How Publishers Are Making Money with Vertical Search

Whether you’re product-driven or ad-driven, you can benefit from building your own vertical search engine.

Vertical search engines, in short, are search engines created by publishers, that feature search results based only on websites that the publisher defines as a searchable resource. For example, if you have a food magazine, you might create a recipe vertical search engine. In your search engine, users could search for things such as “sugar cookies” and get results from, and similar sites that you identified for the search engine.

Last Friday, we talked about Why Publishers are Using Vertical Search Engines, but it might be hard for publishers to grasp the concept of sending users to other sites. However, it’s a lot like how many publishers view Google AdSense; you are offering them a valuable resource, and more than likely, they will return to your site. This is especially important for vertical search engines. You are likely offering them a resource that they can not find anywhere else, so of course they will return to your site.

Google Search doesn’t offer the comprehensive niche results that many users are looking for. If you are a craft magazine, users are much more likely to respect you for compiling search results based on just what they’re looking for, not everyone in between. If that isn’t enough, there are multiple ways to generate revenue for vertical search engines.

Download a FREE copy of 7 Ways to Monetize your Portal Audience, and discover how today's top publishers are generating revenue through memberships, events, clubs, sponsorships, and more. has this to say about making money with vertical search:

Current monetization strategies are usually either advertising or subscriptions:

If you can show ROI by saving money you can charge subscriptions. Subscriptions enable predictable, high margin businesses; subscriptions are also much more recession proof than advertising.

The basic rules for getting people to pay for data are:

  • It would cost them way more than the subscription cost to research this data for themselves. In other words, they cannot easily use Google to find a free equivalent or call 2 or 3 buddies.
  • The data can be used to make a case, either internally for a budget or externally for new capital, to spend some serious money. This means that the data must be verifiable and the source must be trusted and can be referenced.

There are lots of pricing options for paid subscriptions – by registered user, by concurrent user, by # of records, by time period, by product (print vs online). Print On Demand technology has rejuvenated print by making very small print runs cost effective.

In recent years the trend has been to move increasingly towards making information free, letting advertisers pay the bills. Google has clearly changed the advertising landscape with Cost Per Click, as this is closer to a model with proven Return On Investment (ROI).

Or you can choose advertising programs for vertical search:

  • Cost per click, in which the advertiser pays only for each time that a user clicks on its ad.
  • Cost per thousand/cost per impression/cost per view, the standardized, traditional method of online advertising, is now emerging as an option in vertical search environments.
  • Cost per action, an emerging model in which the advertiser pays, not on click, or for impressions, but only if the consumer performs a specific action, such as purchases a good.
  • Flat fee/fixed fee, the most popular early ad model for most of the vertical search engines.
  • Web order entry/self-service, a system whereby marketers can buy, monitor and revise their ad campaigns themselves simply by entering their credit card information through a password-protected interface.
  • Paid inclusion, the practice of inserting “editorial-like” ads or more traditional ads into the actual organic search results.
  • Paid listing, in which ads appear on top of or beside organic listings and are clearly identified as sponsored links.
  • Free, plus, in which the site is completely free for both those listing and those searching, with additional features available for those who pay.

If you are already investing time and resources into sponsored content, you are only adding to your arsenal of revenue streams. You are generating thousands of pages with your name on them, where most of the proceeds go to you.


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