Earlier today, Montreal based meta-search engine Mamma.Com announced the beta release of Mamma Health Services, the first of a line of “deep web” vertical search tools planned to be introduced over the next twelve months.
A vertical search engine is one that focuses on unique range of subjects, such as health, travel, or shopping in the quest to present users with topic-specific search results. For a meta-search company like Mamma.Com, establishing a series of vertical search tools might be a wise move given the numerous sources available for them to call information from. The term “deep web” is used to define areas of the web not commonly indexed by search engines such as information found in password protected areas, content accessed by subscription, or documents extracted from protected databases. MammaHealth.com cites references from 7 or 8 highly reputable sources including WebMD.com, Medicine Net, Health Day, and the UK National Health Service.
In an interview, Mamma.com CEO Guy Faure, Mamma has “…identified specialized sources in healthcare marketplace, offering single door entry to the best sites with up to date data going beyond conventional search… to actually retrieve and present content right away to the user instead of just presenting search results leading to an index page.”
Searchers are presented with an easy to read page providing quick reference answers which are arranged in a fashion designed to educate as much as inform with the first results leading searchers through four early sections labeled “about”, “causes”, “symptoms”, and “treatment”. After the “treatment” section, there is a news section constantly updating information from the pages of the trusted sources referenced. Lastly, there is a section labeled “metasearch” providing all results found in the databases of the trusted sources. One thing searchers won’t see at the beta version of MammaHealth is paid advertising. Faure noted Mamma.com wanted to avoid paid advertising on the Health-vertical but would not rule it out for future vertical search engines.
An interesting feature to MammaHealth.com is that the limited number of sources allows for instantly updated information delivery. “Our deep web Health Search offers a search experience unlike any other,” said Faure. “It’s the fastest, easiest way for Internet users to find in-depth, non-biased information on any health-related topic. We don’t just deliver ‘close’ results, but results that are dead-on accurate – and hand-picked from multiple, credible medical sources from across the Web. Our technology does more than aggregate results from various content providers for medical information; we crawl deep into the websites of certain handpicked, trusted, medical websites to extract and format results in a easy to understand, and comprehensive manner.”
Another appealing feature is the “second opinion” option which provides users a greater number of choices drawn from the trusted Health sources.
Vertical search might be the answer Mamma.com is looking for as they struggle against the tide of popularity enjoyed by Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask Jeeves. Over the next twelve months, Momma expects to develop and release other vertical search engines though Faure was tightlipped on exactly how many, the subject matter (he did hint at travel), and the timing of their release. Building vertical search tools is likely a good step for the firm that labels itself the Mother of All Search Engines. By building vertical search tools, Mamma can avoid competing against the Big4 in the field of general search while offering their users tightly focused information.