A practical guide to vertical search advertising

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Vertical search engines, as deemed by e-marketing and search-engine pundits, are the "hottest trend in search."

As VSEs diversify, they become more attractive to users and advertisers alike. Here's how to integrate VSE advertising into your next marketing campaign.

What are VSEs?

Unlike general search engines like Yahoo and Google, which crawl the entire Web for content, VSEs crawl only within specific industries. While general search engines may return the most information, VSEs return the most relevant information.

Plugging "combine" into a general search engine will return information about software, games and merging words together, which is fine, unless you're a farmer searching a $250,000 piece of equipment. VSEs are more likely to know just what users want and point them, ideally, to your company, service or product.

Why advertise with VSEs?

The specificity and industry know-how that characterize VSEs also create a fruitful advertising opportunity. Since VSE users look for precise information or are closer to buying, they're classified as interested consumers. Qualified leads aside, here are a few more benefits of VSE advertising:

■ More leads, less money Finding an ROI in the expensive, time consuming, keyword-heavy world of general search engine marketing is difficult. As marketing moves online, it's easier to get lost. VSEs, however, remain small enough to offer competitive rates while building the vertical industry exposure necessary to attract potential clients.

■ More visibility Some VSEs are designed and run by large conglomerates. By listing with one VSE, advertisers get additional exposure in other online publications. Furthermore, some VSEs will spend money on general search engine keyword campaigns, increasing the likelihood that potential customers using those search engines will find the VSE and your products.

■ More targeted With VSEs, businesses can reach a specific audience that doesn't want to fish for information on general search engines. These audiences have been casting nets too wide for too long. VSEs provide these companies a smaller net and a better knowledge of the waters.

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