You can’t go two steps on Sand Hill Road, the epicenter of venture capital without some money man espousing the virtues of vertical search. So often you is it repeated that it harks back to the bubble era euphemisms like “market places,” “new paradigms” and of course my favorite, B2B exchanges. Ah… sweet memories. Still, I can understand the fascination – as broadband usage grows we will end up looking for more and more information online. Google seems to becoming quite worthless everyday given that blog entries are dominating the top results. Enter vertical search.
So what is vertical search? It is a specialized search engine that mines data for one narrow niche of the market place. Say jobs or travel. Or even high end real estate. Because the data sources are so fragmented, there seems to be an opportunity to massage the data and present it in a manner that is simple to use and easy to consume. Sort of meta search for niches. The main reason this is supposed to work is that the two older advertising models – cost per thousand (aka banner ads) and cost per click are too inefficient and fraught with fraud-related risk. Vertical search can offer a more focused audience, and thus increase the efficiency of ads on the search engine. It also presents a new kind of advertising opportunity – lets call it cost per action. If you can generate leads, or say have some sign-up for an email newsletter or a RSS feed, you suddenly have created much higher value, and thus that click is more valuable.
Fred Wilson and Danny Sullivan are among the two who have been signing the praises of vertical search for a few weeks now. Folks like Nextag, Froogle by Google, PriceGrabber are some examples of early vertical search examples, but the next generation is going to go more granular. Jupiter Research says so – so it must be true. In other words the buzz is in high gear.
Matt Marshall recently wrote about Kayak.com which is a riff on SideStep, a travel “vertical” search engine. Expect any minute to hear about a brand new company – Simplyhired.com which is making sense of all the job search data sources in the market, much like its rivals Work Zoo and Nimble Cat. (Who thinks up these names) The team behind the company includes the Godhwani brothers who sold AtWeb to Netscape back in the day for dot-com millions. No more details yet. All emails went unanswered!
Jobs is one category where vertical search makes absolute sense. The silos of information make searching for jobs tough and someone needs to step up and clean up the whole mess that is HotJobs or for that matter Monster. It, won’t work in all categories. My fear is that this whole trend is going to get out of whack – someone will start a vertical search for digital cameras or something like that. Bah! Saw it before as B2B exchanges.
I tend to mildly agree with Tom Evslin who dismisses vertical search as an oxymoron. Never mind me because you will hear more about this trend and will find more companies getting funded. Let me explain -in the late 1990s, telecom was hot and incumbents like Cisco were busy shopping. VCs funded start-ups that could be bought. Wash, rinse repeat. Now Yahoo and Google have taken over the mantle, and with MSN jumping into the fray, it is quite clear there is going to be some serious “search related shopping.” So if you are an entrepreneur who is looking to build a sustainable business, then build a vertical search tool that allows the search’s big three to search for buyout candidates.
40 thoughts on “Silicon Valley’s buzzing with Vertical Search”
The new new thing is just a progression of an old new thing. It’s like looking for the next killer ap for PCs.
This door already appears to have a crowd pushing through. Perhaps the key is to build a team for this, versatile enough to apply to the next 15 minute opportunity.
Like you said Allan, everyone will have fifteen minutes of start-up fame. its the way the whole valley works.
I think this has been around for a while. I notice that the Yellow Pages seem to be going down this direction. ThomasNet has already been there for about a couple of years so far.
I am sure that the enterprise search companies like FastSearch are rubbing their hands with glee.
Seems there are many such companies these days doing the RSS job search thing.
You are right that vertical search makes lots of sense in the job market.
It seems that all of the new “vertical job search engines” are getting the same search results as a result of searching the same big job boards.
Is that when I first check my coat pockets, then my pants pockets and then the floor just to find my darn car keys?
good one charlie – good one. LOL
nice piece Om. glad you thought of us 🙂
btw, here is link to slides from the ‘Vertical Search & The Long Tail‘ talk i led down at O’Reilly E-tech, mentioned above by Jeff C.
In response to Jason Davis — Jason, the one job search engine that seems to have results beyond the “big 3” job sites (monster, dice, etc) is indeed.com. According to their blog entry, they “have over 300 independent job sources”. Trying out a few searches seems to confirm that they are crawling some obscure job sites — the “long tail” of job sites if you will
Indeed does a decent job, however our company SimplyHired.com also crawls both primary sources (company websites) as well as secondary sources (job boards).
