Vertical vs. Horizontal Search

There seems to be an increase in the press about vertical search engines recently. And calls to my office from vertical sales reps are on the rise. “Highly targeted, extremely relevant, cost effective” are phrases used in practically every sales pitch.

But when you get right down to measuring effectiveness by ROI, conversion rates and traffic levels, how do they stack up against the horizontal engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN?

We’ve been testing paid placements with a number of verticals for some time and results have been mixed. As recently as 9 months ago, choices were pretty limited in the vertical search engine arena. Not anymore! Regardless of the client business focus and industry, there’s a vertical search engine that promises to deliver the highly targeted and extremely relevant search exposure the sales reps promise.

Relevancy is one thing. But can the vertical engines deliver the goods when it comes to conversions? Our experience has shown that conversion rates with the verticals is certainly on par with the horizontals and, depending on the client, can deliver higher conversion rates.

The downside is search volume. Sure, traffic is very targeted and converts well, but the volume of traffic we see from the verticals is disappointing.

By their very nature the vertical search engines are attempting to exploit interest in various niche markets and therefore see much less traffic than the horizontals. The more targeted their audience the smaller the pool of users. And despite the low traffic levels, costs are typically higher than the horizontal engines. Many suffer from inadequate marketing budgets and haven’t yet grabbed the attention of their target audience. Some even lack a basic level of traffic reporting that makes campaign management a challenge.

What’s a responsible search marketer to do? Diversify!

At Oneupweb we take an integrated approach and develop a comprehensive online marketing strategy for our clients. Our recommendations and initiatives are based on their immediate and long-term goals and objectives.

SEO, PPC, podcasting development and delivery, custom landing page design, shopping engine feed management, banner advertising and more are all examined as potential elements of the marketing battle plan.

The point is that one single thing – vertical search engines for example – cannot do the job alone. The verticals certainly have demonstrated to us that they can add value to the marketing mix.

Take an integrated approach to your search marketing efforts and reap the rewards diversification can bring.