Vertical search engines (VSEs), or specialized search engines, are becoming increasingly popular, and e-marketing reporters and search engine industry analysts have deemed vertical the “hottest trend in search.” But just because vertical is trendy now does not mean it will be short-lived. In fact, as VSEs continue to diversify they will likely become more attractive to users and advertisers alike. Now is the time to integrate VSE advertising into your comprehensive online marketing campaign. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
What are vertical search engines?
As opposed to general search engines like Yahoo! and Google, which crawl the entire web for content, vertical search engines crawl only within specific industries and businesses. The vertical search industry is similar to the magazine and cable television industries in its ever-increasing specificity (e.g. magazines like CollegeBound Teen, networks like Fashion Television, and search engines like AgWeb Search).
Though general search engines often return the most information, vertical search engines will return the most relevant information.
Try plugging “combine” into a general search engine. You’ll return information about software programs, simulation games, and merging words together—which is fine, unless you’re a farmer looking to purchase a $250,000 piece of equipment. Each industry has its own buzzwords, jargon, and acronyms. VSEs are more likely to know just what users are talking about, and point them in the right direction—ideally, to your company, service, or product.
Why advertise with vertical search engines?
The specificity and industry know-how that characterize vertical search engines also create a fruitful opportunity for advertisers. Users searching VSEs are typically closer to purchase or looking for particular information. In other words, if users have gotten as far as a vertical search, they’ve essentially classified themselves as interested consumers. Now it’s a matter of how to reach them. Once a target demographic for a product or service is identified, chances are there’s a VSE that caters to these ideal prospects. Need more reasons why advertising on a VSE makes sense for your next online marketing campaign? Try these:
- More leads, less money. Finding an ROI in the often expensive, time consuming, keyword-heavy world of general search engine marketing is increasingly difficult, and, as more marketing campaigns move online, it’s becoming even easier to get lost in the crowd. VSEs, however, remain small enough to offer competitively priced rates while building the exposure B2B companies need to attract potential clients. In addition, people who search vertically are usually closer to purchase, helping you spend less money and sell more. Advertising on a VSE: a few dollars. Knowing that you’re targeting the purchase-ready audience your product is made for? Priceless.
- More visibility. Some VSEs are designed and run by large publishing companies, business associations, or media conglomerates. Thus, by listing with one vertical, companies can get exposure in various other online buying guides, publications and trade affiliates. Oftentimes VSE advertising packages will include postings on more than one of the company’s relevant VSEs or their industry publication websites. Not only do VSEs advertise their own sites online, they will often spend money on general search engine keyword campaigns on behalf of their advertisers. By pushing a comprehensive online advertising campaign, these VSEs increase the likelihood that potential customers will find them, their site, and your products, too.
- More options. VSEs often offer more advertising options than their larger counterparts. With a variety of options, including pay-per-click (PPC) or affordable package deals, VSEs let advertisers choose the online model that will best serve their company. Self-serve ad models like PPC advertising let companies control: their daily budget, decide on and manage the keywords, and, best of all, pay only when an ad is successful (i.e. when someone clicks on your ad). VSEs also offer a variety of advertising options like banner ads, e-mail blasts, sponsored placements, and more (or any combination thereof).
- More support. As VSEs become more savvy online advertising providers, they are becoming better competitors. Many offer analytics tools comparable to general search engines that can help companies convert leads into sales. They will also provide advertisers with regular reports on site traffic, click-throughs, registered users, and much more. VSEs also offer hands-on help to their advertisers, providing customer support and help centers to guide you through the online advertising process. It’s a confusing world out there in online marketing, and having someone to guide you at first can boost your confidence (and the success of your advertising) later.
- More targeted. With VSEs, businesses can reach a very specific audience that doesn’t have the time or desire to fish for information on general search engines. They’ve been casting their nets too wide for too long, pulling up some of what they need, but also a lot of what they don’t. VSEs provide companies searching the web a smaller net and a better knowledge of the waters.
How do I advertise on a vertical search engine?
Just as you would with any other ad campaign, research your outlet. Make sure the vertical search engines you’re interested in actually target your industry, ask about the size of their indexes (i.e. its number of product and service classifications), and assess the site for ease-of-use. Index size is usually a good indication of whether your investment will be worthwhile—the larger the classification system, the more companies, products, and services are listed with them. User numbers tend to increase with index size, making it all the more likely that your advertising will be viewed. As for ease-of-use: If you get frustrated trying to navigate a particular VSE, it’s likely that your potential customers will, too.
Once you’ve investigated a few VSEs, discuss your advertising options with an ad sales representative. Most VSEs offer more types of advertising than general search engines, so make sure you determine which ad model will work best for your particular campaign. Your options will likely include cost-per-click (pay every time a user clicks on an ad), cost-per-impression (pay a fixed rate based on an agreed-upon number of page views), cost-per-action (pay when a customer takes action, e.g. purchases something), fixed fee (pay a flat rate for agreed-upon benefits). Do some research into each type of model on your own, but keep in mind that a reputable VSE will have representatives that can help you through the entire process if you’re still not sure which model is the best-fit for your campaign.
The benefits of advertising on vertical search engines are many, but it’s important to consider them within the broader scope of your online marketing campaign. Like any marketing push, you should use all the tools and outlets available to you to see the greatest ROI. VSEs will help you target customers who know what they want. All you need to do is make yourself available.
Julie Mason is the General Manager for Kellysearch.com, the comprehensive online buyers’ guide and vertical search engine, with more than two million company listings from over 155 countries world wide.