Optimizing for Vortals

Search is one of the Internet’s most frequently used applications. As the web continues its fast and exponential growth, search and navigation become more important yet less satisfying. Finding what you want among the Internet’s ever-expanding choices can take all the fun out of focused Net surfing.

Audience segmentation is the natural solution to data overload. Vertical portals (vortals) now deliver targeted content, commerce, and community to every imaginable demographic and interest group on the Internet. Will vortal visitors be satisfied with generic horizontal search results (the same set of links that include every site on the web)?

Vortals can now harness the group intelligence of their user communities to deliver better and more targeted search results. And it is this better search capability that will help differentiate the vortals. There is value in understanding how the Internet search world is developing, so you can focus your optimization efforts to provide the best targeted audience for your clients.

While attending this year’s Search Engine Strategies 2000 in San Francisco, I was quite impressed with the various business models exhibited at this trade show. The model offered by Quiver caught my eye, as it claims to have the first customized directory-building technologies and services for affinity web sites.

Quiver’s mission is to be the leading provider of community-powered search-and-directory infrastructure solutions. The company’s technology enables leading web sites to create and maintain customized guides to the web that feature the unique perspective of the user community. Quiver hopes to make community-powered search the standard for finding the most relevant and current information on the web. Therefore, becoming aware of these databases and how to get into them will benefit your search engine optimization plans.

Quiver is a search infrastructure company. It enables leading web sites to create and maintain customized Community Powered Directories to the web that reflect the unique perspective of the web site users. Quiver’s proprietary client/server technology utilizes a preference-based algorithm that analyzes user bookmarks, URL contributions, and surfing behavior to build highly relevant and continuously updated directories for its customers. Here’s how the technology works.

Any web site community will have a body of knowledge to be accessed by users, so it makes sense to use the community members as editors. A browser tool bar, or browsing companion, is provided to the users of a demographic portal or vortal. The tool-bar application records information from the users’ browsers and collects the clickstream data. This data is then sent to the Quiver server, which runs the data against algorithms.

Quiver then parses through the information and catalogs the content and web sites into a topically based directory. User behavior is monitored, and the sites’ contents are added to the vortal directory, listing top sites based on the actual surfing actions of the community. Most current directories are built by human editors who catalog the web, so Quiver takes this one step further by creating user editors who catalog sites defined by the community users’ behavior. Below are some examples of vortals using this technology.


Gay.comis an international company that leverages the distribution power and global reach of the Internet to provide products and services to 2.6 million unique gay consumers. The company’s Internet vortal, www.gay.com, is said to be the largest and most extensive online network targeted to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Interactive services include ISP, news, search, shopping, chat, message boards, email, and 12 original content channels. The gay community determines what is important to include in the site through the use of Quiver technology.


GORP is the largest and most trafficked web site dedicated to outdoor recreation and adventure travel. With more than 100,000 pages of content, GORP offers a complete package of authoritative, award-winning content. It has a large, active community of outdoor enthusiasts and a full range of e-commerce offerings, drawing nearly 14 million page views per month. GORP community preferences are used to create its giant user directory.


Empowering active, self-motivated adults between the ages of 35 and 54, myprimetime.combills itself as your “Personal Trainer for Life.” This broadband web site provides the 81-million-strong baby boomer market with tips, tools, and inspiration to navigate life’s transitions. The site’s five principal content areas are family, money, health, work, and play. Again, Quiver technology builds myprimetime.com’s directory based on user preferences and behavior.

Getting Listed in the Vortals

Each demographic vortal will offer its own contribution mechanism whereby a publisher or site owner can submit its URL. The “add URL” page to register your web site will have similar procedures to those of most other engines or directories; however, popularity will be based on the preferences of the vortal community enjoying your content. For example: Gay.com builds its directory from submissions, but the gay community determines what’s important to include on the site and in the directory.

To quote Scott Potter, CEO and president at Quiver: “Search is going vertical, into very targeted communities, such as wine, gay, or women, etc. These communities are not interested in searching the horizontal (generic) web. Quiver is able to deliver a directory-building platform with content much different than a generic web index.”

As search engine optimization procedures develop, it will become increasingly important to be aware of all the demographic vortals and their submission procedures. Not only that, it will be important to develop only the best content if you want to dominate your niche.

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