The future of search is Vertical
- Aug. 18, 2005
Some co-workers just came back from the SES in
and one thing that they said that made me take notice was how much the search engines were pushing verticals. San Jose
Now before I get too far I should mention that what you and I may consider vertical isn’t necessarily what they consider vertical.
For example, I consider verticals to be industry specific – i.e. a legal search engine dedicated to legal services, or a travel search for travelers. But search engines have expanded this definition and are moving in a new direction.
Search engines define verticals a little more loosely – calling anything that is related a vertical search. In other words searching for images on Google or Yahoo! is a vertical search, as is a video search, product search or local search.
These all represent forms of vertical search. And it is into these various verticals that the search engines are moving.
We are seeing evidence of this movement every day. Just yesterday Yahoo! released improved local search, and in the past all major search engines have made improvements in various other areas including local, video and multimedia, and even SMS search.
Now most searchers may not notice other types of vertical search changes but they are there.
I started a post in the Search Engine Watch forums showing one of the search results I spotted quite a while ago where Google was grouping results from one site under the first listing. They have since changed the results slightly but they are still grouping results for sites. This too is another form of vertical search.
Then someone else noticed other Google UI tests in which Google asks if the searcher is “Dissatisfied with the results”, and then offers other results which could match the search term.
In other words, it could be a form of clustering (also a type of vertical search) where Google is not only performing matches to the phrase, but also attempting to match more general results to the phrase.
So if you were to search for NBCi (as the example shows) you would not only get listings for NBC’s site, but also the NBCI (the
for Biotechnology Information). While NBCi is likely the result the person was looking for, Google was attempting to offer alternatives. National Center
It is this type of alternative offering vertical that I see growing more in the coming months.
We are already seeing this somewhat – in the form of the Google OneBox, or as Danny Sullivan calls them – Invisible Tabs, where the search engines are trying to place results from many other verticals onto the results page.
A product search of almost any kind should return not only regular organic listings but also likely Froogle listings, and even perhaps Local listings. And if you have the Desktop search, or search history turned on, then you will also see those results on the page.
Yahoo! is no different. If you subscribe to 360.yahoo.com or Mysearch and store search results, these too appear on the Yahoo! search results page. While Yahoo! doesn’t get too heavily into displaying results from other areas (such as product or local listings) I would expect they will over time.
For example, a product search on Yahoo! for NEC monitor doesn’t return product results – only Myweb stored pages I may have, and regular organic results. However, a search for
pizza also returns local results in addition to the two mentioned above. New York
MSN too displays local results when there are matches, and while Ask Jeeves hasn’t strayed too far down this path they offer something unique – alternative searches stretching down the right side of the screen similar to results clustering. Yet another form of vertical.
As you may see, search verticals are going to continue to be popular with the search engines as they try to guess at the intent of the search. And with the amount of data they are collecting I would expect that they will get better over time.
I wouldn’t be surprised if, over time, you begin to see a meshing of results. So that when you do a search you may see the top organic results, but interspersed within them may be local results, Froogle results, and even image and media results. They don’t have to be as they are now where the non-organic results by default get the top positions on the screen; they could be mixed into the results based on their likelihood to match.
Head Organic Search Strategist
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