Just An Online Minute... Vertical Creeps In
The concept--discussed at length at Search Engine Strategies in New York Monday--refers to the relatively new phenomenon of Web search engines returning results considered "vertical" on top of the organic results. By displaying vertical results, search engines are hoping to answer the specific question users actually have in mind, rather than providing information relevant to keywords.
"Vertical search results deliver the answer in the result itself," Mihir Shah, Yahoo director of product management, explained at the conference.
For instance, the results page for a Yahoo search for "digital cameras" contains a Yahoo "shortcut" at the top of the results page, higher than the organic listings but below the sponsored links. That shortcut offers links to four brands of digital cameras, on the assumption that consumers searching for digital cameras want to purchase them, as opposed to, say, read about the technology behind such cameras.
On MSN, the digital camera search yields a link to MSN's shopping section, with the brand names and prices of the three most popular cameras displayed; as with Yahoo, those results appear underneath the sponsored links and above the organic results.
Google, as well, incorporates vertical listings in its Web search results. When users type "digital camera" into Google, the results page shows a Froogle product search link at the top of the page, directly underneath the sponsored results, as well as links to three Canon cameras and pricing information from camera store B&H.
Vertical creep, for want of a better term, exists far beyond shopping links. Other information to appear in that space between the sponsored results and first organic results includes links to maps and top news stories, to name a few.
It's not surprising that search engines are continually trying to improve the way they organize and present information to users. What's far more remarkable is that, as the term creep implies, the phenomenon developed as gradually and subtly as it did--especially in a field as closely watched as search.