Note that there are also a number of job boards other than the “big 3” (which i would say are Monster, HotJobs, and CareerBuilder), such as America’s Job Bank, Dice, Craigslist, etc, etc.
There is also another company in this space called WorkZoo.
This is the future of vertical search.
I call it the search board or multi vertical search. You can search various vertical search sites from one page.
It consists of mainly one very large search box with several buttons below it.
Each button is a different vertical company and so when the keywords are entered into the box, and the desired button is pressed, the user is taken to their desired vertical site complete with search results. More buttons can be added using the “customize” section. So far we have; Google,Findlaw, Wikipedia, Multimap.com, encyclopedia.com, Yahoo, Imdb, seekasong, upmystreet, Ask, Answers.com, Ebay, Rightmove.co.uk, The register, Dogpile, Yell.com, Loot and Dictionary as selectable buttons that can be added to your own personnal yumgo page.
The web address is http://www.yumgo.com
Indeed and SimplyHired do a good job. The VJSE market is still young, but it’s growing and there is a lot of great innovation.
Fetchster.com has taken the meaning of “vertical” to heart – we’re only MN, and we only rely on primary sources. As a Minnesota Job search engine, we spider the employment pages/portals of MN companies. All of our positions are directly from companies. No secondard or tertiary sources.
Our index covers MN companies only – definitely a niche market.
I can agree with the idea that verticals make sense given information overload. However, while experimenting for a project, I was able to create a vertical search engine that is now gathering 50,000+ jobs a week and the rate of growth s increasing. This took me alone, less than 4 days to code. In other words, investors please realize that there is no barrier to entry and that the above mentioned acquisitive companies will just simply build their own, ie no big buyout in your future.
Why not add this page to your favourite with our newly built website
Simple and easy to use personalized Homepage with Multi-Search, Personal links, Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopaedia, Daily facts, and much more..
Very useful business and personal directory a-z information, You can vertical search various personal and business search sites from one page, the simple one page connects you to the world.
MyLocator.com is the internets Largest Strategic Vertical Search Multichannel Marketing Platform on the Internet. A Common Sense Dot Com Location Based Platform Never to be duplicated Top Level.
Beyondplanet.com is unique. It combines vertical search with local search. Currently you could search for job, on sale, for sale, etc…
Interesting that Adam said, back on May 16th ….
Recently, a joint venture of Knight Ridder, Gannett and Tribune has bought a 75 percent stake in Topix.net, a deal that valued the news agregation business at around $67M.
“Old” Publisher & Media Co’s are most conscious now of the potential of ‘branded’ Verticals in particular and the wealth of revenue generating possibilities that can be provided with their current & archived content. (Print & Video).
Looksmart appear to be ‘back on track’ with their new focus on providing Technology, Tools and many Vertical Sites that will capitalise accordingly. Already they are working with Viacom (their CBS sites), IAC’s ASK and The NY Times have adopted their Furl facility, to date.
Vertical Sites can present a new kind of advertising opportunity. They can create much higher value and make contextualised “clicks” much more valuable.
Verticals are great. I have been using internet search engines for years and are happy with the results provided by many of the top search engines.
I do find that specialist search engines will often have the information that I require.
Multimap.com is an example. A search for a London street on multimap.com gives me exactly what I want, a map of the location around the street I searched for.
My website http://www.yumgo.co.uk lists several vertical search engines all available at a touch of a button.
I plan to bring this type of search service to the desktop in the form of a search bar. See here http://www.yumgo.co.uk/yumgo_dt.gif
I call it the SOS “search operating system”.
You heard it from me first and I think this is the best way to deliver information direct to PC users.
Similarly try our software yumgo rightclick. http://www.yumgo.co.uk/rightclick.asp
This enables you to search many vertical search engines from any application.
Successful vertical search companies are coming. Many will fail before they do. The key to success is having large data sets with synonyms to do conceptual search in a specific domains. I work with a group that has done so in biology (nearly six million), built algorithmically and with experts in the taxonomic community. We’ve built a search portal around it. Take a look at our portal http://uio.mbl.edu/ubio2/index.php
I’d love to get some feedback!!!
Who is the proof reader for this piece? Apparently no one who has a higher then a 10th grade English education.
“So often you is it repeated that it harks back to the bubble era euphemisms like “market places,” “new paradigms” and of course my favorite, B2B exchanges.”-Say what?
