I’ve heard over and over again that Google, Yahoo, and the other broad search engines are great for consumer searches but not very good for professionals conducting research. Here’s a blog post, In Search, Bigger is Not Better, that confirms my suspicion and backs it up with data from a couple of studies.
Here’s the gist of the post and the research findings:
A 2006 study by Outsell reported a 31.9 percent failure rate among business users when researching topics using the major search engines. A separate study from Convera shows that professionals in virtually every industry are having trouble finding important work-related information on the major search engines.
General search engines, the post explains, rank content high in relevance if lots of sites link to it. But, professionals conducting research are not looking for the popular consumer content and they frequently don’t easily find what they need. The article goes on to make the case that B2B firms should focus their search efforts on using vertical search engines and that they should submit their sites to vertical search engines and directories as well.
The tie-in to federated search is that federated search engines, by definition, search a specific set of web-sites and/or search engines, and these sites are usually related to one another or a federated search engine wouldn’t be built around them. Vertical search engines are also, by definition, thematic. While a vertical search engine might be crawling and indexing relevant content and not performing a real-time federated search of its databases, the end result in either approach is the same – more targeted results.
Vertical search engine providers know that a major factors in determining quality of search results is the source of the content. While I think number of results is a factor as well – the federated search engine can do better ranking if it has a longer result list to work from – I’m not as worried about getting too many results as the author of this blog post is as long as the pile of results come from highly relevant sources.
What experiences have you had with general vs. vertical search engines? Does your experience concur with the findings of the referenced studies?