Vertical Search: Correcting Danny Sullivan

Ian Lurie

(Update: I told you I couldn’t multi-task. I switched them around. Vertical integration is the whole production chain. Horizontal is taking over your sector.
Thanks everyone who let me know.
Luckily I’m still right on the main point: “vertical” versus “horizontal” finds its root in the historical concept. So my factoids can still beat up your factiods. HAH!)
I’m not a liveblogger. I can’t multi-task that well. But I’m sitting listening to the keynote at SMX West and Danny said something that my History Major brain can’t let lie.
He said that the term vertical search came from the financial industry as a way to explain this phenomenon.
“Vertical” and “Horizontal”, in the context of an industry, comes from history, back in the days of the robber barons:
“Vertical” integration is where a monopolist buys up all of their competition in their industry.
“Horizontal” integration is where a monopolist buys up all the business in the production chain, from raw materials through distribution.

So “vertical search” refers to a search engine or tool designed to cater to a single industry.
A traditional search engine, like Google, is more of a “horizontal” search engine.
I will likely be struck down as I’ve now corrected one of the search deities, so I’m going to go sacrifice a mouse…

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. IAN, I know a very old company named vertical net (Bravo Solutions) entered in this segment in mid 90’s having vertical portals (b-b ecommerce) for insurance, meat and poultry, wateronline etc.
    Yahoo, has done a degree of Verticlization. Yahoo Travel, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Auto.
    Google has crated Google Finance ( its more like a personalised feature but I have seen many vertical searches using Google Co-op, Google styled this as an Advanced Custom Search.
    On the other front Google has so far embedded Local search results on the keywords like “new york hotels” but soon we will see localised variants in the verticalized formats.
    Another indication can be obtained from Google base.
    Thanks for this post.
    Navtej Kohli

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