Marketplaces 2010: The Engines of Vertical Search

This panel, moderated by conference-meister Peter Krasilovsky, peered into the boiler rooms that power vertical search, with presentations by three leading players in the nuts and bolts of this space.

David Kidder, Cofounder and CEO, Clickable, presented a solid vision of technology and functionality behind vertical search, framed in common-sense idioms. Clickable provides SEM marketing and PPC services on behalf of such verticals as Martindale-Hubbell, the Fox Audience Network, and others.

Notwithstanding their midtown Manhattan location, Clickable emphasizes the need for “Apple-like simplicity” in UI design. In their “Clickable Pro” product, this manifests as a unified dashboard-like interface from which multiple search campaigns can be managed at the same time. This interface also provides map-based geo-locating of a business’s customers. Bottom line, David said they aspire to be the “Apple version of AdWords”.

Next, Krista Glotzbach, VP Marketing of Vast.com described their totally white-label approach to powering specialized verticals provided by other publishers. She stated the overall goal of each publisher is to create unique content/user experiences. Vast supports this objective via extensive and continuous A/B testing of content and layout for its publisher clients. Their (vastly?) ambitious goal: To be the Google of classifieds.

In particular, the Vast model works best for high-value products, such as autos, travel, and real estate. (For example, Vast clients include many large players in autos, including AOL Autos, Kelley Blue Book, AutoMedia.com, etc.). Krista maintained that Vast has a symbiotic relationship with search engines, since indeed, their client publishers can be considered to be specialized search engines in their respective domains.

Next, Jeff Beard, CEO of Localeze, wowed the audience when he first took the podium with his bold promise to stop using hairspray. He then segued into a discussion of business listings content, of which Localeze is one of a handful of traditional providers.

Jeff described how Localeze is transforming from a listings content provider into a business listings “identity management provider”. He pointed out that there are two types of content: Anchor content (basic identity and contact information); and Descriptive content (keyword rich text, unique qualifying details, images, links, etc.).

Jeff said a key challenge impacting vertical sites is that although they’re well positioned to be content originators, they’re dependent on traffic from larger sites. Therefore, they need to have consistently high standards for content origination in order to draw that traffic. Finally, he dropped a tantalizing comment regarding user-generated content: that it needs a filter or editor, and that Localeze is “moving in that direction”.

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