Most search marketers focus on Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. But B2B search marketers also have a growing number of vertical search options. Clicks and leads from these vertical search sites may not yield the same traffic as general search engines, but the percentage of qualified traffic and conversions can increase dramatically with leads from these specialized and vertical business-oriented engines. Here’s a roundup of the most important search sites and resources B2B search marketers should be targeting.
While business searchers may start their quest on a general search engine like Google, as they become more informed and progress further in the buying cycle, they often turn to other sources for additional and more detailed information. Many turn to general B2B search engines or head to niche-oriented search sites, where they hope to find fewer extraneous search results and other types of content, such as white papers, case studies, and other content marketing vehicles. The searcher’s aim is to get better information and to get it more quickly.
There are good vertical search sites and ones that are struggling to optimize their search technology and their ability to capture and organize information. The best ones deliver comprehensive results in the given niche, provide more focused search results than general search engines, and give searchers the ability to quickly and easily find relevant information.
Good vertical search sites also provide opportunity for B2B marketers, who can generate highly qualified leads and click-through due to the focused demographics of many B2B vertical search sites. That concentrated demographic also allows marketers to precisely target their ad messages and other marketing efforts. Lastly, because vertical searchers are often further in the buying cycle than their general search counterparts, the click-through and leads tend to be more valuable, giving marketers the ability to influence potential buyers as they draw closer to the purchase decision.
As B2B marketing budgets shift more strongly to online opportunities, media companies are beginning to add vertical search as a way to remain authoritative in their niches and to make up for decreasing offline revenues. And with the trend toward vertical search, we see also the growth of companies such as Convera that offer vertical search platforms that shorten the time to market for those wishing to enter the vertical search arena. Here are some of the more popular B2B search engines:
General B2B search engines
Business.com is far and away the leading general B2B search engine and directory, with six million unique visitors per month. PPC and paid directory inclusion are available to marketers. Sponsored search is syndicated to more than 100 other business sites, such as Forbes and BusinessWeek. In March, Business.com launched Channels, adding two vertical search portals (Money and Technology) to its general search capabilities. Users will benefit from more targeted information and search results; marketers will benefit by reaching a more concentrated market segment.
Several times smaller in traffic than Business.com and part of the iEntry network, Jayde is another B2B search engine and directory. Many of the search results on Jayde have company profiles with links to internal web pages, similar to Google’s site links. While Jayde says it crawls sites, it appears that it may only crawl those sites residing in its directory and those specifically identified by Jayde staff. Submitting your site to Jayde’s directory for review is free, but you’ll have to agree to be on Jayde’s list to receive emails sponsored by iEntry’s advertisers. If you opt out, your listing can be removed. Paid search is not available.
Zibb is owned by Reed Business, one of the largest business-to-business publishers. General search capabilities are supplemented by the ability to search in a limited number of silos, such as industry news and blogs, the web, and Zibb’s directory. Zibb crawls the web, winnows non-B2B content, and organizes the relevant content into taxonomies. Searchers can also drill down into these categories and further refine results by topic, content type, or source. PPC is not directly available; ads are served up by Google. Although it’s the smallest of the three general B2B search engines listed here, it is growing. Per Alexa, its traffic has nearly doubled in the last three months.
Industrial search engines and directories
GlobalSpec serves the engineering, manufacturing, and related scientific and technical market segments. Registered users can use the search bar or drill down deeply into product and service categories. Search is also available by needed specs, patent, material properties, news, application notes, part numbers, and standards. While GlobalSpec crawls the web for relevant sites/content, you can also submit a site for consideration. Sales lead and CPC programs are available for marketers, as are sponsored listings.
Similar in traffic to GlobalSpec, ThomasNet serves industrial buyers and sellers. Although there appear to be fewer silos within which to search, there are good options on ThomasNet to narrow search results by geography, certifications and standards, type of company, etc. Also available is the ability to search within CAD files. While GlobalSpec allows users to compare product catalogs of various suppliers, ThomasNet allows users to compare company information on its listed suppliers. The only way into ThomasNet’s directory is via paid listing. Banner ads are available to marketers.
