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Mastering Narrow Marketing Mindedness

By Michel Fortin
Posted Wednesday, August 25, 2004

People are getting tired if not annoyed of searching through mountains of irrelevant search results. Today. we are bombarded with so much information that the Internet, which is supposed to simplify our lives, is doing the converse. On the other hand, niche-based (i.e., vertical) portals (or vortals) promise to save the day.

I have preached inexorably in this editorial, time and time again, about the many benefits (and soon -- if not now -- the necessity) of narrowing one's focus online. Indeed, an Internet marketer must today become an expert in a specific field in order to gain credibility, quality traffic and high conversion rates.

But the search engine is not immune to this problem -- and is probably the area in which niche orientation is most needed. So vortals provide, as Larry Chase once called it, "Funnel vision instead of tunnel vision." In other words, it offers us netizens a chance to look outwardly at the web from a focused starting point, simplifying browsability and providing needed relevancy.

However, there is a catch in all this. The only problem right now is that vortals are not as accessible and usable as the majors. Agreeably, major search engines will always have a place in online marketing. But it is my estimate that these overvaluated behemoths will lose some of their punch over time. (We see a glimpse of such with the rise in popularity of human-reviewed and paid placement-based engines. Vortals are likely next in line.)

So web designers and Internet marketers alike will need to find innovative ways to streamline vortal visibility, in order to make them more accessible and easy to use. Similar to the TV, which is comprised of hundreds of specialty channels, we will need a portal-like TV Guide to help us. "A search engine for search engines" you say? Maybe. Maybe a desktop or browser-integrated tool could do that -- and I know that some are currently in the works.

"Would it be a great place to advertise?" Absolutely. Being immediately visible to a qualified, targeted audience would be far more effective for advertisers. For example, I would say that buying ad space, in the form of a placement-based link on a vortal, quality content streamed directly to a targeted audience through narrowcasting (e.g., often referred as "push technology"), or banners and interstitials (i.e., pop-up windows) on a vortal engine, would provide a much better return on one's investment.

Possibilities are endless -- but for now, it's food for thought.

The evidence is staggering. And pundits are agreeing that smaller portals are slowly taking over the web. In a recent issue of HypertextNow in an article entitled "Beyond the Portal," author Mark Bernstein predicts: "Over the long haul and while high-traffic sites will prosper, the overwhelming majority of web page visits will be made to and from smaller sites. (Indeed, one of the fastest-growing applications of the web today is the highly-specialized site [...])" (For more, read the entire article at (

As web usability guru Jakob Neilsen once commented on an article by John Dvorak, "[I agree that] it is better to be a focused site than a bland portal that tries to do everything." He continues: "The vertical portal opportunity is screaming at us and nobody is picking it up. Any VCs listening?" (Read John Dvorak's article at (

For the Internet marketer, narrowing one's focus will effectively broaden sales. Take Dr. Mani at ( A well-known heart surgeon and ezine publisher, Dr. Mani is the web's expert on congenital heart defects. I've been an admirer and reading Dr. Mani's many contributions on various discussion lists. And while he has extended his expertise to ezine publishing somewhat, his stature proves a point -- be it on a website or in an ezine, marketers must focus.

In fact, until the dawn of web "vortalization" is upon us, the safest and surest way to market online is through specialized ezines -- ezines whose subscriberships logically match one's target market. And like Dr. Mani proves so well, once you have rooted yourself online as an expert in a specific niche, you will outgrow into natural extensions -- byproducts of your core competency. Your credibility in such areas will carry more weight than if you would attempt to be "all things to all people" from the beginning. And believe me, because of all these worthless search results on the web credibility is the key to success.

About the Author
Michel Fortin is an author, speaker and Internet marketing consultant dedicated to turning businesses into powerful magnets. Visit ( He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 100,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at (


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