As the internet continues to grow, it is becoming increasingly important for consumers to find what they are looking for quickly and efficiently.  Vertical search engines may be the answer!  However, it is essential for marketers to understand the two major search engines types and their functions to maximize their search engine optimization (SEO) planning.

Horizontal vs. Vertical

When searching the internet, a user may perform two types of searches, horizontal and vertical.  The big three general search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo!) utilize the horizontal search. This traditional approach covers the entire web looking for keywords. They utilize these keywords and phrases to return a large number of results.  A vertical search engine focuses on a specific segment of online material searching for a specific topic or set of topics. 

Vertical Search Engines

Vertical search engines cater to a specific niche, content topic, or particular industry.  The big three search engines, Google, Bing, and Yahoo! provide vertical search products.  Some of the products include image search, video search, news search, maps, and shopping search.

While they offer a wide variety of vertical search products, most consumers are more familiar with the specialized vertical search engines such as:

  • Travel search: Expedia
  • Job search:  CareerBuilder
  • Hotel search:
  • People search:  Spock
  • Medical search:  Pubmed
  • Shopping searchAmazon

Vertical search engines offer several benefits to the user as well as the marketer.  As mentioned above, the amount of information contained on the World Wide Web continues to grow at an exponential rate.  Search engines are the vehicle that consumers use to discover information on the internet. With a narrower focus, vertical search engines can return results faster and with greater efficiency.  From a marketer’s perspective, they can target their product advertising where the consumers are.  Essentially, they bring the fisherman (aka marketer) to where the fish are.  Vertical search optimization allows the marketer to focus their energies on an educated consumer audience and a platform with nearly guaranteed results.  For example, an internet user is searching for employment as an accountant.  If they use a traditional search engine that employs a horizontal search, they will receive a large number of results that may or may not be useful.  Since they are looking for accounting jobs, they will have to dig through other results such as the definition of an accountant, how to hire an accountant, and how to become an accountant.  This approach will lead to significant wasted time as the user searches for jobs in a sea of results.  Also, it makes it difficult for companies looking to hire accountants to make sure their websites rise to the top of the results. In contrast, when the unemployed accountant uses a website like  The search results are only for accounting positions.  This vertical search allows the user to find jobs more effectively and for the hiring accounting firms to concentrate their advertising. In the end, this appears to be a win-win proposition for both sides.

So, the next time, you are developing your search engine optimization plan, vertical search engines may be the answer to improving your marketing campaign and keeping the internet user happy.

Chris Miller