Vertical search engine optimization is the practice of optimizing your products and services for niche search engines, rather than Google. There are hundreds of thousands of “vertical search engines” on the Internet. Everything from Yelp, which indexes restaurants, dentists, auto mechanics, and any other brick-and-mortar business to eBay has a vertical search engine component.
While it’s crucial to optimize your content for Google, your products and services often will benefit from vertical search as much as they will from flat search. In this article, we’ll ensure your vertical search presence rockets skyward by illustrating some of the benefits and strategies that vertical search engine optimizers use to make sure their products and services show up on internal search engines in addition to Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Understand which vertical search engines you are listed on
For every industry, there are likely dozens of vertical search engines that you could be listed on. If you sell products at retail, there are Amazon, eBay, NexTag, and PriceGrabber; real estate companies have Craigslist, Trulia, and Zillow; restaurants have Yelp and OpenTable; legal firms have FindLaw and LexisNexis; doctors have WebMD; hotels and lodging have Hotels.com and Expedia; and just about everyone with a brick-and-mortar storefront has MapQuest.
There may also be region-specific search engines, especially those operated by publications in the area. The first step to optimizing for vertical search is to understand which of search engines serve up results for businesses in your industry. A good place to start is Googling your business name or the names of your competitors, which will help you see where you’re already listed.
Determine the traffic the vertical search engine receives
Some vertical search engines, like Amazon and eBay, drive enormous amounts of traffic. Others may drive targeted niches of traffic. Either might represent a potential opportunity for optimization. Devise a system for deciding which vertical search engines make the cut in terms of time, money, and effort. Avoid time-wasters, especially if you have to pay to “own” your business name, unless the investment is worth the traffic.
Understand what kind of optimization is allowed
In some cases, like on Amazon, you’ll be able to customize everything about your product listing, titles, descriptions, categories, and more. For these search engines, you’ll want to use all of the standard search engine optimization tools like keywords and semantic keywords. Some sites will only let you customize a description or correct the information that’s already listed about your business. Some sites, like Yelp, have strict quality control standards that prevent typical optimization techniques.
Optimize with a specific customer in mind
Understand the type of traffic that the search engine will be driving to your business and optimize your listing to reach that particular customer. Develop a target audience persona and write your product or service description for that individual. Avoid generalized optimization, and instead, target a specific niche with each vertical search engine.
Consider paid placement on targeted vertical search
In many cases, vertical search engines that are not product-specific allow companies to place ads for products or services within the search result listings. A good example of this is a site like Parents.com, which features product placement within the site’s internal search engine queries. For example, searching for a topic like “potty training” shows all of the editorial content published about the topic as well as paid placement opportunities in the sidebar.
Using vertical paid search often drives higher ROIs than horizontal paid search on platforms like Google AdWords because of the highly targeted nature of the traffic viewing the advertisements. You typically can’t buy vertical search advertising through a major ad provider like AdWords unless the sites you need to advertise on are running Adsense; instead, there are companies that specialize in working with publishing partners in dozens of niches in order to provide these search ads.