Specialty search engines, topical search engines, vertical portals or "vortals" -- these are web sites which focus on particular topics and which especially allow you to search for information relating to those topics. Many more may be coming, thanks to the emergence of new companies and services catering to the specialty search market.
FindLaw is a classic example of a vertical portal. It focuses on cataloging resources relating to the law and legal issues. Within it, there's even the LawCrawler search engine that collects pages just from legal web sites. The "vertical" term comes out of the idea that these are places where instead of searching horizontally, or broadly across a range of topics, you search vertically within only a narrow band of interest.
While there are plenty of topic-specific web sites, it's harder to find ones that also offer specialty search engines for the topics they cover. The sites may have link lists, perhaps even offer Yahoo-style directory search, but it is unusual to see them additionally offer a crawler-based subject search engine.
PinPoint.com, BetterGetter, SearchButton and especially EoExchange (formerly Aeneid) may change this, as they are all targeting the vertical market. Give these companies a list of sites related to a particular subject, and they'll spider pages just from those web sites. The result should be a search engine that produces high quality results for the subject that it covers.
Pinpoint.com is currently beta testing its search technology with six web sites, then will offer its product broadly to customers in about a month or so. Pricing will start from US $10,000 and go upwards to six figures.
BetterGetter is another service like PinPoint.com that's operating in beta mode, with an official launch planned for June.
Searchbutton.com, which specializes in offering site-specific search for web sites, announced earlier this year its "CommunitySearch" service. Searchbutton operates Electionsearch2000.org to demonstrate how CommunitySearch could be used by potential clients to build niche search engines. The service will be available to customers in the second quarter of this year, the company says.
EoExchange isn't new to vertical search. The company has been providing its "EoCenter" specialty search product for about a year, powering search at places such as Red Herring, American Banker, CMP Media, and Office.com.
"We've probably got over 100 different portals that we are deployed on right now," said Bob Ainsbury, EoExchange's chief technical officer. "In terms of specific focused search for specific industries, we're grandfathers in that list," he added, commenting on the entry of new companies targeting vortals.
EoExchange has manually classified thousands of sites across the web into categories. It then uses Inktomi technology to spider pages from those sites, and only those sites, into a database for its customers. When you search at place like American Banker, you tap into this database, and only pages from sites classified as relevant to banking information are supposed to appear. About 18 million pages have been indexed this way, and the entire database is refreshed each week. About 10 percent of the index is deemed time-sensitive and refreshed each day.
The company has just added new page monitoring capabilities to its EoCenter product. It's a killer combination that benefits those doing regular research, and the "Making Search Sticky" article below takes a closer look at it.
Don't forget, the big players also remain interested in this market. AltaVista just released a new version of its search software for webmasters, which can be used to power vertical search. Inktomi will also create a specialty search solution for you, but the entry fee starts at about $250,000. This is why the moves by companies such as those I've named are exciting. They extend hope that custom search may become affordable for those running smaller web sites. The result may be that new, helpful search resources will mushroom across the web.
As for webmasters, this change also comes back once again for the need to build good web sites. If you offer lots of good content on a particular issue, then a vortal may want to index you. The good news is that if you've already done work to make your site search engine friendly for the major web-wide services, then vortal crawlers should also do well when visiting you.
Making Search Sticky
The Search Engine Report, April 4, 2000
EoExchange has announced new page monitoring tools that can be integrated into its search results, a feature that offers real benefits to web searchers and perhaps suggests a new way for the major search sites to encourage "stickiness" among their own visitors.
From Searchbutton.com, this specialty search engine allows you to search for matching pages on any topic from within US presidential candidates' web sites.
Another company with a specialty search product among its offerings.
AltaVista Business Solutions
More about how companies can use AltaVista's technology for their own needs.
Describes Intkomi's search engine product line.
This software lets you build custom Yahoo-like directories for a low price. I use it to manage the Search Links area of Search Engine Watch. A new version was just released.
Specialty Search Engines
My list of specialty search engines in various categories. Also be sure to see the references in the "Invisible Web" area. They'll get you to even more specialty search services.
Interested in more about site-specific search and product reviews and evaluations? SearchTools is a must-visit site.
EoEnabled Associates Program
Not only is specialty search growing, but now you can even earn money by encouraging people to use EoExchange-powered search boxes for high-tech and finance research. Other topics are also planned.