"Vertical search." You have probably heard the term thrown around, and you might have even used it. Vertical search is the way various portals on the Internet are attempting to cope with the overwhelming and growing amount of information available to online users. At its base, vertical search is an organization of carefully selected sites based on the type information they contain. And for any B2B professional who has fought with a search engine to find services or accurate information on a major purchase, a little organization is welcome. Let us take a look at an example search and explore the usefulness of vertical search.
If you are, say, a clothing retailer and you try to use a general search engine such as Google or Yahoo to find reputable sources for blue jeans, odds are you have an uphill battle to filter out unrelated sites and spammers. When I did a Google search for "wholesale blue jeans" I got nearly 2 million matches. After about thirty minutes of clicking I found a small handful of possible sources, but not without sifting through used clothing suppliers, eBay auctions, numerous spammers, a lotion company selling "Blue Jean Girl" lotion, and a rather mysterious listing for "nursing clogs blue jeans from China".
As the amount of information available online increases at a rapid rate, the engines are having a harder time figuring exactly how to get the right pages up on the screen while providing the maximum number of possible pages. The question of how to overcome the problem of organizing the web's massive amount of information without accidentally missing an important page is of growing concern to both search engines and their users. Keeping in mind that Google applies the same algorithm whether you are searching for lyrics to your favorite song or information on how to build a tree house, is Google your best bet for identifying reputable suppliers of wholesale denim jeans?
Enter the experts. Many portals based around specific industries and services, especially B2B sites, have been employing their own approach to vertical search for quite some time. Business.com, a general B2B services portal organizes all its members by the industry they serve. Visitors to the site know that their search results will yield only B2B sites. Those sites will be organized appropriately and described accurately, because the businesses listed are paying for inclusion in the directory. They are not looking to waste their money by buying untargeted leads. In our own wholesaler exchange directory, WholesaleCentral.com, we organize subscribing wholesalers by their targeted products. We give retailers navigating the site the option of drilling down by product category or searching across the site's full complement of listings. The primary concern in both these cases is the value of the listings. Like Business.com, we restrict our directory to a specialized field and use price incentives as well as our industry knowledge to keep our listings on point and accurate.
Industry-specific vertical search engines allow industry insiders to exercise qualified judgment over potential listings and separate the useful results from the extraneous ones. Because users can browse manually by topic or use a vertical search portal's search function to drill quickly and efficiently into its industry-specific database, they are more likely to come across useful and legitimate information in their first page of results. Advertisers are keying into this. Compared to what many feel are highly inflated Pay-Per-Click bid levels on the major search engines' ad networks, the market for vertical search engines, especially in niche categories, is cheaper and attracts more highly qualified prospects.
With paid inclusion spending on the rise, businesses are speeding up their hunt for qualified buyers. Over two thirds of B2B businesspeople say they begin research for a major purchase online, and both search users and advertisers are converging in more targeted searches and advertising. They are trying to get to what they are after quickly and cheaply. Keep an eye on vertical search as the Internet, out of necessity for both content providers and consumers, begins to organize itself more strictly. Everyone will begin to rely on these organizational structures to distribute and access their target content.
Lisa Rioni is the chief technology officer of Sumner Communications, Inc., Bethel, CT. Rioni developed Sumner's two industry-leading vertical directory websites, Wholesalecentral.com and Closeoutcentral.com.
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