We all know that the Internet is not a static entity. Whenever you open your browser there are literally millions more pages that you can access than the last time you logged on. So how do we make sense of this amorphous and growing body of information? The traditional answer to this question is to simply use a search engine: 'Google it!' The problem is, however, that even Google is struggling to keep up with the exponential growth of all the information out there. It does a fantastic job scanning the digital horizon, as it were, and bringing you all the information related to your search query. The problem lies in the ‘all’.
Not everything that is returned as part of search results will be relevant. The query ‘stars’ can, for example, return information about the solar system, celebrities, kindergarten reward systems and quite a few sports teams. Narrowing down your search by using certain keywords will help but will not always solve your problem, meaning that you might have to wade through pages and pages of irrelevant results before finding the piece of information that you are looking for.
One solution to this dilemma that more and more internet users are turning to is to make use of a vertical search engine. This type of search engine searches within a narrowly defined range specific to a particular subject, type of content, industry, place etc. People most drawn to vertical search engines are those who are struggling to unearth information with more general, wide-ranging searches or those who are searching for information that is only applicable to a certain time, topic, geographic location etc. Another benefit of vertical searches is that it will often unearth information not normally indexed by Google (e.g. proprietary information behind registration barriers made available to an industry specific search engine)
Vertical search is certainly a hot topic among digital marketers at the moment. What are some of the implications of its growth for your online marketing efforts?
1) If you are marketing to a very specific niche it is imperative that you find out which vertical search engine(s) serve this demographic/population/industry. Using it as a major avenue for marketing will connect you to a self-selecting highly motivated group that might be very interested in what you have to offer.
2) Even Google is changing its search algorithms and the way in which it presents search results to take account of the need for highly focused vertical information. This can be seen most clearly in the way information is presented in its Universal Search interface. Searches are presented with more types of information (e.g. videos, images, book excerpts etc.) This means that it will probably become more difficult to get to the top of the Google rankings for general searches and SEO techniques will have to be used to ‘bump up’ rankings for vertical type searches.
Vertical search need not be seen as bad news for digital marketers. It can, in fact, be highly profitable to reconfigure your marketing efforts to capitalize on it strengths in order to connect you with those who are most eagerly searching for your products or services!