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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.

Managing your own website can be difficult when faced with issues such as time limitations, and perhaps even a lack of advanced skills. In these situations, website owners often try to take shortcuts. One of those shortcuts involves the optimization of web pages for search.

It can be an easy escape to simply optimize the home page and perhaps one or two landing pages, after all, that is where you want your traffic coming in – hence the term ‘landing pages’. That approach makes the assumption that the only traffic you want is from buyers – if you’re in business, then that makes sense.

The approach can be misguided. First, while your landing pages are optimized for search, your customers are not. They tend to use a wide range of search phrases, and no matter how well optimized your landing pages are, they cannot hope to cover every single search term. Your secondary pages, on the other hand, can be optimized for a wide range of search terms – in fact, the more pages, the more search phrases covered.

Taking short cuts when optimizing your website means you are short changing yourself when it comes to traffic. Every visitor that lands on one of your pages is a potential customer, no matter which page they actually arrive on. The more pages you have indexed and ranking well in search, the more traffic you are likely to receive.

Search engine optimization is a process that takes into account each page – it also takes into account your web site as a whole. Rather than taking shortcuts, spend some time optimizing every page. Over time, you will experience more traffic coming into your website, and a higher sales turnover to match.