Over the past decade we have been presented with every type of specialized search engine you can imagine: Web search, vertical search, retail search, travel search, mobile search, social search, job search and so on.
As a result of these specialized search needs, not only has the search engine market ballooned over the past decade, but so have the number of places where people conduct their searching. As people continued to move more of their lives and interests online, "vertical search" entities spread like wildfire because they were designed to deliver against very particular searcher needs.
In a blog post comScore's Eli Goodman revealed that "This trend is illustrated by the tremendous growth of non-search engine search entities during that time. In August 2011, of the 27 billion searches conducted on desktops in the US, over one-third occurred on non-search engines. Search on sites like Amazon, eBay, and Facebook has been growing faster than (and therefore gaining market share from) the core search engines for several years. But in the past year, this vertical search market actually contracted by 6% after several years of strong growth."
"While these vertical search sites' search volume has leveled, the core search engines have actually continued to grow at double digit rates. Searchers are actually migrating back towards their origins. So what might be driving this shift in trend?"
He said "Search engines are improving the quality of their results in a way that's helping to fill the void once created by searches with vertical intent. With continued acquisitions of vertical search providers like Google's acquisition of ITA for travel search or Zagat for restaurant reviews, the core search engines appear focused on this type of searcher intent and I would expect their results, and their share of the search market, to only get better with time."
Citing an example of today's Google SERP, Goodman said it "now includes filtering for topic, location, and date on the left, a map on the right, Google Places results for restaurant reviews, and any number of other refinement options that present themselves depending on a particular search. "The search engine's ability to both interpret searcher intent and offer a multitude of options to be answer your question at that moment is vastly superior to what was available a few years ago.""
Adding, "Bing SERP also demonstrates the expanded capabilities of the core search engine experience. Here, upon searching for "flights to Brazil," we're presented with a variety of options for reviews, price comparison, flight finders with interactive calendars, related searches, and the like. Once again, this experience simply didn't exist on the core engines a few years ago, and the vertical search sites flourished as a result."
"As these user improvements manifest themselves in the search results and searchers have increasingly begun to rely on them for their more vertically-oriented search needs, we're finally beginning to see a significant shift in the market. Growth in vertical searches is now actually conceding ground to the core search engines in a reversal of the past few years," said Goodman.