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How to Fish Where the Fish Swim

by Michel Fortin

Vertical portals (often called "vortals") are online directories and content-rich web sites that provide information, tools and resources for a particular industry. Within a more focused environment, vortals typically provide articles, news, research data, statistics, discussions, newsletters, chat rooms, online tools and many other services pertaining to a specific niche.

Portals generally attract a large numbers of netizens. They offer either a abundance of content or links to other sites on the Internet offering such content -- hence the name "portals to the web." But there is a difference between a portal and a vortal.

A horizontal portal is one that caters to pretty much everyone or to a wide array of communities, themes or industries -- such as Yahoo!, GoTo, Disney's Go Network, AOL, Netscape's NetCenter, etc. But vortals are narrower in focus. They cater to a specific industry, theme or idea. Their communities may be smaller but they are of higher quality and therefore highly targeted. And more often than not, they have very little competition.

In a overcommunicated, overmarketed society, people often end  up totally lost when they go online. The web, which is a tool that is supposed to save time and energy, seems to be doing the exact opposite for some. Searching for information or sites that offer what people want has become an daunting task. Many would far more want to skip the inconvenience of going through numerous search results in order to find exactly what they're looking for.

This is where vortals come to the rescue. In an industry or theme-based environment, people can find information, tools and sites that fit their specific needs far more quickly, easily and efficiently. In fact, according to Internet.com's Webopedia (http://www.webopedia.com), "As the web becomes a standard tool for business, vortals will join and maybe replace general portal sites like AOL and Yahoo! as common gateways to the Internet."

iVillage at http://www.iVillage.com is one such vortal. It offers news and services geared for women -- such as, for example, a planning program for pregnant women. According to a recent review of the site, expectant mothers simply register and enter the presumed date of conception. The service then maps out the entire pregnancy, offering suggestions, tips, articles and coupons (for baby products among others) along the way and up to the delivery.

Therefore, if an online business' target market consists mainly of women and especially mothers-to-be, iVillage should definitely be a part of its marketing strategy. Needless to say, there are many other sites and vortals that cater strictly to women let alone expectant mothers. Generally, for every marketer there is somewhere on the web a vortal that either directly or indirectly caters to a market that fits its perfect customer profile.

Another vortal example is Professional City at http://professionalcity.com, which is a directory dedicated to professionals. It offers numerous links to professionals, professional associations and self-help sites on various professional services -- from law and accounting, to IT and marketing. It also offers many useful tools, such as maps and directions, calculators and converters, government resources, and research assistance.

Nevertheless, beyond submitting to the major search engines, web sites and especially online niche marketers should look  into registering or even advertising on vortals in their industry. Audiences will be targeted and the clickthroughs will obviously be of higher quality. While it is true that registering a site beyond the 10-25 major search engines is often unnecessary, vortals should definitely be included somewhere in the mix.

Another marketing strategy is to turn a web site into somewhat of a vortal -- such as Matt Mickiewicz' http://webmaster-resources.com/, Jim Wilson's http://jimworld.com/ and Michael Wong's http://eBoz.com. For example, adding loads of unique content, publishing an ezine, offering a directory of links to other pertinent online resources and managing a discussion board (among many others) are great online traffic generation tools.

But if one were to ask Matt, Jim or Michael, they'll all agree that developing such a site and its content can be a lot of work. The trick is to consistently add to the site. As time goes on, it will grow and become a useful resource to which people will love to return again and again. On the other hand, one can use more sophisticated vortal developers or tools, like:

   - http://www.verticalnet.com/,
   - http://www.ittoolbox.com/,
   - http://communitybuilding.com/,
   - http://www.vortal.com/,
   - http://www.younology.com/vortals.htm,
   - http://www.communities.com/,
   - And Jim Wilson's http://www.the1000.com/.

One can also develop online communities -- turning web sites into mini-vortals that, beyond publishing ezines, can help in adding interactivity, credibility and personalization to them. Some services offer this capability (many are free) by providing discussion boards, mailing lists, chat rooms, polls and other resources. For example, there are http://icq.com, http://www.vicinities.com, http://eGroups.com and http://myevents.com.

Ultimately, as the Internet let alone search engines grow (and consequently get overcrowded), so too will the need for vortals. With their help, consumers can thus find sites and specific information more easily, while Internet marketers can just as easily locate their online target market -- which can be difficult in a place that has no physical location.

About the Author
Michel Fortin is a consultant dedicated to helping businesses turn into powerful magnets. Visit http://SuccessDoctor.com to receive a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning." He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 90,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at http://SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/.


Tags: E-commerce and Internet


 

 

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