Ride New Verticals or Go Against the Trends of the Web

A friend of mine just posted about trying to build a business by creating 5,000 sites. Everything I know about the trends of the web tells me that there are far easier ways to make money online, especially if you are willing to grow with the latest trends.

You Can't Bring Back the Past

Why would anyone who deeply understands the web start a traditional book publishing business when web formats are so much more profitable and books are becoming irrelevant? Static boring content sites created without passion are, like books, growing irrelevant.

The reason smaller sites could work in the past is because many of them are set and forget. Virtually no incremental cost of upkeep. But the big issue is that they all have some set amount of work required to set them up. And if you are doing something 5,000 times you are going to start automating. And when you start automating you leave footprints. Even if your content is of average quality today, in a year that same content might be considered useless noise and/or spam. At some point a few of the sites get nuked, an engineer does a bit of research, and then the whole network tanks. Then you just lost a year of work and most of your investment.

New Verticals Are Stealing Market-share From the Generalist Web

The problem with set and forget is that there are many new TYPES of content coming online, working to back-fill the organic search results. How uncomfortable is it creating average quality or garbage content when you see half of some search results dominated by books? If you want to do a set and forget approach to marketing I think traditional websites or blogs might be the wrong approach, especially if done in bulk. If I were to try to profit from bulk and was to create something new today I would look at some of the information formats that are just starting to get more aggressively integrated into the search results.

Average Content Has No Sustainable Advantage

The problem with average plain Jane content is that being average is not enough to build permission, gain subscribers, and create a real brand. If you are starting out today you are up against companies with a decade of experience, traction, capital, leverage and market feedback.

The long tail queries that went to garbage content are now sending visitors to large businesses that are becoming more aware of SEO and other vertical searches that are creeping into the traditional organic search results. It is getting easier for competitors to buy your keyword stats for next to nothing, and competitive research is only getting cheaper by the day. When you have virtually no authority, a business model search engineers hate, and are easy to clone then where is your sustainable competitive advantage? Why build anything that lacks a solid foundation?

Dominate Newer Verticals

If it were within my power, and I was scaling this type of bulk content operation, I would have at least one site in Google news. The value of being listed there just went up because they are filtering out many of the duplicate wire service stories that dominated the results in the past. You could also think of videos as easy pickings, at least for now.

Are there other verticals that will become popular? Sure, but you have to be creative and use the word vertical loosely. Remember that in the Google Florida update commercial intent pages were demoted in favor of informational content pages. With Universal search Google has many ways to define verticals and filter irrelevant or lower quality ones. Here is a quote from a recent brilliant post by Tedster

Search terms themselves can also be sorted into various taxonomies, especially the 1-word and 2-word queries. ... With the advent of Universal Search, Google now has the infrastructure to force integrate selections from any class of websites onto the first page. So the implications of Universal Search can go well past the obvious and publicised taxonomies of images, video, news, books, maps, blogs. Even more than a simple "commercial" and "informational" taxonomy, there could also be classes like brochureware sites, trademark holders, businesses with a physical world presence, manufacturers, B2B, multi-topic (encyclopedic) and on and on. One factor Google could then tweak would be which classes of sites to force integrate into the results for which kinds of search terms.

Create a New Vertical

If you rush to find new verticals, change how people use language, or define a page as fitting an alternate meaning of a word then perhaps all this vertical stuff presents an arbitrage opportunity for you. If you create the same type of crap that is already saturated then it is working against you.

SEO Book was not a popular search query until after I created this site. Search engines follow people. Google recommends my brand name and my name in their ad links. The easiest and most sustainable way to dominate a high value vertical is to create a new one, which is something I hope to do in a big way before the year is out.

Published: September 10, 2007 by Aaron Wall in


September 10, 2007 - 9:21am

can you turn on to full rss blog feed?

September 10, 2007 - 11:50am

Hi Wallace
I will do that once I figure out how to. I tried in Drupal but the regular setting did not work so I have to ping my programmer.

