I’ve been spending time with vertical search lately; though a long time fan and advocate of social search networks like Del.icio.us, I want to revisit my experience with vertical search and catch up on some of the new options and opportunities.
Vertical, or specialized search, describes engines that are the focus on a specific business or topic. For years analysts have foretold the year of vertical search with each year the the tipping point. As one can assume more accurate results from an engine specific to the theme in which one is searching, these are the developments with which to pay attention.
I like to think of this category of search as having four segments: Topical, Local, Industry (or the more accurate use of “vertical”), and Personalized.
Personalized, of course, includes Yahoo’s new Alpha platform, Google co-op, and even my personal Online Marketing search engine from Swicki (which could also be characterized as topical but truly is personalized by me and its users). These are engines constantly in a state of change as they are tweaked, updated, and optimized by its owner and audience. The subject of the engine itself can be local or topical content but the quality of the results are massaged by amateur editors.
Industry, or vertical search, supports a business channel such as travel (with Sidestep), shopping (of which there are dozens of engines; a frequent topic here), or autos (Edmunds). Without question, this segment is ever evolving as entrepreneurs and engineers find newer and better ways to support users; consider The Find or the new Ajax based CarsDirect technology. One might even consider the search capabilities of Last.fm, music search.
Balihoo, the vertical engine I just mentioned last week, recently released to, literally, each of us, the ability to search for media products that are most relevant to our advertising campaigns. Online advertising buyers and sellers can gather and analyze information about display media products as well as interacting with owner/sellers to build and execute media plans.
A demo launched to a select group of advertisers and media buying firms from small media companies to global advertisers and their agencies. This new search engine will be broadly available to the rest of us later this year.
In my mind, Local presents the most attractive sector growth as engines learn to present results that are, specifically, right for “You.” Yahoo! Local has my attention when it comes to business search with their engine having replaced my Yellow Pages. Results are sorted by distance while a user feedback loop improves the results by rating.
Consider too the new possibilities as an audience of local event search. Not only are results sorted by region and rating but popularity and personal preferences can factor in to create a recommendation engine feeding you suggestions for upcoming concerts, festivals, and sporting events. With Zvents, we even have a group to which anyone can join to receive an iCalendar or feed of all Online Marketing events and conferences.
That leaves us Topical search, a wonderful way to end your day in the office as these are the engines that can be best described as time wasters. We have Big Cartoon Database, Yellowpet (the cat search engine), UFOSeek, and Celebhoo.
Whatever your fancy, there is an engine for you so ask yourself before you next visit those general results, is there a better way?