“Fred Wilson and Danny Sullivan are among the two who have been signing the praises of vertical search for a few weeks now.”-How do you sign the praises of something? Oh I think you mean SINGING the praises.
Other then that it is a good article. It is just a pet peeve of mine to read articles such as this, with simple errors in them.
The interesting thing about you last sentence…
“So if you are an entrepreneur who is looking to build a sustainable business, then build a vertical search tool that allows the search’s big three to search for buyout candidates.”
… is that it has already been done.
“Apparently no one who has a higher then a 10th grade English education.”
You may want to look in the mirror.
Many vortals mentioned on this page offer terrific services. What we see alot of, unfortunately, are search engines that are, at times, just as confusing as the larger searches in Yahoo and Google. While there’s always the urge to include more and more information, some of these sites become as gargantuan as the searches they’re looking to distinquish themselves from.
In addition, the google adwords blocks are so close to the search results that it’s difficult to know whether you’re getting cherry-picked information or just any old random thing the search finds.
Nonetheless, I’m sure many of these design and structural issues will be worked out over time. We’ve taken alot of these things into account when building our vertical health search, htttp://www.healthsiteguide.com. What was most pressing on our mind was to not overwhelm the audience and make all the information as easy as possible to find.
Will Vertical Search and Social networks combine to challenge Google?
Publishers and advertising agencies have a very difficult challenge ahead as traditional “horizontal” media like newspapers, TV channels and magazines see their traditional demographics and advertising revenue streams fragmented by the increasing preference of consumers for online access and the huge presence of Google eroding their audiences and potential future revenues.
Perhaps they should remember the words of Sun Tsu, who once said “When the enemy is too strong to attack directly, then attack something he holds dear. Know that in all things he cannot be superior. Somewhere there is a gap in the armour, a weakness that can be attacked instead.” Google’s major strength – the clean search box and the ease of use, commoditised ad revenues, perhaps masks its principal weakness. As media content and advertising revenues fragment to serve thousands and thousands of “vertical” online communities based on lifestyle or profession, Google may suddenly seem standardised, commoditised and lacking a sense of unique community. Is Google becoming Wal-Mart, while vertical communities may prefer Harrods?
Whilst “horizontal” media companies are similar to supermarkets, specialist professional “vertical” publishers are very specific in serving niche communities with totally relevant content and requirements. However, the publisher’s principal operating difficulty in becoming adaptive to this asymmetric Web 2.0 opportunity is that most tend to run each of their print, exhibition and online titles/businesses as separate profit and loss items on their balance sheet. As a by-product the vast majority tend not to have a centralised IT infrastructure or the human IT skill sets to manage a large scale data centre or web spidering facility – the prerequisites needed to datamine and aggregate open source, user generated and blog content to create vertical slices of the Web that are relevant for their audiences. Publishers will also need to integrate this content into the online extensions of their print brands and thereby allowing advertisers the opportunity to target high value communities. In addition, the datamining, crawling and hosting to identify relevant open source content will also need to be a continual process due to the continual growth of user generated and open source content.
Convera have two very large data centres, an extensive web spidering capability and a web index. Convera are now partnering with a significant number of specialist B2B publishers to create a range of vertical websites for specific professional communities. The first example of this is Searchmedica.com with UBM.
In building the deep vertical search portals, the key is to reach into the specific professional community in a number of ways. First, you can combined the trade publisher’s knowledge and contacts in the profession with community appeals that engage the specific audience in a way that general search cannot, and also by taking special care to use the taxonomies common to the targeted profession in organizing search results so that the user feels more at home and among peers. Building a good vertical engine can be costly and time consuming, and getting a critical mass of users to de-Google their search habits into more specialized engines is potentially a tough sell. However, in tests with focus groups from different professional communities to test these vertical search properties against Google, the results are hugely encouraging.
In building the beta test sites, the specialist publishers are providing Convera with “white lists” of data sources online and websites that would be most relevant to its readers so that the searches are restricted to reliable and trusted information. Publishers are also securing agreements with owners of key proprietary content not normally crawled by Google by leveraging some of its contacts and resources so that Convera can crawl and deliver some of their proprietary content. Another key consideration is getting the user community engaged in the process as co-developers. No matter how bad the results at Google or Yahoo may be for a given professional segment, the interface is familiar and the destination is always at hand. Getting users to think of a specialized brand as the go-to place for business information is the challenge.
