Meet The B2B Search Engines

One of the top trends highlighted at the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose was the growing importance of vertical search, and one of the key sessions in the vertical track was "Meet The B2B Search Engines."

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference, August 8-11, 2005, San Jose, CA.

The session featured representatives from five B2B search engines, who spoke about how they operate and offered tips for search marketers.

The first speaker was Michael Doyle, vice president business development for TradeComet and the former VP Business Development of Thomas B2B, a division of Thomas Publishing Co.

ThomasB2b.com (which is now redirected to ThomasGlobal.com) is a directory of 700,000 manufacturers and distributors from 28 countries, classified by 11,000 products and services categories. Thomas Global Register can be searched in 11 different languages including Japanese. Look for Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese to be added soon.

Doyle talked about "new directions in B2B search." He said, "Company product specification data needs to be published in indexable formats" that meet standards like the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC). This would "allow companies to include themselves in a standard index if they adopt general standards" or use software tools to classify their products, he added.

The second speaker was Jeff Coyle, "Search Guru" Product Manager for the search and lead generation products and offerings at KnowledgeStorm.

KnowledgeStorm specializes in online lead generation and brand awareness for the technology industry. KnowledgeStorm aggregates content from thousands of software, hardware and IT services vendors into its Internet-based technology directory and KnowIT (beta) vertical search site. KnowledgeStorm also syndicates structured technology content to over 160 sites, including Forbes, InformationWeek, Computerworld, and Modern Healthcare.

Coyle talked about "user targeting and behavior in business to business search." He said, "In the Business to business space, we know that users are basically doing one of two things online. They're either trying to stay current on news and issues or they are involved in activities that support a buying process or decision."

The third speaker was Sarabjit Singh, Director of Search Operations at GlobalSpec, Inc.

GlobalSpec is a B2B search engine for engineers and technical buyers. GlobalSpec currently has more than two million registered users, giving it one of the world's largest registered communities of its kind. GlobalSpec's community is growing at the rate of over 60,000 new registered users each month.

Singh talked about "what engineers look for on the web." According to a GlobalSpec Engineering Trends Survey, 91% of engineers use the Internet to find components and suppliers, 87% use it to obtain product specifications, 72% use it for news and information, 68% use it for research, 64% use it to find pricing information, and 60% use it to search for technical application ideas.

The fourth speaker was Brennan Beyer, Director of Strategic Sales for Business.com.

Business.com is a business-focused search engine and directory. About 850,000 companies are listed in Business.com within 73,000 directory topics. About 3.5 million unique users conduct 9 million monthly searches at the Business.com site, and 38 million unique users conduct 14 million monthly searches on the Business.com Network, which includes BusinessWeek Online, Forbes.com, and Inc.com.

Beyer talked about what vertical search can mean for B2B advertisers. He said, "Compared to Google and Yahoo Search, Business.com serves a more concentrated group of individuals who are shopping online for B2B goods and services." According to Nielsen NetRatings @Plan Spring 2005, Business.com has a higher concentration of decision-makers for financial services, telephone equipment, and IT consulting services than general search engines.

The fifth speaker was Mark Cordover, the CEO of IT.com.

Unlike directories that only include those vendors who've paid to be listed, IT.com's vertical search engine delivers natural, relevant results focused exclusively on enterprise IT. IT.com uses a special algorithm called dynamic peer ranking to order its results. This algorithm replicates how a large community of buyers judges each vendor's position in the market.

Cordover talked about "how specialized search engines could lead to a business-to-business renaissance." He said, "Ideally, B2B vertical search engines create a 'virtual trade show'" that delivers a targeted audience. He also urged B2B marketers to "let the customer find you" by using brand names, product details and actual prices. Cordover said, "Surprise him, make every word tell, and skip all that jazz."

Greg Jarboe is the co-founder of SEO-PR, a search engine optimization company and public relations firm that specializes in news search, blog search and vertical search.

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