Vertical Creep Into Regular Search Results

Feb 27, 2006 - 11:15 am 2 by

The moderator opens by asking how many new people are here at SES. About half the room raises there hand that this is their first time. Vertical creep began a long time ago, with Altavista and Ask with hints on news items. That was then, and now its way more sophisticated, and the ability to match results with a search is much better. News is a good example of vertical creep in the natural news results, it’s a natural progression into the search results as people want to see that. Images and video is an up and coming vertical creep item. The moderator mentions the one box results in Google, or the top box at the top of results that can list a number of different items.

Greg Jarboe from SEO-PR is up first. He starts by asking how many people are doing PPC advertising? He also asks about how many are doing SEO, News search, Image Search, shopping and local search.

So what is vertical creep and why should marketers care about it? Its been called invisible tabs, Google Onebox results, Yahoo shortcuts, AOL snapshots, and Ask Jeeves Smart Search. Even if users don’t choose to do a vertical search, there’s a good chance that vertical listings will appear at the top of regular search engine results. So for example do, a search for “ Danica Patrick” and image results creep to top of web results. He says Google understands that if you are searching for Danica, that you might be interesting in information from her, but you might also want to see pictures of her. He gives the point that the pictures of Danica’s helmet have a Shell logo. Great branding opportunity for Shell, might be unexpected, but the brand is transfer along with her image. 62% use SEM to increase brand awareness> Celebrity endorsement are a way to enhance your brand awareness. Greg mentions to consider reputation management, and do searches for some of your employees and see what you find.

His next example is a search for digital cameras. He says that if you are searching for digital camera you might be interesting in buying or looking for information. Froogle examples is a good example of a vertical results. 60% of marketers use SEM to sell products services or content directly online (according to Sempo). Even if users don’t do a shopping search, you can still sell them products. Also if you search for new york hotels and you will find that local results will pop up at the top. Google displays phone numbers, and they anticipate your next action, which is to place a call. 58% of marketers use SEM to generate leads that they close via another channel.

Two years ago some of the most popular terms where Bush and Kerry. Kerry optimized for the term “Senator” and Bush optimized for “President”. The people that optimized the news results, took up much of the results. For example if you search for Hilary Clinton, you get many results, does she know what is in the results? The people that right about “Hilary Clinton” know search, those that write about “Senator Clinton” don’t. As “Hilary Clinton” is the more popular search phrase.

Gord Hotchkiss from Enquiro is up next. He is going to be talking about vertical creep, but look at it from a user perspective. He is going to discuss his eye tracking studies and what is going on there. Many of the places vertical results appear is prime real estate. He said he found that real estate on a search page is not enough. What they saw when they compared sites or search results pages where one box results appeared and those that don’t. What they see in Google is very tight scanning activity when there isn’t any vertical creep in the results. With vertical results on there, the scanning activity extends further down the page, there is more time spent. Usually when we go to a search page, we want to do something, we want to find something. We ask ourselves is it a good or bad choice to click on a particular link. People don’t read search results, we scan them. We do them very quickly. 6.5 seconds is all it takes to make a choice on a search result page. In that 6.5 seconds we scan 4-6 results. How quickly do we perceive which results are more important to us. The challenge for marketers is anticipating the user and what they might want. The search will help tell a lot about the intent. However how we precieve the intent on the search results is important. What ever jumps off the page to match our intent will be of interest.

Gord gives an example of MSN. He says they have problems with relevancy in vertical creep. If you are searching for “new york pizza”, you don’t want news! You are looking for a place to eat, and the user will eventually skip over the verticals. According to their study for “digital cameras”, Yahoo has performed best because they give 5 options of various brands. Google offers the most information, but takes longer to scan. MSN again shows news results. Another example is a search for “Dick Cheney”. The word “shooting” might jump off the page at you. Back to the pizza example, he says that that “stars” or rating points really help to jump off the page and get attention. They seem to work. Gord next goes into how visual attractors work with into results. Products need details. Activity is determined by relevancy to intent and “information scent”.

Bob Carilli from Argus Interactive is up next. He starts off with some questions. He is going to go over a case study, its background, what is happening, and so on. The case study is on a real estate training company. I am very familiar with this and ironically know the company he is presenting on. Small world. The users were on the site for approx. 30 minutes. The average sale was $150, and the PPC spend each month was about $60-70K a month. They did search engine optimization and went out and contacted other online marketers.

What was happening was that vertical creep was happening. They saw Froogle Products result in Google come and go. Many of the products listed in Froogle where poorly optimized page/sites. There was irrelevant listings additionally in Froogle. How they responded was they set-up a Froogle Data Feed and launch with many primary products. The predominant product was for California real estate license. The results were first position in the vertical results. He mentions that anything can happen. They achieved a first position ranking in Froogle and definite edge against the competition. He recommends that you need to keep an open mind and be aware of vertical opportunities. Try news things and analyze results. Be sure to pay attention to trends and note changes in search results.



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