October 27, 2009
I’ve recently read that Youtube is now the second most-used search engine, ahead of Yahoo and Bing. If it is, then what does it mean for the long-discussed future of vertical search?
In case you don’t know what vertical search is, it means niche search engines that focus on a particular area of search. For example, you go to Youtube to search for videos only. So far, many have predicted that vertical search will take over from the current search paradigm, as vertical search can provide better results for the user – by better fulfilling their search expectations.
Google has noticed this coming and has diversified its product line to accommodate – e.g. Google Product Search, which focuses on…product search. So far this has proved successful in staving off the apparently imminent migration to niche corners of the internet.
However, although owned by Google, Youtube is an example that advocates of vertical search can point to when setting out their argument for the future downfall of omnipresent search engines. It now attracts more searches than both Bing and Yahoo, even though its results are also returned within the Google SERPs and Google Videos.
The reasons why are quite easy to see. Firstly, users see that Youtube is more likely to fulfill their search expectations because it only returns video results. The same of course is true for Google Videos – which leads us to the second reason. The Youtube brand is more synonymous with online videos, and therefore heightens user expectations with regards to the results.
This does not mean the future downfall of Google though. It simply means that some of Google’s resources are possibly being allocated unwisely at present. Instead of focusing on developing search tools that diversify the SERPs (e.g. Google Squared, where pictures, text and video will be shown in a grid), they should probably be putting more attention into promoting their niche tools (e.g. news, product search and blogs).
As Youtube has shown, Google’s existing niche tools are far more relevant to users’ needs than Google Squared. Money would be better spent developing and promoting these further as sub-brands to ensure that heightened search expectations do not lead users elsewhere. Vertical search can be better incorporated into the omnipresent Google search strategy, rather than having to buy all the other vertical search magnets out there.