Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Thomas Publishing, FindWhat Team up for B2B Industrial Web Search

In an interesting twist on B2B directories Thomas Publishing LLC has launched a new search portal called Thomas B2B(sm) designed for the specific needs of industrial goods and services purchasers and sellers. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article the service uses ad placement technology from FindWhat to insert contextual ads in search results based on Thomas Global Sourcing Directory categorization keywords that apply to the located products and services. The portal also features recent industrial news headlines from Thomas' Product News Network, a nice "destination portal" touch. This is a great example of trying to tune and tame the open Web for specific business purposes, but still in its early days in terms of providing content and context depth. Since through the years we have fielded wayward requests for Shore brand durometers from Instron I thought that I'd try out "durometers". Nothing. Hmm. How about "durometer"? The search results yielded one entry from the Rex Gauge Company, no ads. A similar search on Google yielded several entries for Shore brand durometers at the top of the listing, along with other major suppliers and a wide range of relevant contextual ads; Rex showed up on the third page of search results, after many entries of general interest on the topic of durometers. This simple test illustrates some of the key strengths and weaknesses of both approaches: In the Google approach you're more likely to find well recognized products near the top of search results, but in the product directory approach you're more likely to find competitive sources in a well segregated, purpose-driven environment. Over time the Thomas approach is likely to yield superior results for its intended audience if it can provide truly comprehensive coverage of its area of expertise on the open Web, a chicken-and-egg quandary that is still unfolding in this instance. The New Aggregation may not be the easiest concept to get going, but once established the profit potential is great enough to make it well worth the effort.
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