GenuineVC David Beisel's Perspective on Digital Change

December 7, 2005

I turns out that I’ve been citing Charlene Li’s blog post about the Third Page of Search in a number of conversations recently. She summarizes the concept:

“The first page of search is the query page (like, the second page is the search results, and the third is a destination page on yet another search engine or aggregator that’s been optimized for that query.”

And continues,

“[A]s vertical search engines develop, they will actively try to source much of their traffic from the general search engines, training consumers to actually seek out these brand names in the general interface and then drilling down into parametric, structured search on the vertical search site that’s better suited for their original intention…. I think we’re seeing a subtle but fundamental shift in consumer search usage away from trying to find perfect destination page and instead, turning instead to aggregators and vertical search engines that understand (and can optimize for) the query better than the destination pages.”

Her post has got me thinking in the past month about where the traffic of vertical search sites is and will be coming from. However, the examples that she cites, pages from AllRecipes and CitySearch, are distinctly those of content sites – not of vertical search engines per se. I agree that aggregators of specific niche content (especially that which is user-generated, like the above two examples) will increasingly look for their permalinked pages to become the “third page.”

But I wonder if true vertical search engines, which don’t own their own content but rather point to other sites for the consuming of content, are experiencing or even view the third page strategy as a key component of generating traffic. Kayak (travel), Indeed (jobs), BusyTonight (local), Blinkx (video) don’t appear now to have spent sufficient resources devoted to generating SEO-friendly content landing pages. I’ve heard whispers, though, that some of these are making move in that direction, and will look for those changes. People vertical search site, ZoomInfo has already made strides in this approach, however (example). And it appears that Healthline (health) is working on it.

My hypothesis is that the line between vertical search engine and content aggretator will blur as more of these companies optimize their offerings to become the third page. With increased primary search engine visibility, perhaps vertical search engines will build their audience not by brand/destination building, but through an SEO focus.

  • adam moskowitz

    i believe a company has developed a solution that will truly link vertical search and content aggregation. its called clipmarks and what they have done is developed an application that lets user clip specific contents of a given page vs the whole page. no more having to saving full pages as bookmarks/favorites. (thank god, why that took so long to evolve is beyond me) to my point, the app lets you clip and collect the specific stuff you care about. whats cool is when saving you can add it the public clipmarks. basically, they are creating a search engine from the ground up created by its users which will only contain the content the users care about. basically, a folksonomy at the truest context level with the scalability yahoo surfers directory or could never do. see what i clip about, just click on my name…

  • Andrew

    I am a big believer in SEO. Those who are passionate about their site will take the time to understand SEO. Its not a very difficult trick to learn, you just have to know how specific search engines work.

  • will

    I think creation of the third page might be the last draw to force some content owners to close off their site to crawlers. Right now the value of the search engines is for driving traffic but by interceding with one more page before the content owner’s website , natural exit rates will reduce the amount of traffic making the aggregation trade off harder to make. I agree with you that it will happen, but its a slippery slope of complete dis-intermediation and perhaps copyright issues.

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