If images improve click-through rates and help sell products and services, Vertical Search Works (VSW) may be onto something. The company offers marketers at Web publishers an alternative to Google paid-search ads, adding an image of the product being sold with a 140-character description, and a search box under the listing. The attached engine allows consumers to further the search through an on-site engine.
The next phase of the product will ask the searcher questions. For example, someone searching on the word "egg" on a recipe site might not initially include the word "scrambled" or "poached." So the engine would ask questions such as whether they would also like "nutritional value" or "restaurants locally" or "receipts from local people."
In February 2010, Convera, a developer of search technology for the U.S. intelligence community, and Firstlight ERA, an advertising sales technology company, merged to create VSW. The one company supports semantic search, indexing and ad matching to understand concepts and the context of information in a way that is similar to humans. Today, the engine operates on publisher sites. In the future it could turn into a stand-alone engine. The semantic technology helps the engine find the difference between jaguar the car and jaguar the animal.
With a view that the search engine provides the gateway to knowledge, Colin Jeavons, president and CEO of VSW, said 80% of searches on the Web point to vertical markets such as automotive, home and garden or food. Through these types of searches on publisher sites, VSW processes more than 200 million page views monthly on sites such as FoodChannel.com, Spiketv.com and diynetwork.com.
Quite a range, but click-through rates on the ads range from .5 to between 5% and 6%.
VSW's products work similar to Google AdWords, but marketers pay a fixed cost per click that can generate additional sales without keyword bidding. The tool -- VSW FeatureLink -- aims to complement paid-search and advertising models used by publishers. The ads are paid for similar to AdWords and delivered like AdSense.
New York-based VSW began serving companies in food, entertainment and garden markets in May, but the company plans to expand to other verticals during the coming year.