Vertical Creep - Don’t Be Scared

December 6th, 2006 | Categories: strategy, trends

No, this isn’t the title of a new Stephen King horror flick or the alias of an 8-foot tall rapist. It is the slang term given to any in-house search engine result listing that appears before the organic results. These are not paid ads, but rather branded portal results that help to keep traffic within the given search portal.

For example, try typing the following search terms into Yahoo Search: ‘movies’, ‘travel’, or even ‘britney spears’. What you will find are Yahoo-branded links to specific portal areas Yahoo logoabove the organic listings. This is an attempt by the Internet search giant to maximize user retention and prevent defection to competitors sites (assuming that the search portal operates a comparable service).

Obviously not every search brings about this ‘vertical creep’, but it is widespread among popular search terms and even some niche terms. This is a case where the company can really capitalize on qualified traffic and drive a high ROI within the host property.

This concept has been around for a couple years, but has remained relatively low key and untouched by the press. Due to its integrated nature, it is often difficult to spot. I think I am going to rename the term to camouflaged search listing. It’s OK if you use the term. Just be sure to send a cheque to… Eat your heart out O’Reilly Media (see ‘web 2.0′…).

Not only does the notion make sense for an Internet search giant, but it really is essential. The amount of internal conversions and revenues driven from such a channel are phenomenal given that the necessary portal section is available. Nevertheless, in many cases, a search engine is simply that. There is no portal section or additional services. If this is the case, then vertical creep is not an option. However, the search pillars of the Internet (Yahoo, Google, MSN, Ask, etc…) have this option and the many opportunities that stem from it. It is to their benefit to take advantage of this and maximize usage without compromising algorithm ethics. Let me explain… 

Many believe that vertical creep is an unethical way of tweaking search results and tricking the user into believing that this result is the most relevant and pertinent. To the novice searcher, this is a valid argument. But I would wager that most searchers can decipher between vertical creep and the start of the organic listings. Once again, I may be speaking from within the echo-chamber, but it is my gut feeling and I cannot go against such a force.

I think that this powerful strategy will continue to flourish among search portals. It not only drives valuable revenues, but also builds brand loyalty and provides exposure to otherwise unseen portal areas.

One Comment

  1. The Problem With The New Yahoo Search Says:

    […] To be honest, I’m genuinely upset about the changes. Not only do they add more clutter to the page, but they’re decreasing the overall quality and relevancy of the search engine. Furthermore, Yahoo is getting praise for these changes. Many are even saying that is catching up to Google. I even heard a whisper of the term “Google killer”. This is a bold statement and it can’t be farther from the truth. In reality, Yahoo is widening the gap. They are drifting further away from Google, as they are providing less relevant, more biased results. They are redefining ‘vertical creep’. On the occasion, Yahoo will have the most relevant result on the entire net, but more often than that, it won’t. What Yahoo needs to do is go back to the drawing board and work on their algorithm. This is the bread and butter of any search engine. Forget the web 2.0 app integration. […]

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