How many vertical search sites can there be?

Vertical search is hot right now, and I get that.  The current paradigm of ‘one size search box fits all’ simply doesn’t deliver enough.

I have written before about how this is playing out in UK real estate.

Below are some Friday afternoon musings as I wonder how far this can go?

A good vertical search site will have the ambition to be the first place people think to go when they are searching in that vertical.  That is the first place, not second.  So people need to remember the brand and the URL and go straight there.  Not find it via Google or anyone else.

There is a miriad of interesting vertical search domains – video search, picture search, local search, job search, news search, real estate search, travel search etc. etc. – I can’t remember different sites for all that lot, which tells me that the good vertical search opportunities are limited to a small number of verticals.  Real estate, jobs and local seem to be the most obvious candidates.  These areas are all really important so the good sites will stick in the mind – but I doubt that same logic could extend to pictures, video, travel etc.

The other interesting question is business model.  In this CNN article Om Malik looks at travel vertical search site Mobissimo.  He argues that their success lies in emulating the Google model – be great at pointing people to the best information, but stop there – don’t get involved in the transaction.  I buy that up to a point – focus is a real asset and staying out of the transaction avoids conflict of interest – the only problem is gives you much less opportunity for revenue which means you have to be that much bigger before your company is valuable.

As I think about this, I realise that the landscape is murky and defining the boundaries of vertical search categories is hard.  For example, Kayak may be the best flight searh engine, but that doesn’t cover the TripAdvisor style content I also need to plan my trip, and nor are they likely to in the future.