Great Services I Learned About Through Search
Back in 1999-2000 when paid search was in its infancy and most of those now on the ppc bandwagon were poo-pooing the idea of paid search ads as relevant, a small startup named eBay was among the first to buy massive amounts of keywords on Y! Search Marketing (then GoTo) as well as RealNames (who had Google, AltaVista, MSN, Excite and others as ppc distribution partners back then). Most people first learned about eBay from continually seeing them in paid search results, proving just how important paid search can be in building a brand.
Fast forward to 2006 and there are a number of interesting firms whose services I first learned about through their paid search ads:
LegalZoom - I first found them while researching wills, and their business model is providing legal services - primarily legal documents such as wills, trusts, DBA's and incorporation - online and at a fraction of the cost of a lawyer.
ServiceMagic - I wrote about them before; they're the eBay of home services. Most recently I used them to find a firm to stain our house; given the high price of such a service I really wanted to look at multiple providers but didn't have the time to find them. ServiceMagic did that for me, putting me in touch with 5 providers in the space of 30 minutes and complete with customer reviews.
Wolfgangs Vault - if you like rock and roll memorabilia and search for it online, you often see WolfgangsVault.com, a site marketing a unique, near-priceless collection of rock & roll concert memorabilia collected by concern promoter Billy Graham (nee Wolfgang) during his 40 years of promoting everyone from Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Joplin, The Stones, LedZep, etc. The story behind this company is really cool.