3 Keys to Vertical Search

Posted on September 6, 2005

Vertical search is one of the hot ideas to come out of Silicon Valley lately although it has presumably been tossed around since the beginning of the search engine. While google and other major search engines search everything, vertical search engines look to specialize their searches in a specific market vertical adding significant value to the consumer who may be overwhelmed by the macro search engines. To learn more about the business side of vertical search please see a powerpoint presentation given at the VerticalLeap conference this summer by Dave McClure of SimplyHired.com entitled “Top 10 Rules For Vertical Revolutionaries.”

There are many vertical search engines being developed today but one stands out as the most interesting and promising in my mind. The company I am speaking of is SimplyHired.com. As the name implies, the company is going after the segmented job search vertical by creating a search that aggregates all the jobs on the planet but also adds much more value than that. Among the additional features that SimplyHired.com offers is a rating system (a la Netflix) for jobs and a partnership with LinkedIn.com that allows users to find out how they are connected to a certain job opening. The features highlighted above are obvious differentiators from sites like Monster.com but there is another angle that SimplyHired.com is utilizing which will undoubtedly gain them market share, the formation of a community.

SimplyHired.com has set up a company blog where users can see what the team is up to and new developments that are coming down the pipeline. The company has also created a forum where users can post anything from interview tips to their blog urls to funny (and not so funny) stories on how they were once fired. The “fired stories” were so good the company set up a contest and sister site called SimplyFired.com to showcase the best fired stories and pick the best of the best to win certain prizes. They just crowned a winner of the first SimplyFired contest this past Friday and you can read his fired story here. Trust me, it’s a good one! You’ll never look at left over pizza in the company cafe the same way again.

The formation of a community seems to be working well for SimplyHired because it brings all job seekers together and allows them to have fun while searching for jobs. Fun is one of the keys to creating evangelistic customers who will not only continue to return to your site or to utilize your service but will also enthusiastically spread the word about your site to others. Enthusiasm is contagious (and a lot cheaper than an ad campaign!) so if a start-up can create great users it will really help them on their way to creating a great business. However, one can have a fun site that provides great value-add to the end users but if the site is hard to use and gives the user a headache every time they view it you still have a problem. This is where SimplyHired excels again.

If you look at SimplyHired.com you will notice how clean their site looks (a la Google) and that their colors are few and pleasing to the eye. Let’s compare Yahoo and Google to make my point clearer. I recently heard that Yahoo’s search gives really great results, possibly even better than those of Google, but Yahoo is used less. Why is this? What helped Google rise to where it is today? I believe a lot of it had to do with them concentrating on their search: i.e. keeping their page simple, easy to use and not busy. Now, compare this to Yahoo. Yahoo went the portal route and did that well but it’s search component doesn’t get used as much as it should because the portal information chokes it.

In conclusion, SimplyHired is doing a great job at three major things that, in my opinion, help grow a vertical search company. The three keys are:

1. Creating a site that has great search content and great meta data (i.e. job ratings, LinkedIn partnership, etc.).

2. Creating a community of evangelistic users by having fun.

3. Keeping things simple.

Obviously there is much more that goes into a company like SimplyHired.com than what I have listed (i.e. financial modeling, finding a long tail, etc.) but those three keys are a big help in getting a vertical search company off the ground. I have a feeling that SimplyHired will be used as a model for vertical search companies that form in the months and years to come. Now, to do my part as an evangelistic user.

Tired of your current job? Need a change? Recently fired? Then get hired! Check out the SimplyHired search on the right side of my blog. Enjoy!

Funding FYI: SimplyHired.com has received over $4mm to date through two rounds of financing from some very notable angels that include: Rajeev Motwani (Stanford computer science professor and early investor/technical advisor to Google), Ron Conway (founder of Angel Investors, L.P., early investor in both Google and Ask Jeeves), Kanwal Rekhi (successful serial entrepreneur and former CTO of Novell) and Guy Kawasaki through Garage Technology Ventures. Guy was also named to SimplyHired’s Board of Directors.

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2 Comments so far
  1. Dave September 10, 2005 11:37 am

    thanks for the kind words eric… aside from the kudos, nice post ;)

  2. Obi Igbokwe September 30, 2005 5:18 am

    Great article. Vertical search is going through an exciting period now and sites like SimplyHired are leading the way. We have however taken a more specialized route to vertical searching by providing two sites:
    Biohealthmatics for biotech and health tech jobs.

    HealthCareerNet for healthcare jobs.