Masterseek touts itself as “the world’s largest and most comprehensive B2B search engine that connects buyers and suppliers worldwide.” Several times smaller in terms of traffic than GlobalSpec or ThomasNet, Masterseek’s search options are also more limited, giving users the options to narrow their searches in two silos—companies or products. Its search results are also much more akin to general B2B search engines; the focus is on click-through to the listed sites as opposed to providing more detailed information on the companies or products. Paid search options are available. On Monday, B2bcompass Ltd., parent company of UK-based international B2B search engine b2bcompass.com, signed a letter of intent to acquire the shares of Masterseek in exchange for shares of B2bcompass.
Part of the TechTarget network,KnowledgeStorm is the most popular search vehicle in the technology sector. Instead of delivering information and links to relevant pages on the web, KnowledgeStorm delivers links to whitepapers, webcasts, case studies, articles, reports, and analyst reviews. While KnowledgeStorm offers category sponsorships and search ads are served by Google, content marketing is the focus of the site. Users must be registered with KnowledgeStorm to view more detailed search results and must provide further lead information to obtain the actual content.
IT.com uses “dynamic peer ranking” to order its search results, with the goal of mirroring “how a large community of buyers judges each vendor’s position in the market.” While a general search tool is available, IT.com also offers more narrowed search within defined categories. PPC search-term ads are available. Also available is sponsorship of search categories, where the sponsor’s ads appear before the user searches and where the sponsor’s brand identity (with link) remains present during all search activity within the sponsored category.
Launched late last month by UK-based Incisive Media, IThound is the latest newcomer to information technology search. Like KnowledgeStorm, it delivers whitepapers, product information, webcasts, and reports. Though there are banner ads on the site, content marketing rules the day at IThound. No AdSense or PPC was noted at this time.
Described as the “online dating service for global business,” Alibaba boasts 27 million members in more than 200 countries, field sales and marketing offices in more than 30 countries, and more than 5,200 employees. Users search for either buyers or sellers of goods and services around the world. Various advertising opportunities exist. And while you may not have heard of it, it’s one of the most popular B2B sites in the world; it has an Alexa traffic rank of 226. In October 2005, Alibaba Group and Yahoo! Inc. formed a long-term strategic partnership. Alibaba.com went public in November 2007, raising nearly $1.5 billion for the company. By comparison, Google raised $1.9 billion in its IPO.
Made-in-China is perhaps the second most popular international B2B trading site (Alexa rank 2607), but, as the name indicates, it is primarily concerned with China. The site offers marketers preferred listing placement and opportunities for banner ads.
TooToo is another global online B2B trading platform, allowing its users to further refine product and company searches by type of business (e.g., manufacturer, wholesaler/distributor, agent) and by standards certifications (e.g., ISO, CE). TooToo claims its site represents eight million manufacturers and three million buying leads. It currently has an Alexa rank of about 7500. The site doesn’t appear to offer PPC or banner ads. In addition to search listings, the site offers marketers other premium opportunities such as “showroom” web pages.
Other vertical search sites
There are a number of other good vertical search engines in various B2B niches, like SearchFinance for corporate finance, Construction.com for the AEC community, Scirus for scientific research, and SearchMedica for medical research.
B2B vertical search is a growing area. Though B2B media companies have been slower to react than their consumer counterparts, many B2B media outlets are entering the fray, such as Incisive Media. Some not-for profit organizations are also entering the space on matters of health and research (e.g., Healia).
Perhaps one of the most targeted niche search site I found was CleanHound, owned by Trade Press Publishing Corporation. CleanHound is the search engine for cleaning professionals, providing “useful and quality information for the janitorial/sanitation executive.” While I’m sure this evoked at least a smile in most readers, if the search engine is comprehensive and well known in the industry, you can bet it’s a good medium for marketers in that space.
Whether it’s organic listings and rankings, directory inclusion, content marketing, PPC, banner ads, or sponsorships, there’s plenty of opportunity for marketers to target their efforts more precisely through B2B general and vertical search. You may not get as many clicks or leads, but you’ll get a much higher percentage of qualified traffic.