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A news release from Google caught my attention today and it reignited a train of thought related to niche search engines. In the past, real estate agents were able to upload home listings to Google Maps. From February, that service will disappear because Google are doing away with the Google Base API.  One of the reasons that Google provided for no longer supporting real estate included this little gem:

….due to low usage, the proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real estate websites…..

That one sentence tells us two things – first, users were not using Google to search for real estate, and second, that Google acknowledges that property search engines are doing a good job.   And they are. Worldwide, almost every country has a niche real estate search engine that has been set up by the real estate industry.

Real estate is not the only industry, although they are one of the most successful. Motor vehicles and travel have also been successful at setting up their own niche-based search engines. In fact, think of a niche and there is bound to be a dedicated search engine. The question is this: Can these search engines help your business? In short, the answer is yes – most definitely.

Niche-based search engines are often less competitive than mainstream search so optimizing your website can be a little easier. They also have the added benefit of dedicated traffic. If someone visits a real estate search engine, you can bet they are looking for real estate. In most cases, they are also looking to buy. Traffic from niche related search engines are more likely to convert into sales because of these factors.

At present, apart from a small number of very popular niches, niche search engines aren’t as popular as mainstream search. That will change as they prove their worth, and that will be a real bonus for businesses everywhere.