Vertical search

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Vertical search, or domain-specific search, part of a larger sub-grouping known as "specialized" search, is a relatively new tier in the Internet search, industry consisting of search engines that focus on specific slices of content. The type of content in special focus may be based on topicality or information type. For example, an intelligent medical search engine would clearly be specialized in terms of its topical focus, whereas a video search engine would seek out results within content that is in a video format. So vertical search may focus on all manner of differentiating criteria, such as particular locations, multimedia object types and so on.


[edit] Origins of vertical search

Niche search engines have existed for years. The number of these search engines being introduced has increased recently. Local search is already a burgeoning subset, with Google Local and many newspapers offering this functionality.

[edit] Vertical search vs. broad-based search

Broad-based search engines such as Google or Yahoo fetch very large numbers of documents using a Web crawler. Another program called an indexer then reads these documents and creates a search index based on words contained in each document. Each search engine uses a proprietary algorithm to create its indexes so that, ideally, only meaningful results are returned for each query.

Vertical search engines, on the other hand, send their spiders out to a highly refined database, and their indexes contain information about a specific topic. As a result, they are of most value to people interested in a particular area; what’s more, the companies that advertise on these search engines reach a very focused audience. For example, there are search engines for veterinarians, doctors, patients, job seekers, house hunters, recruiters, travelers and corporate purchasers, to name a few.

[edit] The vertical search user

As the broad-based search engines have gotten broader, so have their search results. This has become increasingly frustrating to users who have turned to search engines to find information on a specialized topic, be it local information, travel sites or specific business channels.

This is especially true of the latter. In the business marketing profession, terms that have very specific meanings in certain industries will yield a host of irrelevant results when used as keywords on the big search engines. For example, say a dentist is looking for information on ceramics, a common material used in dental work. If the dentist performs a Google search on the keyword "ceramics", Google will serve up millions of results, but most of the entries on the first few pages will concern hobbies like pottery. On the other hand, if the dentist performs the same search on, a well-regarded media company Web site, it will return much more relevant results.

LookSmart, an online media and technology company that has launched more than 180 vertical search sites, contends that Web users will increasingly use the Internet the way they do cable television, opting for specialized channels that speak directly to their concerns. This company says vertical search engines will chip away at Google’s and Yahoo’s audiences the same way cable TV channels such as TLC and the National Geographic Channel have eaten into network audiences.

[edit] The buyer in vertical search marketing

On the simplest level, the vertical search buyer is a marketer that wants to be found by the user of one of these specialized search engines. When a business person searches the Web through a search engine or a directory, that person is considered to be in "hunt mode". Marketers understand that this hunt mode means the searcher may very well be somewhere in the buying cycle. That makes search engine results some of the best sources of targeted traffic, whether that traffic originates from "organic" unpaid search listings or paid advertising listings.

To take advantage of this phenomenon some sites have combined vertical search with comparison shopping (e.g., This enhances the quality of traffic originating from these sites, as well as the "power" of the search engine itself.

Vertical search engines unite the motivations of the ad space buyer (to be exposed to a targeted audience) with those of the user (to be able to search across an entire vertical market). In achieving these goals, it allows users to collaborate in reviewing search results, and buyers to collaborate in attaining better ranking in universal search engine like Google, and thus lowering their cost of online ad spend.

"Vertical search providers will play an important role in the paid search market in the next five years," said Zia Wigder, vice president and research director at JupiterResearch, a division of JupiterMedia. "Search marketers must establish a robust management strategy and an efficient testing and inclusion process to profit from this growth."

[edit] Growth in vertical search

Advertisers on vertical sites are able to reach potential customers who are much closer to making a purchase decision than the average user on Google or Yahoo, according to Greg Sterling, an analyst with The Kelsey Group. He told that that’s the whole motivation for advertising on vertical sites. For example, he said someone doing a search on, an automobile search engine, is probably more serious about buying a car than someone doing a car search on a general search engine. The cost of advertising on the large search engines is also likely to drive more marketers to vertical search.

[edit] Vertical Search Examples



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Stock Market

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  • [8]Google Products


[edit] Vertical search design and advertising models

In terms of design and implementation, several models are emerging in vertical search:

  • The vertical search engine as a destination or portal. Often media companies that own these destination sites optimize them and buy keywords on Google to drive their audience to visit.
  • Vertical search as a complementary Web site application: This model entails embedding a search engine box on an existing, already trafficked site. One example is
  • Parametric search: This tool, more prevalent in engineering and other product-specific, information-intensive, procurement-driven industries, often allows for side-by-side product and manufacturer comparison.

In terms of revenue that these vertical search engines generate, a variety of advertising programs are gaining favor, including:

  • Cost per click, in which the advertiser pays only for each time that a user clicks on the ad.
  • Cost per thousand/cost per impression/cost per view, the standardized, traditional method of online advertising, is now emerging as an option in vertical search environments.
  • Cost per action, an emerging model in which the advertiser pays, not on click, or for impressions, but only if the consumer performs a specific action, such as purchases a good.
  • Flat fee/fixed fee, the most popular early ad model for most of the vertical search engines.
  • Web order entry/self-service, a system whereby marketers can buy, monitor and revise their ad campaigns themselves simply by entering their credit card information through a password-protected interface.
  • Paid inclusion, the practice of inserting “editorial-like” ads or more traditional ads into the actual organic search results.
  • Paid listing, in which ads appear on top of or beside organic listings and are clearly identified as sponsored links.
  • Free, plus, in which the site is completely free for both those listing and those searching, with additional features available for those who pay.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

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