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Building a Better Algorithm: B2Bs Promise Leads

Among niche engines, those focused on the business-to-business market are particularly specialized, as they’re highly targeted and cater to very specific industries. But they also have more to offer an advertiser than simply higher search placement. B2Bs function as robust portals, offering online and offline ads, branded e-mail marketing and event sponsorships.

Among niche engines, those focused on the business-to-business market are particularly specialized, as they’re highly targeted and cater to very specific industries. But they also have more to offer an advertiser than simply higher search placement. B2Bs function as robust portals, offering online and offline ads, branded e-mail marketing and event sponsorships.

“A lot of times, people will find us through Google and then they’ll bookmark us,” says Renée Thompson, director of product management for KnowledgeStorm, Inc., an offline directory which morphed into an online search engine. Its 180 vertical sites, which generate 3.5 million visitors per month, offer industry-specific searchable content. KnowledgeStorm also partners with 80 other content sites, such as Forbes and Computerworld, to generate search traffic.

With a longer sales cycle, verticals tend to have longer interactions with visitors and more opportunity to win their loyalty. They also take a more holistic approach by offering information on vendors, detailed product requirements, catalogues and CAD drawings.

That holistic approach can give a vertical search engine the edge, says Gord Hotchkiss, CEO and president of Enquiro Search Solutions, Inc. It’s also easier to adapt an advertising message to where someone is in the sales cycle on a B2B site. For instance, with an online tutorial service client, Enquiro targeted search results based on whether the searcher was most likely to be a student, parent or teacher.

But here’s a critical distinction: “Google provides clicks. We provide leads,” Thompson says. “While marketers might spend more money on branding and exposure, they spend more time on generating leads. That’s where they get their ROI from. At the end of the day, leads are what marketers want.”

Because of their smaller budgets, verticals don’t have the spider capabilities the larger engines do, so click-throughs don’t result in as relevant a landing page. As Google’s new universal capability raises the bar, the second-tier verticals are going to have to “figure it out,” Hotchkiss says.

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