I’ve got to give a lot of credit to one of the search marketing brains at WhitePages.com for a really interesting idea. We’ve recently rolled out some pages listing People Name Popularity. It’s currently limited to a very few names as an initial test, but the ultimate result would be a large directory of names, ranked by popularity (based on searches on our site). Interested in how popular the firstname James is? How about the lastname Smith? And there’s plenty of food for the ego surfers too. When James Otepka decides to Google himself, he gets some interesting (and hopefully ego-boosting) info from our directory. Why bother with all of this? Why not? We have the data and search history, so let’s make use of it. The extra traffic from Google might not hurt either. It’s worked for some less reputable folk out there.
The Names Database took a very different tactic and called themselves a Reunion/Classmates type connection site. Just give them your name and an e-mail address… and then another 5 names and e-mail addresses… and then a monthly fee… and then maybe you can find someone. Meanwhile they built out a massive static “directory” of their (your) names. If/when you actually get to a page for a particular name, it’s just a plain unusable list of as many or as few names as possible. Oh, and a whole lot of irrelevant Google AdSense ads. But… it all worked for them. They show up on Google results pages for plenty of uncommon names. And all of those e-mail addresses (valid or not) that they collected, garnered enough attention, and fetched a $10 million pricetag.