Search Buzz: The wedding edition

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You heard it right, folks. This weekend your curator got hitched, signaling the end of a year of online searches for all things matrimonial. From rings to flowers to hairdos to mobile notaries, it is almost embarrassing to relay how many hours one bride can spend online - frequently in vain. The good news is that these online bridezilla moments provided ample fodder to analyze the state of search.

So let's get down to business.

Tagging Images vs. Aesthetic Search: Wedding planning is very much about selecting pictures that express what one wants, and then putting them together on one single day. While editorial sites like TheKnot.com are helpful, sometimes a picture gallery of thousands of gowns, hairdos and bouquets is just not enough.

Search engines, however, can be equally frustrating. Floral centerpiece and cake searches on Google tend to yield local shop results, as opposed to visual inspiration for the planning process. And while Flickr most certainly has more interesting content, newlyweds tend to use tags such as "our centerpiece" and not "green cymbidium and white rose centerpiece." From this experience, I learned two very important things. The first is that free-for-all tagging is not always helpful. The second is that there is a conceptual difference between image search and aesthetic search.

Thanks to my colleague Nick Sheth of Like.com, I realized that the former simply serves up pictures that are optimized or tagged (in the best of circumstances) for a set of keywords, the latter delivers images that are visually similar, or share similar visual elements. This is a more complex problem for the engines to resolve.

Blogs: Blogs proved much more helpful in the planning process. I confess that I probably spent more time with blogs such as Weddingbee.com, which feature current bride bloggers, than with other online blogs over the past 6 months.

Mapping: Another kudos goes to Weddingbee.com for introducing me to Weddingmapper.com, a site that allows brides to customize a map, send it to friends or even create an invitation from the final result. Of course, Google has since launched My Maps, but for some, the customization elements and the ability to turn off ads for a small fee just might be worth it.

Local: Due to our international logistics, we found ourselves in need of a notarized document the Sunday before our departure. It was at this point that I decided that local search has a long way to go. I eventually did hit jackpot when a Yahoo local business result for a mobile notary popped up in a Google Search, of all places.

People Search: The last lingering question is this: to change, or not to change the last name? Having achieved decent search visibility for Holoubek (not to mention getting people to spell it), switching over to Mascarenhas is a bit too much work for this bride at this moment. But do stay tuned.

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