Most of you will not be surprised to learn that Google is the most popular Internet search tool. However, a Forrester study indicates that only 20% of Google users use Google exclusively when performing their web searches. This provokes the question: what other Internet search tools are being used by the remaining 80% non-exclusive Google users? One possible answer is the Vertical Search Engines. According to data presented in this article, the Vertical Search Market is growing faster than Google.
When comparing unique-visitors growth rate between the core search engines (Google, Yahoo and MSN) and a sample of alternative Internet search tools, it becomes obvious that the vertical search market is growing at a fast pace.
In preparing the graph below, I looked up the growth rate of the core search engines (in blue) in the well-know Web analysis site Compete.com and compared it with 10 Internet search tools (orange) which specialize in people (LinkedIn), companies (Hoover’s), jobs (Indeed), travel (Expedia), video (Metacafe), pictures (Flickr), answers (Wikianswers), blogs (Technorati), articles(Highbeam) and shopping (A9-Amazon). Due to space considerations I had to excluded many other great search tools.
There are several stumbling blocks in the way to a better web search experience. The vertical search tool can be an important facilitator in reaching a better search experience. Following are some examples of present issues that the vertical search tool can be helpful in solving:
Ambiguity: Let’s say a recruiter is looking to fill a “Marketing Manager” position in a wireless company located in NYC. Placing the following query “marketing manager wireless NYC” with Google will lead to over 700,000 results. Most of these results will relate to job offerings rather than information about people holding related positions (possible candidates). On the other hand, a web search with the same query, using an alternative internet search tool like LinkedIn or ZoomInfo, will yield information on people and potential candidates as opposed to job offers.
Insufficient Results’ Information: Examining the above example (recruiter), the vertical search tool can serve results in a convenient and efficient format specialized to the recruiter’s working needs. As opposed to random mentioning on the Internet, the recruiter can find a well defined candidates’ profile with education, past experience, means to network and contact information.
Difficulties in Query Building: With any of the core search engine, you are usually confined to making free-text search queries. This can sometimes make it difficult to search, since you are not always sure what or how to ask. Vertical search engines, on the other hand, usually have advanced search options that are applicable to their domain. For example, our recruiter may search for “marketing manager wireless NYC” in LinkedIn by going to “advanced search”, then checking “Wireless” on the “industry” field, selecting “New York, NY” in the location field, and entering “Marketing Manager” in the title field. This explicit way to search makes it more likely that you will find all the results that you intended to receive.
Results in the Desired Format. The type of information we desire to be served to us, could make the difference between a good web search and a redundant one. For example, a web search query could be motivated by the desire to get an answer (wiki.answers.com), watch a video (youtube.com), listen to a podcast (podscope.com), read an article (Articlesbase.com), see a picture (Flickr.com), find a good book (Amazon.com), read an experts’ opinion (allexperts.com), find lines of codes (koders.com), get the latest financial news (finance.yahoo.com) and so on… For any desired results’ format, it is most probable that a specialized internet search tool will provide the best fit.
As seen in the above graph the vertical search market is growing rapidly when measuring growth based on unique-users. However, if we measure the market growth based on number of searches rather than users we’ll find a much lower growth rate.
Although 80% of Google users will make use of other search tools (see the above mentioned Forrester study), there seems to be a discrepancy between the number of people using alternative search tools and the volume of total searches carried out on these tools. It appears that even though more users are turning to alternative search tools, it did not evolve into a routine in the users’ daily searching activities and visiting frequencies appear to be rather low.
According to an Iprospect research , users seem resistant to seek an alternative search tool when the web search turns unsuccessful. About 82% of users will modify their query on the same search tool instead of looking for a better fitted source.
There are several possible rationales for the lack of enthusiasm to seek an alternative Internet search tool when results turn sour at the core search engine. Possible causes which deter the user to turn to the vertical search option more often are:
“Leaving Anxiety”: This may
sound as a minor issue, but it seems to be a tough hurdle for many services,
not just search tools. Needing to “leave” the existing web location (especially
if you’re on your favorite core search engine) either by changing the current
web address or opening a new tab/window is an activity which most users are
reluctant to do.
Knowing Your Options: The need to become aware and familiar of a few
dozens of web search tools (considering the number of different topics and
formats a typical user may query)
3. Deciding: Being aware of the many different search tools and knowing your options is an important step. However, having to decide which tool best fit the specific query or desired format may just be too much of a demanding task for an every-day usage.
4. Time Effectiveness: Being aware, and having no issues deciding which Internet search tool to use, a user may also refrain from using a vertical search engine simply because it appears to be faster and easier to use the search engine you are currently using, than navigating to other search tools on different websites. It may, however, be much more cost effective to use a tool that provides more accurate results.
Given all these issues on one hand, and the clear need from the users on the other hand, I foresee that there is still a lot of innovation to be witnessed in the field of search and vertical search especially.
I strongly believe that if there were ways to help the typical search user to confront the above obstacles or to eliminate them completely, the vertical search market would grow at a very rapid pace. Not only in the number of unique users as it growing today already, but also in the number of searcher.
Alex Rinsky is a Co-Founder of DeeperWeb.com, an innovative search engine tool and an essential addon for Google users. DeeperWeb is integrated into Google web search results and is available for Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox browsers. It boosts searching by employing Tag-Cloud techniques to help users navigate through search results more efficiently and uses Topic-Mapping-Technologies for fast results identification.