February 24, 2009
Over the weekend, under the gaze of a painting of the Dalai Lama at Tibetan Kitchen, I savored my dessert of bhaktsa marku while thinking of all the search engines that helped get me to that place. And by “that place” I don’t mean the Tibetan restaurant, but rather my new Manhattan neighborhood where my wife and I dined out for the first time as residents. Below are ten search engines that helped with the moving process.
1) LinkedIn: This is the first search engine we used; it’s how my wife found our real estate broker. What’s funny is that my wife, a lawyer working for New York City Department of Health, thought to use LinkedIn when it hadn’t occurred to me.
2) StreetEasy: There are a lot of real estate sites out there, but for New York City, StreetEasy seemed to have the most comprehensive information about apartment listings presented in the most navigable format. The blog Curbed also came in handy when digging up dirt on buildings, especially a few new construction units we considered.
3) Google Maps: It’s even better now for New Yorkers with subway directions. Before it launched, I’d often turn to HopStop to figure out how to get to the various listings.
4) Delicious: What was the name of that moving company I used a couple years ago? Where did I buy boxes? I often think of Delicious as my second brain, the more organized one with fewer memory leaks. I posted some real estate-related sites in my public bookmarks, while I hid other links, such as for specific apartment listings.
5) Citimove: I’ve used this reverse auction site for several consecutive moves. You list what you have to move and get bids for your job, only disclosing your contact information when you’re ready. There are some checks for verified reviews to add to its trustworthiness.
6) Amazon: I’ve been doing a lot of product research for the move, from home office supplies to electronics upgrades. All searches included Amazon, as did a number of the purchases. Their reliability remains strong for delivering what they’re supposed to in a reasonable amount of time. They didn’t win all my business, though; I completed a couple of the larger transactions elsewhere.
7) CNET Reviews: Every time I searched for an electronics product, I wound up on CNET. It wasn’t always intentional; sometimes I’d use a search engine to find product reviews and CNET would rank prominently in the natural results. CNET helped me rethink which flat-screen TV to buy, and it recommended other products like speakers that I had no plans on buying.
8) Google Product Search: Google managed to be Amazon’s biggest competitor for my new-home shopping. The thousands of reviews of merchants added enough of a degree of trustworthiness so that it was more feasible to explore alternatives to the Amazon default. I also gravitated toward merchants that accepted Google Checkout, which I used more in the past two months than I ever have just so I didn’t have to register with a seller for a one-time small-ticket purchase.
9) Crate and Barrel: The on-site search engine here got enough use that it helped turn our apartment into a satellite showroom.
10) MenuPages: The most important question a New Yorker faces when moving is figuring out where to eat (what’s the point of living here if you’re more than a few blocks from a good bagel, pizza, or sushi source?). Where I moved, an area affectionately dubbed Curry Hill for its abundance of Indian restaurants, is one of those neighborhoods that suffers from too many options rather than too few, so MenuPages helps narrow the field.
All of these engines competed with one other major source: word of mouth. It was word of mouth that led us to our real estate lawyer and mortgage broker. Word of mouth also won out for specialized purchases such as a folding bicycle. Search engines still won the day overall, though, beating out word-of-mouth recommendations for a real estate broker, moving company, and television.
But everything was interconnected. We found the real estate broker on LinkedIn who introduced us to the lawyer, and the lawyer referred us to the mortgage broker. None of it happened in a vacuum. Right, vacuum… one more thing I need to buy, which I’ll have to search for — unless you have any good recommendations.
David Berkowitz is director of emerging media and client strategy at 360i. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can read his blog at MarketersStudio.com.