Why Google Will Lose Dominance: Vertical Search

JP Communications’ CEO, Jason Prescott predicts in iMediaConnection that local search and vertical search are about to blossom and get a larger share of the market.


Jason’s article is choc full of statistics demonstrating why both local and vertical search are showing signs of garnering an increasing share of the online search market.


According Jason’s research: “Outsell (2006) has revealed a search failure rate of 31.9 percent on general search engines among business users,” and “Convera (2006) reveals that professionals in every industry can’t find vital, work-related information on major search engines.”


Jason argues through the use of these trending statistics that – especially for business users – local and vertical search is not only more attractive and success-oriented but is drawing the attention of users.


“Local online advertising is on the upswing. eMarketer’s current estimate shows the U.S. local online ad spend at $1.3 billion in 2006, representing 7.9 percent of a total U.S. online ad spend of $16.7 billion.”


“When Convera asked respondents about expectations for … vertical search engines, almost 90 percent of the executives said they thought vertical search tools would offer more relevant content:”


·        86 percent thought VSEs would locate content more quickly.

·        85 percent thought VSEs would offer access to content not indexed by general search engines.


So the data is there.  And my personal experience and that of the people I talk with is the same.  A quick Google search is not so quick.  It usually takes 3-4 swings with different combinations of words and sometimes you have to keep going on to page 2,3 or 4 to find what you’re looking for.  And frankly I don’t think I can recall the last time I searched on MSN or even Yahoo! for that matter unless I was looking to see how something came up differently than it did on Google.  I probably should since Google doesn’t do me so well.


So how do we find these vertical search engines?  What characterizes them as a VSE?  A publisher’s web site that offers search is a niche VSE.  So when I go to WebMD and do a search on a medication that my doctor wants my kid to take, that’s a search – and the contextual ads that show up along side would qualify as contextual CPC ads (Google AdSense I believe).


But what about the Vertical Search Engines?  Where do you hone in to find them?  A Wikipedia search gives a great example of what a dentist would be looking for with regard to the word “ceramic” if he were to search on Google vs. a dental VSE.  Obviously he is looking for something related to teeth and would have to sift through tons of pages to get to what he was looking for on Google and would have to refine his search several times or would be better served going off to a VSE.


The Wikipedia page talks about vertical search chipping away at traditional search similar to the way specialized cable channels like Discovery or the History Channel chipped away at traditional network television.


But will people actually do it this?  Will they go seek out and find specialize search engines?  They have already start to do it. 


“Google it.”  It’s like “Ditto,” “Kleenex,” “PC,” or “FedEx,” or other brand names that we use as general nouns or verbs when they really are reflective of a specific company or brand.  People say FedEx even if they plan to use UPS and they say Kleenex even if it is Puffs.  And frankly we say Google a lot even if we mean Yahoo! or some other engine.


So breaking free of the mold will require an education of the mind.  Fortunately Jason is making a specific point.  Vertical search, and his data from Convera supports this, best serves business users first.  People that are looking for highly specialized information have the most trouble with the generalized search engines.  Of course, if a professional can be persuaded to use a VSE, then they will be more apt to use it outside of the office and then the viral process can begin.


So, how many VSEs are there out there? 


Jason mention’s Rollyo and Collarity which involve user-generated input.  Good for local search. 


The major search engines have segmented their sites into sections like Auto, Finance, Personal and Health to help you refine your searches but that does not get vertical enough. 


And so then there is LookSmart with 180 vertical search engines.  Look at what Wikipedia has to say about them.  But that is as much as I can find.  This is a BIG untapped space.


There appears to be two major issues.  One is that there are few if but one VSE out there.  Maybe that is not such an issue?  Maybe the fact that LS is the only real player in the space is good because they will build the brand loyalty and people will think of them as the focused search destination like they do Google the broad-net destination. 


But there needs to be a clearly defined understanding that when you search on a VSE you are fundamentally gaining access to a different algorithm than you are with Google.  Everyone wants to know how you get ranked on Google – what is the magic secret sauce to SEO on Google.  Maybe if you know what makes a VSE tick you will be able to better understand why to use it for VSE search.  I am not suggesting that the algorithm be made known, because it will be abused, but if it is made clear why it produces different results then professionals will understand why it suits them.


Here is another thought.  What do you think about B2B business development between VSO and large corporations?  What if a VSO were to go into IBM and negotiate an internal search relationship?  Get 360K employees’ desktops loaded with a specific search engine that is relevant to their business day.  That can grow loyalty fast – especially if it renders results that are relevant to their business.  A couple of deals like that and you’re off.


So, VSE.  It’s been a buzz word now for almost 2 years.  We’ve been reading about it since summer of 2005.  It’s been brewing and bubbling up.  Jason Prescott made it a topic for us yesterday.  Now I ask you what you think … comment and let me know.  Will you start to conduct vertical searches when you know that they will expedite results more quickly and accurately or will you ‘Google it’ and go through 4-5 queries to find it eventually?


Reactionary with Insight.

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