Well Barry is off doing double secret things at Yahoo. I am planning to head to the Yahoo party later as they are opening Great America theme park to conference attendees. That means I will be riding lots of rollercoasters. :-) I decided to cover this session in his place as I think it will provide better information for the readers than the other session I was planning to attend.
“If Vertical Creep were a search engine, it would be the fourth biggest search engine”Greg Jarboe was up first to talk about the choices that we have in the search results. Over the years search tabs have been added to the main interfaces. In this seesion we are not talking about those searches, but going to look at the regular results. He does an example search for “george bush”. One of the first things you see is some news search results at the top of the regular results. He gives example of all the search engines. AOL even goes into further detail such as photo, forums, news, and bios. Ask puts the news second and bio as the first thing. It appears that often the regular results are getting buried. Another example would be a search for Paris Hilton, you get more photos than news. Hmm, something is going on he says.
Another example of vertical creep is a search for mp3 players, which gives you product results before you get the web results. Do a search for “pizza san jose” giving you local pizza places in San Jose. The search engines are getting smarter and starting to read our minds.
So what is causing this, Greg jokingly adds that its Danny Sullivan’s fault, who leaked a look at how Google may appear in 2005. It wasn’t for real of course, but Danny published an article about invisible tabs where Google and other engines are adding more and more tabs at the top of the engines. Vertical creep is a new term to describe the influx of specific results into the regular results. Greg mentions some research that has been done last year called Inside the Mind of the Searcher. It said people want more options. Users expect search engines to give them exactly what they want. He goes on to explain that by taking the individual search term you can get many different types of information. Knowing what type of information people want is the trick. He mentions that Google sent 7% of visitors to its image, news, and other verticals. Yahoo Search is sending 8% of its visitors to vertical search. MSN sent 4% of its visitors to Hotmail, MSNBC, and other verticals. Ask Jeeves sends about 2%.
So what do you do about this information? He gives an example that in March 2005 there was a significant spike in search for “hybrid cars” Toyota Prius, gas prices, and gas mileage as much as 700,000 searches. He specific examples for search for many of the engines on those terms. He shows how you can captizalize on these great searches by appearing in the vertical results, such as the news section, products, etc. Gord Hotchkiss from Enquiro is going to continue talking about vertical creep and the real estate on the homepage. He mentions some of the eye tracking studies they have done. He says it’s a rather small piece of real estate. He pops up an image of the eye tracking study as I posted here in the past. He says they wanted to find the place that got the most attention. When the one-box results where at the top they had 50%, where sponsored got less. The one-box section did pretty well (2.12 seconds at the top), as opposed to 3.4 seconds looking at the top 3 results. He throws up another picture of hot areas from the eye tracking study showing that when there were vertical results at the top people spent more time looking. When the results were not aggregate with vertical results they often fixated on the number 1 result. He discussed intent and distraction. They found that people where more apt to look at the one-box results that had more general results. They kinda meandered around the page. They represented just 2.6% of clicks. As opposed to the sponsored results at 17.6% and 55.2% for organic. He says that users are still unsure what one-box vertical results are. That’s why they spend time trying to figure them out. He gives some more images from the eye tracking this time with the one-box results at the top. He says that prices are a big attractor, and Froogle results are good at attracting us. He goes into demographics. Men are more apt to click on one-box results (2.6%) and females (1.8%) less likely. People with more educate click more (8%) as opposed to uneducated (.6%). He compares vertical vs. general search. He says that as we go down the buying process there will be opportunity for the search engines to come in with vertical search to help us.
There seems to be a lack of understanding about vertical search results. Current scanning seems to be more about physical placement than searcher intent. Represent a key initiative for the search engines. When present these results provide a lot of detail to catch the eye. They found one-box results where more successful than others. Right now the one-box results is more about where they are placed on the page than the searcher intent to click on them as vertical results are right in front. Great presentation by Gord, very good information.
Toolbarn.com was up next with Brian Mark. I imagine he will be explaining how his company uses vertical search to attract visitors. He is having some difficulties with flashy powerpoint presentation he has. He explains a case study they did about the organic results converted at 1% a month, or one order a month. With product search it was a lot better when they optimized. He explains that in the product feeds they optimized for model numbers of power saws. They seem to have a good long term SEO strategy. He concludes that many vertical opportunities exist and learn to use the vertical results that are creeping in to the serps. He did a pretty good job with good info being that the flashy powerpoint wasn’t too effective.
The key take homes from this sessions is that there is a good amount of oppourtunity out there in vertical search and websites can leverage this knowledge to expand their SEO strategies to include it whether it be by shopping verticals, news, images, and so on.