Isaac Asimov had his First Law of Robotics (A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.) and I have my First Law of Search, which is: You can’t beat Google at its own game. I say this equally to all horizontal search engines, and I will be the most pleased to be proved wrong. That takes care of the horizontal search engines.
Next we have the vertical search engines, starting with the first tier, e.g. Monster.com for job search, Kayak for travel, PubMed for medicine / health, Ticketmaster for tickets, and so forth.
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The second tier would be alternative search engines such as Indeed for job search, UpTake for travel, Healthline for health, and FanSnap for tickets. We could even go to the third tier with Glassdoor for jobs, Healia for health, hotelicopter for travel, and NinjaTickets for tickets. Is their a fourth tier? Trust me, there is.
But whatever their relative size, the superiority of Vertical Search Engines (VSE), is very well known by now. Since they are built from the bottom up to solve specific types of queries, they can return far better results, and therefore produce a more satisfying user experience.
So who’s to say that these VSE pose *a potential* threat to Google? Well, I do for one, and I am in good company.
Sramana Mitra notes,”Biased or not, however, I have found a few vulnerabilities in Google’s relentless march to success. The most significant of those is the increasing verticalization of the web. Or more specifically, in the rise of vertical search engines.”
Om Malik adds, “Vertical search can offer a more focused audience, and thus increase the efficiency of ads on the search engine.”
Danny Sullivan, concurs in Ken Auletta’s excellent new book Googled: The end of the world as we know it: “If I were Google, I’d be worried about vertical searches…”
That bears repeating. “If I were Google, I’d be worried about vertical searches…”
But if you look at the latest statistics, almost all searches are performed on the top 3 or 4 horizontal search engines (and their own vertical sites), with a very small slice of the pie going exclusively to the VSE. Why? Or rather, why not?
The answer is The Missing Link.
Behind door #1 you have all of the horizontal search engines. Behind door #2 are the hundreds of VSE that we have covered on AltSearchEngines.com (in over 4,000 posts).
However, when we open door #3, we discover that it is essentially empty (there are a few exceptions)! What belongs there is the One Site, one new homepage that has but one purpose, and that is to overlay the best of the existing vertical search engines. The primary design requirement is that there be no logos or confusing brand names. The average user simply does not recognize the dozens of different logos and search engine names out there. Again, trust me. This one page must make use of intuitive symbols or icons.
So what exactly should this page look like? That’s the Future of Search for 2010 (not that the constant stream of innovation will slow down, it won’t). Since we just passed the holidays for 2009, I’ll leave you with this word picture: Visualize an Advent calendar, a beautiful house with 25 windows, each covered with tiny shutters. Every day you open one window and discover a wonderful VSE inside! You can take it from there. 2010 should be the year that we compete for the very best design to place behind door #3, the door that really matters in the Search “game.”
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