Vertical Creep in Search Results
- Should Organic Optimizers be Concerned?
I thought for
this week I’d give a summary of some of the more interesting Search
Engine Strategies sessions which are currently going on in New York
I was at SES
as a speaker last year in New York and I have to say, there is a
wealth of information there even if some of it is contradictory.
Not only that ,but you get to meet some amazing people and can even
have one on one access with some of the search engine reps.
Overall, I found it to be a worthwhile experience.
like many people, I wasn’t able to attend. However, I wanted to keep
up with the news, so I found a great source of reports and updates.
I will summarize the most important sessions to the best of my
In my opinion,
one of the most crucial topics is Vertical Creep.
is when non-organic and non-paid results start occupying top spots
in search results. Verticals started showing up in search results
back when Altavista was popular, and since then have grown into a
much more sophisticated part of the overall search engine results
page. Greg Jarboe was the first to speak of vertical creep and
introduced everyone to verticals.
engines have verticals in some form or another nowadays. Google has
its famous “OneBox” which is generally the place immediately below
the top sponsored ads but immediately above the organic results.
This is where you will find news, Froogle, and image results which
may match a query.
For example, I
wrote a few weeks ago about how, when you searched for Olympics on
Google, you were presented with video results at the top of the
page. But it doesn’t stop there. Do a search for New Orleans, for
example, and in Google you are presented with not only news results
but also map results, pushing the organic results down so that only
the top 2 or 3 results are showing. Much less than the typical 4 or
5 we are used to seeing.
One of the
biggest impacts of Verticals is the “stretching” of the search
results page. It is becoming ever clearer that everything but the
top 1 or 2 organic is worth less because it could be pushed below
the fold, whereas sponsored’s value is increasing because there are
less organic results visible.
Gord Hotchkiss, however, the impact on verticals, at least on Yahoo!
And MSN, isn’t as great. His firm has recently completed research
on how users interact with search engines. The Yahoo! MSN research
performed by Hotchkiss’ firm is a follow up to Google research the
firm completed last year at this time.
Hotchkiss, Google does a better job of incorporating Verticals into
results. Google users are more accepting of them while Yahoo! and
MSN users tend to scan more of the results on a page, thereby
negating the impact verticals have on organic results.
mean a couple of things. First, as Hotchkiss suggests, Google may
have “trained” its users. We are used to seeing the verticals (and
hit bolding and inconsistently displayed sponsored results) and are
therefore more accepting to the varying page changes, while Yahoo!
and MSN users are less forgiving, perhaps because they feel the
results displayed are less relevant. This isn’t too hard to believe
considering he gave an example of searching for New York Pizza on
MSN and NOT getting pizza places but getting news about pizza in New
too have experienced this, especially with MSN. It seems to have
more of a problem determining what types of verticals are relevant
to the searcher.
was up next and presented a case study on how effective verticals
have been for one of his clients.
analysis they found that Froogle shopping results were showing up a
lot for his clients’ competitive keyword terms, yet the Froogle
listings were unoptimized.
by creating a data feed for Froogle which was optimized to target
these great phrases which had poor Froogle listings. As a result,
his client’s site quickly moved to the top of the Froogle listings
for those phrases. While it is unclear, I would assume this would
have translated into similar top rankings in the Google area where
Froogle is displayed.
shows that, as search marketers, we shouldn’t rely solely on SEO or
PPC. There are dozens of verticals out there we could tap into if
we had an open mind.
If you look at
Google alone, there are opportunities in Google News (with properly
optimized press releases), Froogle, as mentioned above, Google
Local, Google Base, Google Video and more. Similarly, with Yahoo!
and MSN there are verticals to research. Both engines also have a
shopping portal, as well as news, video and local results.
In the end,
verticals could become the “poor man’s” SEO tactic. If you can’t
compete organically and can’t pay for top sponsored, perhaps you can
optimize your product feed to appear ahead of all your competitors?
Rob Sullivan is a SEO Consultant
and Writer for
http://www.textlinkbrokers.com. Textlinkbrokers is the trusted
leader in building long term rankings through safe and effective
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