September 10, 2007 - 10:12pm

"...which is something I hope to do in a big way before the year is out."

Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy ;)

SEO Junkie
September 10, 2007 - 10:14pm

5000 websites for Adcents? The a$$hole should realize that it is a roll coaster not a steady income stream. Hehehe

September 10, 2007 - 10:40pm

Hey Aaron
Great post! I definitely feel that dominating a vertical market is the way to go as well. Also couple with that the power of video in a website/blog.
What are your thoughts on local markets as well?

September 11, 2007 - 6:19pm

Local markets are great. They not only allow you to win allegiances with people of shared interests but they also allow you to go out and meet people face to face who share many similar living conditions.

Mack Hankins
September 11, 2007 - 4:08am

"Quality vs Quanity"

Step 1
Find a niche

Step 2
work your ass off to dominate your niche

Step 3
Collect the fruits of your labor

September 11, 2007 - 1:10pm

Aaron- thank you for finally initializing some coverage on vertical search engines ( vse's) As the founder of several VSE's - TopTenWholesale, Wholesaleu, OffPricenetwork, and Wholezilla.com - we've seen a significant rise in the amount of traffic, advertisers, user registrations and requests from clients to develop further. Advertisers have been warmly embracing VSE's due to the quality of traffic, higher ROI, and relevant content that is offered. I'm very impressed and pleasantly surprised with the points you make in your blog and I look forward to reading much more from you.


Jason Prescott

September 11, 2007 - 3:42pm

That guy is insane...

On another note, congratulations on the redesign of your home page. I think it lays out very well all the features of the seobook brand, and it will allow visitors to get even more value from the site.

Mario Sanchez

September 11, 2007 - 6:18pm

Thanks for the kind comment Mario. :)

Jessie B
September 11, 2007 - 5:48pm

Excellent post as always Aaron but what about G unofficial position on "search results witin results" which is what most verticals are? - http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/search-results-in-search-results

Do you think that a vertical which brings results on longtail searches is exactly what google wants to eliminate according to MC's post. It also appears to me that many of the directory / search result type sites are no longer appearing in top SERP's as in the past. As an example I think Technorati may not be doing as well for its tagged pages which had massive amount of backlinks.

September 11, 2007 - 6:16pm

Hi Jessie
When Google integrates their own search results there is the assumption that internal heuristics are good enough that relevancy is improved.

Jessie B
September 11, 2007 - 8:04pm

That makes sense... but do you think they are also working on simply exposing their various channels to average users?

September 11, 2007 - 9:52pm

Hi Jessie
That too. If they can improve (or even nearly match relevancy) and keep greater control of the traffic streams and pageviews of course they would rather own those than give them away.

More page views = more Google ads = more money. Even spam can rank #1 if it just pays Google for the traffic.

Mark Alan Effinger
October 18, 2007 - 3:35am

First: Aaron, killer makeover. I'm not sure what platform you used for this site, but it rocks. From subscriber signup to the blog and site pages, it all works. Must be in your blood.

Secondly: You get first rights on your brand if you care to take it.

When we work with a client to get multiple results in the SE's, we drive brand, followed by performing keyphrases, followed by keywords.

We can always own the brand, and leverage that on top of keyphrases to help our client develop a dominant position by driving multiple listings in the search results.

Universal Search is one of the keys to this positioning. Once you embrace multiple forms of media, and understand how to make them perform, you're golden.

We even built an engine to do the heavy lifting: RichContent.tv

Finally, Aaron, you're absolutely right about duplicate content in news and PR sites. I was chief evangelist with PRWeb.com for the last 3 years (up to the sale to Vocus), and I used to be able to achieve 175 mentions within 24 hours, and more than 1,500 after 30 days.

No more. Now I'm lucky to get 100 mentions after a month.

PRWeb is still best-in-class, and they have by far the greatest reach via RSS. And I agree: a release a month keeps you living in Google and Yahoo! new, critical places to be seen and to get links back.

Thanks for the ever-better site. You're definitely one of the THought Leaders in this space.


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