 million with incentives such as offering free e-mail search to users who provide their own.

Power Web Search comes just as social networking sites such as MySpace.com, Flickr and YouTube are at their most popular. In fact, the Kelsey Group estimates the market for people-based search is growing at 25 percent per year.

Power Web Search also comes amid solid revenues and growth for WhitePages.com, according to analysts such as Pierz Group founder Kathleen Pierz. Pierz, who claims WhitePages.com as a client, said WhitePages.com has doubled its growth each year since its incorporation.

Bardon said business partnerships and a people search market of more than 14 billion proper name searches, excluding celebrities, pushed WhitePages.com over the $50 million mark in revenues for 2006.

That seems like a lot until one considers that Google’s quarterly revenues typically number in the billions. To wit, Bardon said it’s helped WhitePages.com that it doesn’t compete head-on with the more general search engines.

That’s because people search doesn’t allow Google to sell its lucrative search term-targeted advertising, making people search a dry well from which Google cannot draw revenue.

Moreover, the Google’s Yahoo’s and MSN’s of this world generally return people search results that are too broad, requiring users to comb through hundreds if not thousands of results.

Is it possible Whitepages.com is only so successful because of its no-brainer domain name, purchased by founder Alex Algard for $900 in 1996?

Bardon said the brand name certainly helps business, noting that 60 percent of all traffic comes from direct type-ins to users’ browsers, and that 45 percent of the site’s traffic from Google comes from searches on the terms “white” and “pages.”

Pierz agreed.

“There is the aspect of, ‘Oh yes, it’s the white pages, that’s how I find people,'” Pierz said. “But there are some other aspects that keep people coming back.”

Pierz also pointed specifically to the search engine’s people-focused results that separate it from the more general Web search engines such as Google.

“If you really just need to get a hold of me and you don’t want 23,000 returns, most of which aren’t going to help you, WhitePages.com is a pretty good tool.”

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