In Search, Bigger Is Not Better

Some might say that a search engine founder such as myself is envious of Google’s size and scale. Google was a global search tool with reported ad revenues of $13.3 billion by June 2007.

As a matter of online marketing fact, business and professional users who search for information related to their work on the Web will tell you that bigger is not always better. The users have been frustrated by the difficulty of finding information through search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

Outsell conducted a study in 2006 that revealed a failure rate of 31.9% among users who were researching business topics on the major search engines. Convera’s separate study shows that professionals from virtually all industries are struggling to find important information related to their work on major search engines.

This current situation is frustrating for B2B companies, but it represents an opportunity for vertical search engine (VSE) providers.

Why general search engines fail B2B professionals

Convera surveyed ten professionals and found that only four of them were “very satisfied” with the search results.

  • On average, 11 percent of people find the answer to their search on the first try.
  • After several attempts, 43 percent of people find the answer to their search.
  • Twenty-one percent of respondents feel that their question is always understood.

Search engines use the popularity theory to reward sites that have authoritative inbound links. Rankings are determined by factors such as the popularity of a website and its keyword relevance. Relevance is a good model for consumer searches since the majority of people find what they are looking for in search results.

As of the date this article was written, Google returned 2,630,000 results for “Toyota Camry,” while Yahoo returned 6,740,000. When consumers search for product information on Google or Yahoo, they will likely find the information on the first page.

Professionals, on the other hand, get mixed results. When it comes to searching for business information, it’s different. Consumers are used to instant results. Here’s what professionals are doing when they can’t find the information they’re looking for, according to a Convera survey. This group is not one to give up easily.

  • Seventeen percent of people give up within 5 minutes.
  • Forty-two percent of people continue to search for 15 minutes or more.
  • Twenty-four percent of people continue to search for 30 minutes or more.
  • Seventeen percent of people continue to search for more than 30 min.

It is logical to assume that professionals would switch strategies if the results of business searches were faster and more accurate.

VSEs as an Alternative

B2B companies can achieve better results than fighting Google and Yahoo by searching and submitting their sites to VSEs or directories.

VSEs are able to deliver relevant results to B2B buyers who are in “hunt mode” or actively searching for business-related services and products.

Some VSEs offer enhanced services, such as custom blogs and banners. Some VSEs will allow marketers to blog about approved topics. This results in highly requested user-generated content.

In the last two years, new VSEs have been launched that target specific markets, such as wholesale. These resources are beneficial not only for B2B companies but also allow professionals to customize their searches to meet their needs.

The Convera study revealed that trade publications are creating their vertical search engines for their professional communities.

Nearly 90 percent of professionals believe that these search engines will provide more relevant content.

  • Eighty-six percent of respondents said that VSEs would locate content faster.
  • Eighty-five percent of respondents believe VSEs offer content that is not indexed by popular search engines.

A good VSE is not about quantity but quality.

Before purchasing VSEs, companies should consider all of their aspects. Consider it as selecting a business partner.

It would be best if you looked for the following features in the online community you choose:

  • Industry Focus: By nature, VSEs should focus on a single industry and be maintained by managers who have years of experience working in that particular market. These executives are familiar with all potential users and customers of the product and can bring them together effectively in their online community.
  • Relevant, free content: In the online world, content is king. The more relevant content is, the more appealing the site will be and the more traffic that it will generate. The credibility of VSEs and directories that provide objective, free industry news will be increased among their target audience. These VSEs usually own their trade magazines, partner with trade shows, and have editors who cover every industry aspect.
  • Interactive features: VSEs must provide a way to share feedback with users and solicit their input. Comments on blogs, opportunities to submit articles, and reciprocal linking not only enhance the prominence of a website but also add an element of “stickiness.” The feedback of users is crucial to fine-tuning the performance of a site. This results in better customer service and a competitive edge.
  • Many qualified members.¬†Although many VSEs say they serve specific markets, it is important to verify that the stats are accurate. Businesses should do their due diligence to verify the number of qualified visitors and stickiness. You can verify the site’s track record by looking at case studies.
  • Results-based marketing services: The VSE should focus on its customers, offering them a variety of services such as email marketing, premium ad space, and banner advertising opportunities that are designed to reach a specific industry audience. VSEs must also offer well-negotiated prices and customer service teams where representatives work one-on-one to understand the unique goals of each client.

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