The Four Horsemen of Vertical Search

  |  February 23, 2005   |  Comments

Study predicts that engines dedicated to four key categories will drive the future growth of search.

The paid search market will more than double from $2.6 billion in 2004 to $5.5 billion in 2009, and that growth will be driven by the "four horsemen" of vertical search, according to a new study by JupiterResearch.

The study, "Vertical Search: Early Marketers Will Reap Rewards of Low Pricing," predicts that the paid search industry will evolve similarly to media markets like television and magazines: with broad-based engines spawning a host of vertical players devoted to specific categories.

The study finds that paid search is densely concentrated within primary categories, or verticals: retail, financial services, travel, and media and entertainment. These "four horsemen" accounted for 79 percent of spend on paid search in the U.S. in 2004.

"If you look at the way other media have matured historically, they began with broad brands like Time and Life magazines that later spawned products targeting special interest niches," said Niki Scevak, the lead analyst on the study. "We began to see the same thing with search last year."

The study was based on analysis of comScore Media Metrix data quantifying the number of consumers the top five search engines drive to various categories; commercial density figures derived from executive interviews and SEC filings; and keyword pricing information provided by a number of search engine marketing companies, including iProspect.

Among the four leading verticals, retail and travel are the most developed and will continue to be the top categories through 2009. The researchers predict both markets will almost double in size over the next four years, with travel increasing from $54 billion to $91 billion and online retail growing from $66 billion in 2004 to $130 billion in 2009.

Examples of already established vertical search engines devoted to retail include Shopping.com and Shopzilla.com, with many more start-up engines like Become.com (a search engine devoted specifically to comparison shopping) expected to launch in the next 18 months. Travel search engines like Yahoo's FareChase, Kayak.com, SideStep and Mobissimo have also begun to make an impact in recent months.

While the four horsemen account for the bulk of paid search, the telecommunications category has exhibited strong growth in the last two years, accounting for four percent of the search market in 2003 and growing to six percent in 2004.

The pricing of paid search advertising is also projected to grow strongly from 2004 to 2009. Revenue will grow from $13.50 per-thousand-queries in 2003 to $28.05 per-thousand in 2009.

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