A number of publishers are actively assessing the potential of adding social networking to the mix in order to get professionals interacting with each other and adding weekly podcasts by industry experts on issues affecting the community – these additional services will create more community loyalty and also additional advertising and sponsorship opportunities.
The publishers can also use their print titles to drive the audience to the new online areas and this will also assist the transition of their high value print ad revenues to online. Publishers also have exhibitions, seminars, events and email newsletters to assist this transition – and recent research suggests that professional communities will actively attend seminars and events to meet peers and other members of their community. The theory goes that once you get some professionals involved then the viral mechanism or behavioural “Hive Mind” also kicks in and professional workers start referring to the vertical portal as a community source. It is also allows advertisers and public relations organisations access to a clearly defined, affluent, influential and stable audience.
Google does not allow you to have a beer with a potential business partner – it doesn’t have that sense of community. But Google is fighting back – the recent launch of Google Custom Search and acquisition of teenage social network sites indicates they are aware of their weakness – but specialist publishers see this as a Trojan Horse. Social networks for teenagers are highly transient and target a demographic that is volatile, unpredictable and has a low level of disposable income – whereas a social network alongside a vertical search service for 22,000 bio-chemists, 55,000 UK GP’s, 55,000 insurance risk assessors or 120,000 US psychiatrists is stable, affluent and attractive for advertisers.
There’s definitely opportunity in serving niche markets.
Check out, Multi Search Engine – Crispyweb Beta version – it helps you search 14 top search engines by comparing 2 search engines in a frame, allows user to select search engine from the drop down list. Search Yahoo! and Google side by side also. Visit http://www.crispyweb.com/
Vertical searches makes sense. When a person is looking for information what good does a general search provider do when 50% of all results are bogus or irrelevant?
The E-consultancy/Convera “Vertical Search Survey 2008” has just been released and reveals some very interesting information.
CPM will be fastest-growing revenue stream for publishers in 2008
Online revenue set to increase while print income flattens or decreases
Content owners must ensure visibility within fragmenting digital landscape by embracing RSS, widgets and toolbars.
Publishers see vertical search as opportunity to ‘reclaim the online community from Google’.
The fastest-growing revenue streams for publishers in 2008 will be internet display advertising and online sponsorship.
Some 72% of publishers are expecting an increase in income from CPM advertising next year and 67% are predicting a rise in digital sponsorship, while print revenues are more likely to flatten or decrease. Just under two thirds (64%) are expecting a rise in paid search (PPC) revenue.
The findings come from a survey which was circulated to members of the Association of Online Publishers (AOP), American Business Media (ABM), Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB UK) and E-consultancy’s early-adopter community of internet marketers.
The research also highlights the need for specialist publishers to react quickly to major changes in the digital environment in order to maintain and increase their market share and visibility.
Publishers need to adapt to maximize their digital revenues at a time of shifting advertising budgets. Trends in digital marketing are leading towards a fragmentation of the online landscape and ‘atomization’ of content. Content owners have a great opportunity to increase visibility for their content through the effective use of vertical search, feeds, widgets and toolbars.
The level of uptake for feeds and customized homepages is very high among this early-adopter audience surveyed but this kind of online behavior will soon become more widespread among knowledge workers across a wider range of industries.”
Some 93% of more than 500 media and internet professionals said that they would be ‘very likely’ or ‘quite likely’ to use a search engine that focused on serving their specific business or work needs.
More than 70% of publishers perceived ‘reclaiming the online community from Google’ to be either a major benefit or a minor benefit from vertical search.
To download a free online copy of the full report, click here http://www.convera.com/survey/
It’s also important to have a very easy to remember domain and have your vertical be found via direct navigation by end users. It’s primitive, yet effective.
Hi, I’ve just finished my new vertical job search engine JobGeni http://www.jobgeni.com that runs on Google AJAX Feed API. It’s pulls the data from several major jobsites like indeed, simplyhired, yahoo hotjobs, monster and jobster.
Here is a vertical search engine (Based on Google Custom Search)
As a .NET developer, I find great value in using the search engine for my work. There is a definitely room for niche search engines.
Here is a vertical search engine for Real estates based on our own creativity and ideas. GoHome is searcing all realestates in 6 European countries in this moment more the 6 000 000 realestates ( and rising ), in Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Chech Republic, Slovakia and Serbia, with plans for expansion on CEE ( Poland, Austria, Bulgaria…) thrue 2010/2011.
GoHome is a startin placa for finding home in these part of Europe…so if You searching for real estate in Europe,go to GoHome …