Specialty Search Sites Bloom

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-03-26

Specialty Search Sites Bloom

As Google Inc. and its competitors race to scour the far reaches of the Web for the most relevant results, a new breed of search engine is focusing on its own virtual corner.

GlobalSpec Inc., a search and directory site for applied engineers, this week relaunched the site with its own search engine that is crawling and indexing a subset of the Web focused on industrial products and components. Its move points to a growing focus on so-called specialty search engines that, through a combination of their own databases and specialized Web crawls, narrow search to a specific industry or topic.

"Search has clearly become the killer application for the expert professional community," GlobalSpec CEO Jeff Killeen said. "The next big thing is this notion of narrowcasting as it applies to search."

GlobalSpec, in what it calls "The Engineering Web," has indexed 100,000 Web sites and about 20 million Web pages about industrial products, specifications and parts, said John Schneiter, president and a lead founder of the Troy, N.Y., company. Its new Web search engine joins a database of about 60 million items, culled from 10,000 manufacturer catalogs, that it started to build eight years ago.

In comparison, Google recently increased its Web index to include 4.28 billion Web pages. Click here to read more.

Beyond its Web index, GlobalSpec also is trawling the "hidden Web" to add hard-to-crawl content sources to its search engine. It has collected and categorized about 50,000 application notes that describe the use of specific products as well as 40,000 material property datasheets. It also has linked with Information Handling Service to provide standards information and has tapped a database of 4.3 million patents from MicroPatent.

Next Page: Major search engines also are creating some targeted search categories.

Major Search Engines Create


Specialty business-to-business Web sites have been gathering and categorizing content on specific industries and topics since the late 1990s. The major search engines also have created some targeted search categories, said Nate Elliott, an analyst with Jupiter Research, a division of Jupitermedia Corp., in New York. Google, for example, has sites where users can search on specific topics such as universities, Linux and Microsoft. It appears to be filtering its broader Web search results, Elliott said.

Few B2B sites, though, have created their own Web indexes of a specific set of Web sites, he said. B2B sites that draw from general Web search tend to more closely filter the results to match their topics or industries.

"In some cases, it makes a lot of sense," Elliott said. "If its very technical information, for example, where theres a lot of noise in traditional search engines, then a specialty search engine might give you more targeted results."

KnowledgeStorm Inc. is one B2B site that has honed in on providing an industry-specific directory and search site for information technology. While it has considered creating its own Web index and search engine for IT, KnowledgeStorm instead has focused on tapping into IT-related content not available on the Web such as IT white papers, said Jeff Ramminger, executive vice president of products, technology and marketing at the Atlanta company.

"Theres a lot of content in IT that is a higher priority to deliver than general search results might be," Ramminger said. "The reason people are coming to us in the first place is to get away from the confusion in the general search space."

Ramminger said creating a specialized Web index might make more sense for GlobalSpecs engineering market and that he will be watching its progress closely. KnowledgeStorm also has focused on landing syndication partners for its IT content. In the next week or two, it plans to add Forbes.com as its 27th partner tapping into its search engine, Ramminger said.

The birth of more specialty search sites could open even more search-based advertising opportunities. GlobalSpec traditionally has made money by charging manufacturers to include their catalogs of products and parts on its site as well as by selling banner ads.

Paid search links, triggered by searches for specific keywords and similar to Googles AdWords program, also could make sense, Killeen said. He added that GlobalSpec is considering such advertising models but does not have specific plans for them.

Read more here about Yahoo Inc.s recent revamping of its paid search approach.

GlobalSpec is not accepting paid inclusion listings into its index of engineering Web sites but will offer a link for sites to submit their URLs for consideration. GlobalSpec plans to update its Web index with a monthly crawl of pages, Schneiter said

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