Mahalo : Like It or Not, It’s a Good Service for Web Users

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After some discussions at SMX last week with other members of the search marketing industry (community) I was quite surprised to find that I am one of the only people I know who works in search that actually likes the Mahalo project and really do feel that the overall opinion of Mahalo by various members of the search marketing crowd has to do with a negative association with Jason Calacanis, after his various much published opinions on search marketing.

I am also a bit troubled as to why so many people seem to be hoping for the failure of Mahalo. There seems to be a bit of jealousy that Mahalo is more or less a simple idea, paying guides a small salary to classify the Internet and build pages of information based upon popular search terms and trends … but no one else has put together a project like this themselves, with so much fanfare.

Personally, I do not look at Mahalo as a search engine. I would not use the service to search on a day to day basis, but I have found some of its coverage of current events and classifications of informational sources, product reviews and recommended links quite useful to the beginner or novice web user. I consider Mahalo as the love child of Wikipedia, and DMOZ, with a social spin that happens to have a search box (like most sites do) and also rank very well in Google and other search queries because of its freshness value.

I do however question the reasoning behind using the Hawaiian term for Thank You which is commonly associated with trash cans all over Hawaii, but perhaps that can be overlooked by the average non-Hawaiian web user.

Is Mahalo an informative and cutting edge section of the web, or an overstuffed bin of trash?

So, here are some reasons why I like Mahalo (no testing, just my opinion):

  • Mahalo is a smart and needed service, reflective of the changes in not only the search engine climate but also the overall morphing of common day to day Internet usage. Not many of the old school human powered web informational categorization services like the Yahoo Directory,, DMOZ or Wikipedia have actually changed much since their popularity peaked. Mahalo is malleable. Mahalo is up to date. Mahalo is today.
  • The speed of which Mahalo covers current events and news stories is pretty impressive and seems to be the ideal meeting of current blogging and identifying the core news stories from trusted news stories and also other views by bloggers. I find that news search from Google or Yahoo depends too much on wire coverage from various services reporting the same exact story from one source. Mahalo does a very good job of mixing these up. As an example, I find this page to be quite informative : Bush Tax Cuts 2008
  • Mahalo has done an excellent job of branding itself via its Mahalo flower logo, its hawaiian style fonts, and its Mahalo Daily which brings high quality informational video about social projects. The Mahalo team also does a ruthless job of promoting its stories on Facebook, Twitter and other social venues. As a web publisher, I think I can learn a good amount from their branding and promotion.
  • The advertising on Mahalo is inobtrusive and very basic, with Google AdWords text ads (not sure if this is considered AdSense or AdWords since the ads are in search results, but those results are not always the end product of searches) integrated into the pages using the same font as the rest of the site
  • Although Mahalo Follow, the Mahalo Toolbar, may be quite reminiscent of the toolbars of yesterday which follow and track pages visited, I do like the recommendation and voting feature which reminds me of StumbleUpon and again, I like the clever branding and positioning.. it’s not a toolbar, it’s Mahalo Follow.

So, what do you really think about Mahalo? Do you like the service or dislike it, from either a user, search marketing or social web perspective and why?

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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  • Honestly, we had never heard of it but we see the good points you’ve brought about the service on this article. I don’t see why people would want this simplistic but helpful site to fail. Obviously it will never compete with the big wigs perhaps but it is seemingly a nice addition to the internet community as it does provide some rather decent content. Mahalo – interesting name too…as a person who lived in Hawaii, I like the concept as the word (although on many Hawaiian trash cans) is associated with kindness thus making it a friendly idea!

  • Mahalo seems to be nothing more than a Made For AdSense website. It’s a decent Made For AdSense website but so what?

    I just have a problem with that Jason Calacanis guy.

    First he says SEO is Bull**** but SEO & targeting popular queries seems to be the business model his directory is built upon.

    Then just the other day at the Affiliate Summit, he calls affiliate marketing a Bull**** Ponzi Scheme even though his directory is monetized primarily through his affiliate relationship with Google AdSens.

    Then… He calls Shoemoney pathetic for holding up a check.

    “How does Mahalo make money … When it makes money I’ll let you know…”

    I’ll bet he does let us know. If that website ever does make money, I’ll bet he won’t shut up about it. We’ll never hear the end of his bragging.

    In my opinion… Jason seems to think that his S#&% doesn’t stink.


  • Jason has my pity. I guess one of the problems that people who suffer from a Narcissistic personality disorder is they lack the ability to recognize they have the problem and don’t seek the professional help they so desperately need.

  • I for one have been watching them for awhile as well as other ‘so-called’ social search engines. If it is a quieter (passive) algorithmic approach (user performance metrics) or a more active user engagement, I believe there is something that can be guaged beyond PageRank. There is some hope for social search, what that is, I am unsure…

  • Jason is not Hawaiian. The Mahalo website has absolutely nothing to do with Hawaii or Hawaiian culture but for some weird reason Jason is exploiting the Hawaiian culture for his branding images. (Nice guy)

    Hey Jason! – If you are going to start a website and call it “Mahalo” (One of the most sacred words in the Hawaiian language) you should at least learn the true meaning of the words.

    # A stands for AKAHAI, meaning kindness, to be expressed with tenderness.
    # L stands for LOKAHI, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony.
    # O stands for OLU`OLU, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness.
    # H stands for HA`AHA`A, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty.
    # A stands for AHONUI, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.”

    1. Aloha, love, affection, compassion, mercy, sympathy, pity, kindness, sentiment, grace, charity; greeting, salutation, regards; sweetheart, lover, lover, loved one; beloved, loving, kind, compassionate, charitable, lovable; to love, be fond of; to show kindness, mercy, pity, charity, affection; to venerate; to remember with affection; to greet, to hail. Greetings! Hello! Good-by! Farewell! Alas!

    1. Thanks, gratitude; to thank.
    2. 2. Admiration, praise, esteem, regards, respects; to admire, praise, appreciate.

    I just don’t see these qualities in Jason.

    Live Aloha,

  • I’ve gotta agree with Hawaii SEO here (interesting to see you’ve got nofollow switched on for comments again, BTW).

    Mahalo seems to go out of its way to target lucrative search terms, especially around recent news and pop culture topics. And that’s the only place that I’ve found Mahalo topics – in search results for recent news. And some of the topic titles I’ve seen aren’t particularly human friendly, but very much geared to what someone will type into a search engine.

    The best bit is, most of the results come straight from the most popular results in Google, effectively taking up a SERP to tell us what we already know.

    No, despite insulting the crap out of the SEO industry (and playing a lot of idiots for linkbait), Jason has gone out and created a website based on expoiting key search terms and using some very tight SEO techniques. Did he build a business out of hypocrisy? That’s not for me to decide.

    Personally, I think he’s a deadly shrewd marketer, but Mahalo seems to me to be a glorified link directory based on wiki technology but without the usefulness of Wikipedia.

  • Mahalo as a stand alone social search engine is basically useless. Between Google’s universal search and Yahoo, one can find what they are looking for. It is true that the idea of Mahalo is not useless and for that Mahalo is worth keeping an I on.

  • Someone has submitted one of my posts to the social media category, if it gets approved I may begin to like it.