I recently had some housework done and a lot of painting was involved.  It was a big enough job for a crew to be on-site for several weeks.  Towards the end of the job, a new front door was installed.  I asked the owner of the paint company the cost to prime and paint the new door.

He replied, “do you like the work we did?”

“Yes, the workers did a great job,” I said.  “They were neat, respectful, always on time and trustworthy, so I could leave them in the house.”

“Tell you what,” the owner said. “I’ll paint the door for free if you post that on”

And just like that, a great review was born and my painter created a fantastic digital footprint for himself.  I was amazed at how savvy he was to the importance of good online reviews.  He said more than half his quotes referred to AngiesList, so he makes it part of his routine to request a review.  And it’s a tough ask – but trading in the cost of painting a door versus the upside of a great review was obvious.

Users search patterns are evolving and this is a great example.  Sure, mobile search is impacting things the most, but not too far behind is the concept of vertical search engines and sites.

The biggest example is the fighting between Google and Amazon for product searches.  The claws have been out for the past six months as Google increases its PLA feeds and Amazon pulled off.  The fact remains, more people search Amazon for products than Google.

Here is a quick excerpt from sites a recent NYTimes article on product search patterns.

  • Forrester Research found that a third of online users started their product searches on Amazon compared to 13 percent who started their search from a traditional search site; and
  • comScore found that product searches on Amazon have grown 73 percent over the last year while shopping searches on Google have been flat.

Take this concept a step further and you can see the challenges on the horizon for Google relating to niche searches.  Consider movies.  In the past, users would often go straight to Google and search on <movie listings> or more generically <movies>.  Google would results a solid geo-targeted result of listings close to my IP-Geo location, in this case Jersey City, NJ, where I’m writing right now.

However, what if I wanted to find something about an old movie, or the movies a specific actor was in.  I’d likely need to conduct several search on Google to find what I was looking for.  Its much easier to go to, a site that specializes in movies.

What about reviews?  A search on <best movie reviews> gives me the following:

google movie results

This doesn’t help me too much.  I want to know what movies have received good reviews and this won’t really tell me.  It does lead me to, which tells me exactly what people think.

I think we are all familiar with broad versus specific searches and the search funnel; the idea that users start with broad based searches and narrow it down to specific searches.  In the case of movies, my search pattern may look like: movies >> movie reviews >> The Hobbit >> then click a movie theater to buy tickets.

Its human nature to skip un-needed steps and search is no exception. I can go right to, click the movie I want to see and then “buy tickets”.  I don’t need to search for anything using this interaction.  Taking this behavior further, mobile apps are fulfilling a lot of vertical search needs.  Just search on <movie tickets> on the app store and Fandango can get me everything I need.

SearchEngineLand reported the following a few months back:

According to comScore, searches conducted on traditional search services — a category that is dominated by Google – declined 3 percent in the second half of last year. Meanwhile, searches on topical sites — known as vertical search — climbed 8 percent. In fact, The New York Times recently reported that Amazon maintains a larger share of shopping searches than Google does.

The same can be said for a lot of other verticals.  Cars, travel, luxury goods and even beauty products.

What does this mean for marketers?

It means an SEO strategy needs to evolve to include these vertical sites.  They are gaining in popularity and often result better information for users looking for niche items.  Being on the 1st SERP for your brand terms and some strategic keywords is no longer good enough.  Amazon and eBay stores are a must-have if you sell a product.  If you sell a service, there is probably and AngiesList out there for your industry.  Find it.  Get posted and participate.

Happy searching!


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