Vertical Search Spreads Wings in BTB

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A mere seven years have passed since Google, Yahoo and other search engine firms entered the Internet landscape, and their impact has been stunning. But in the past three years, research analysts at MarketingSherpa, Jupiter Media and Forrester Research have identified a new tier in search known as "specialized" or "vertical" search.

New research on vertical search from SearchChannel and Slack Barshinger, both business-to-business specialists, calls these engines the wave of the future in providing industry-aggregated and relevant information as well as additional targeted business-advertising opportunities.

The typical business search user finds it a challenge to secure deeply relevant results on the big consumer search engines. Say a dentist wants information on ceramics, a common material in dental work. A Google search on the keyword "ceramics" serves millions of results, but most entries on the first few pages will concern hobbies like pottery. The same search on DentalProducts.net, a well-regarded media company Web site, will return more relevant results.

In terms of design and implementation, several vertical search models are emerging:

The vertical search engine as a destination or "portal": Examples are VetMedSearch and InsideCE.com. Often, media companies that own these destination sites optimize them and buy keywords on Google to drive their audience to visit.

Vertical search as a complementary Web site application: This model entails embedding a search engine box on an existing, already trafficked site. One example is CertMag.com.

Parametric search: This tool, more prevalent in engineering and other information-intensive, procurement-driven industries, often allows for face-to-face product and manufacturer comparison.

Various advertising programs are gaining favor in vertical search, including:

• Cost-per-click, where the advertiser pays only for each time a user clicks on its ad.

• Cost-per-thousand (CPM)/cost per impression/cost per view, the standardized, traditional method of online advertising, is now emerging as an option in vertical search environments.

• Flat fee/fixed fee, the most popular early ad model for most of the vertical engines.

• Web order entry/self-service, a system where marketers can buy, monitor and revise their ad campaigns themselves simply by entering their credit card information through a password-protected interface.

• Paid listing, in which ads appear on top of or beside organic listings and are clearly identified as sponsored links.

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