Blogs and Partners
Rash: Now how do you tell which one of these particular vertical search facilities or search engines is actually one that's going to be useful to you?
Lewis: Again, it all depends on the user and what other information or periodicals that they happen to be reading. So let's say someone is brand-new, doesn't read a lot of blogs or what have you, they'll either go to Google and search and then try to go through those and see which ones seem to be related to the content they're looking at. Or they'll search for blogs or publications that cover the topic, and look for partners that they-if you remember, in a lot of industries they'll have resources for information they cover, and that's where all the partner links are. So there are really two ways to get those.
Rash: So once you've found the right search engine that's going to actually give you this information, what kind of benefits does it bring to you?
Lewis: If I'm looking for enterprise servers and I found a search engine that gives me a lot of information to help me make a decision and saves me a lot of time, so they would do a lot of work for me, I would typically bookmark it and remember to go there directly. But when you go vertical, you're looking for a little bit more, if you will, answers instead of just search results. You actually look for information that's going to help you make a smart buying decision, especially if it's a significant purchase that you have to get signed off and you want to make sure that the server's the right server.
So you want to look at those vertical search engines that have a community of experts and a good knowledge base of folks contributing and validating the products that they would recommend.
Rash: How do you tell if that's the case?
Lewis: A lot of that is based on user reviews, expert reviews, or if you look at the blogs and forums and the contributions. So if you went to a vertical search engine, which is like the starting point for that, and then some of the top reference sites of that vertical search were a blog, but then you go to those blogs and there's no traffic, there's no community, you have to ask yourself, do other people find this vertical search engine as valuable as maybe another one because no one seems to be contributing information. So a lot of it is based on the buzz or the community that is brought in by those vertical searches.
Rash: So how do you know when you see these results, even assuming you get one that's got some traffic, that the search results are really valid, objective search results and not influenced by perhaps buying of higher spots or what have you?
Lewis: I would love to say the industry doesn't do that anymore but we all know that they do. You would want to be careful to look at a clear separation between organic or natural search results versus advertisement or paid sponsorship. Most of the vertical search engines today will identify those that are sponsored with them and so forth. And in fact, if as a user you went to one that didn't have any distinction I would probably leave that search engine, because most people are doing some type of sponsorship.