ClikitySplit Takes On Local Search
Jim Clouse, who prefers "visionary" to CEO or founder, isn’t saying ClikitySplit is the next Google-killer, but he is saying it’s a clear alternative to traditional search engines, especially for brick-and-mortar store marketers looking to level the playing field. But he will go as far as to say ClikitySplit fits his definition of Web 3.0, which incarnates as "visual online marketing."
Or more precisely, as Clouse also describes it, ClikitySplit is a "visual, rich multimedia, dynamic, marketing and search engine."
If that’s too Silicon Valley buzz-wordy for you, never fear. The Tennessean who was schooled in Kentucky affirms that everybody who’s seen his patent-pending visual marketing concept suddenly found their eyes "as big as saucers."
Perhaps one of those people includes ad mogul Donny Deutsche, who Clouse isn’t ashamed to tell you will be featuring ClikitySplit on his CNBC show "The Big Idea," where the visual marketing engine is reportedly labeled "the it technology of 2008."
Here’s how it works: Users type in a location at the site and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth will take them there among a smattering of green and red dots. When the user mouses over a red dot (the green dots indicate generic business information similar to what’s found on Google Maps), he or she can zoom in on a restaurant or hotel location to view a "dynamic billboard."
This dynamic billboard can include a menu or list of amenities, a slide show, a video, and/or an audio file produced and uploaded by the marketer. The user can book a hotel reservation (thanks to Clouse’s earlier business hotelmotelnow.com, which uses a similar yet earlier concept) and see what other businesses are nearby. Ideally, those nearby businesses have their own dynamic billboards as well.
Clouse says there are over 85,000 hotels worldwide featured at ClikitySplit, and hopes to have 5,000 US restaurants signed up by the end of the month, thanks to a discounted per-month rate special. Restaurants he’s been working with include Cracker Barrel, Fazzoli’s, and Red Lobster.
But the service isn’t limited to chains. Clouse hopes the service will be a boon to smaller, brick-and-mortar establishments who have difficulty getting exposure on the big search engines, and who feel limited by the offerings of local online directories.
"Store locators suck," he said. And, "the problem I have with Google or Yahoo or MSN or Ask is that you’ve got to be on the first page or you’re a dead duck. You’ve got to be in the first five listings or you’re a dead duck. They’re defining what’s relevant and that’s hogwash. Let the user decide what’s relevant."
If you haven’t talked to Mr. Clouse, I’d recommend it. He’s not exactly your typical corporate-speaking dotcom entrepreneur. Rather, his voice carries the image of one with his hands deep into his projects, his marketing, his PR, his business, and yet at the same time you’re sure phrases like "fiddlesticks" and "horsefeathers" are bound to pop up eventually.
And that layman, down-home persona perhaps plays well into Clouse’s aim of truly narrowing the marketing gap between business owners, regardless of marketing budget. "The Internet was supposed to level the playing field," he said. "But that’s been a complete lie until now. The ones with the deep pockets get the play in the search engines."
In contrast, ClikitySplit, which is based on dotnet and Ajax, displays search results simultaneously on the map, rather than vertically. The idea is that all results have a chance of standing out. Clients with multiple locations can develop location-specific billboards, and can change their promotions in real time.
Clouse uses the happy hour concept as an example. If a restaurant wants to extend happy hour at the last minute on a slow night, they can do so in a matter of minutes via the ClikitySplit template. Though the service is limited to restaurants and hotels for now, retail, real estate, tourist attractions, entertainment, and classified ads are on the agenda for the future.
And so is mobile, for which the search engine seems especially suitable. ClikitySplit for mobile phones is expected to launch in April.
Though the dynamic billboards are offered on a flat rate per-month basis now, the FAQ reveals that ClikitySplit will be switching to cost-per-action basis in April, where advertisers will be charged per impression, mouseover, and clickthrough. Because there is only one static page and the rest dynamically produced via Ajax, ClikitySplit claims it is virtually impervious to click bots perpetrating click fraud.
Clouse says his Web 3.0 concept has been in development for nearly a decade, awaiting widespread broadband adoption, even though he says it couldn’t have been done six or nine months ago because of the technology involved.
"It’s like a nine-year-old child I just gave birth to," he said. His next baby, version 2.0, will involve social networking aspects like consumer reviews.